Who here can honestly say that they have never fantasized about being a Jedi? I mean really why not? You have a laser sword that can cut through almost anything and choke people from across the galaxy. Theyíre like the ultimate fictional destructive force but the only problem is that there has always been a focus on being good, but this has now been solved in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (SWTFU).
You take the role of Galen Marek (Starkiller) the new lightsaber swinging, Storm Trooper throwing guy on the block. Marek is the secret apprentice of Darth Vader and his main objective is to assassinate Jediís in hiding and bring down the Emperor. The first part of the plan works, but the latter really doesnít. The problem is that he has to remain hidden from the Emperor and survive the arduous task of being Darth Vaderís apprentice.
He isnít alone in his journey and there are some rather interesting characters, but the most interesting is actually a droid by the name of Proxy. His main objective is to aid Marek in his training and he does this by using programs based off other Jedi. He takes the demeanor of a friend, but at other times he keeps his intentions truly ambiguous and he keeps you guessing. Another character is Juno Eclipse whom serves as your personal chauffeur to missions. While she isnít integral to the plot she serves as someone for Marek to be attached to and have feelings for.
Not only is the story about Vaderís secret apprentice, but it also reveals the birth of the Rebellion Alliance. Many other things are entertaining to see like the incomplete Super Star Destroyer and the innards of the Death Star as itís being constructed. More character development wouldíve been nice though. This is because youíll see allegiances made and by the time the game ends you would like to see a couple of things fleshed out.
SWTFU can be described as a less polished Heavenly Sword with force powers. Itís a rather competent action adventure that couldíve been great, but it falls short on a mechanic or two. For starters Iím going to be in the minority and not complain about the lightsaber not killing people with one hit. Your giant sword in Devil May Cry doesnít kill things with one hit, the Athena Blades from God of War 2 donít one hit kill and Ryu Hayabusaís cavalcade of chopping utensils donít one hit kill so itís nothing new to the genre. What I donít like is how uneven the use of the force is.
According to SWTFU a Jedi can yank a Star Destroyer out of the Sky, grab Tie Fighterís in mid-flight, but they canít push around an AT-ST or a Purge Trooper. Another thing to note is that a lot of these Storm Trooper variants were not included in any of the movies. Though SWTFU is to bridge the gap between Episodes 3 and 4 it takes several liberties with the license. You have Storm Troopers that have flamethrowers, ones that are resistant to the Force; ones that shoot electroshock flechettes at you and snipers. In the movies these guys couldnít hit Han, Chewie, or Luke when they were running towards the Millennium Falcon.
The only way to come to grips with the enemies thrown at you is to develop strategies for everything that comes at you. Your average Storm Trooper is pretty much a red shirt in the original Star Trek series. Theyíre only there to get killed by you; they pose no threat unless one is manning a gun emplacement. But all you have to do is wait for them to reload the turret and kill them. Killing is where a lot of the fun lies in SWTFU and this is because there is a wealth of options depending on what youíre fighting.
Say you walk into a room and Storm Troopers just come barreling into a room. You can either take a lightsaber to each one of them or you can use the Force and grab one and throw him into his own comrades. Or you can take a barrel and shoot it with force lightning and hurl it at your enemies only for it to explode and take out about five or six men. One of my favorite methods of death is throwing people into energy shields. Thereís just something so satisfying about picking up a hapless soldier, toying with him for a few brief moments only to then throw him into an energy shield, and see that body disintegrate on impact.
I also like using the Force Grab to launch people into orbit. The only thing that I donít understand is that when a person comes crashing down back to earth they SURVIVE. Regardless of energy a person should just die after falling 200ft. If you donít want to rely on the Force you can use lightsaber combos. Once you get over the fact that your lightsaber might as well be made out of stale French bread you get used to it and use a bevy of combos to take down your foes. Once you level up enough times and put some skill orbs towards your lightsaber proficiency it will become stronger. It also helps to unlock combos because some do some rather interesting things. One combo combines the lightsaber with Force Lightning and does some serious damage to robots. It also does a good job on the Storm Troopers wearing jet packs. This is because the electricity will actually overload the jet pack and will launch them skyward uncontrollably.
You get access to more combos by leveling up and acquiring force combo spheres, but youíll only rely on a couple of them. And you seem to gain a new force power after every level. You then get to upgrade those with force power spheres. You can also upgrade health, force usage, force recovery and other attributes.
The one thing that Iíve remembered being hammered into my skull is DMM (Digital Molecular Matter). Itís a physics engine that determines how things break. Say if I was to use force push at a certain angle the door would break or implode a certain way a different time. They always hyped it to be something really ground breaking that would change the way we look at games (or something like that), but itís really not. Another piece of tech that is impressive, but falls short is the Euphoria animation engine. We were promised Storm Troopers that would grab onto each other and crates in an attempt to save their own skin, but this doesnít happen much. What I do notice is that they do attempt to dive out of the way and struggle to get back up after theyíve been knocked down. The best case where I have seen it work the best was when I smashed a window in a space ship. Everything was being sucked out and I happened to notice that one of the Storm Troopers was grabbing onto the edge hanging for dear life only for his grip to weaken and fade into the vacuum of space.
For the most part SWTFU is a good load of fun, but there are times when the whole game just seems to fall apart. The best example of this is when you have to bring down the Star Destroyer. For starters you have to fight Tie Fighters and when you see them you think ďWhat the F**k do I do?Ē You can either Force Grab a piece of debris and hurl it at one or you can actually grab one, or use Lightning (best option). The problem is that for starters that piece of debris is not always going to go where you want. The other problem is that you donít always know if youíre going to grab a Tie Fighter. This is because the lock-on system is too loose and seems to lock on to anything that youíre facing. This is a huge pain because there are times when you will try to shoot lightning at an enemy only to hit a barrel above, in back or next to it.
The other problem is that during this sequence the lock-on icon is impossible to see. When you do manage to destroy the fighters you then have the opportunity to pull down the Star Destroyer. Just when you think youíre home free more Tie Fighters pop up to interrupt you. And while youíre busy fighting the Star Destroyer is repositioning itself. The process of waste Tie Fighters, pull down Star Destroyer, get interrupted and doing it over lasts for a while and took me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to finish. This right here sucked a lot of fun out of the game for me.
When The Force Unleashed works it can be a blast and you believe that youíre a whirlwind of death and destruction. As a Star Wars fan I find The Force Unleashed to be a pretty serviceable and for the most part a really fun game, but the lack of polish on the targeting system and one key segment that couldíve been great is just terrible.
The first thing that threw me off about the graphics was the character model for Galen Marek. This is mainly because he looks a lot different than he did in Soul Calibur 4. He looked older and more detailed in Soul Calibur 4, but after a while you get used to him. When you cause a wide range of destruction and watch DMM and the Euphoria physics engine at work youíll appreciate the game. Just charging up Force Push and unleashing it to send a wave of men hurling to their deaths is great.
There is a good amount of detail in the character models (especially Vaderís) and the CGI is excellent. In fact theyíre almost too good as you wonder for a minute if they actually brought on live actors. The environments are also nice and varied. SWTFU has you planet hopping pretty often and the worlds that you inhabit are well detailed and have rather appropriate characteristics for that level.
For example the planet Felucia is a rather colorful jungle world with deadly plants and creatures with many hues. While on that contrast the scrap metal planet of Raxus Prime consists mostly of scraps of metal and molten metal on itís surface. Thereís also a lot of scrap iron just floating around in the air. The worlds in SWTFU are definitely nice to look at, but that comes at a price. There are some stability problems and most of them actually appear when youíre in Felucia. Thereís something about having one too many Rancorís, Felucians and poisonous plants on screen along with you jumping and flipping that the game engine does not like. You will come across instances of major slowdown on top of the occasional freeze.
One more problem is the amount of glitches. One problem I had was that I fell out of a level. This happened in the Sarlaac pit level and I ended up getting blown out of the level. The next thing I see is my character swirling around a void of black. Another thing that happened was that I ended up getting trapped behind the dismembered head of an AT-ST. It took me about three minutes to get out of it using jumps and various attempts at Force Pushing and Force Gripping it out of the way. While this does mar the experience it doesnít take too much away from the enjoyment from the game.
Well whatís a Star Wars game without a sweeping score and composer Mark Griskey does an admirable job. The music provided seems to borrow a lot from the usual John Williams score, but the original music provided seems to fit right in. The voice acting is pretty stellar. Actor Sam Witwer provides a rather convincing portrayal as the secret apprentice. Marek is filled with rage, confusion and confidence amongst many other emotions and they all get conveyed. A lot of the other voice actors are pretty good, minus the person providing the Emperorís voice. Other than that the usual fare of blaster fire, Tie Fighter roars and lightsaber hums are present sounding the way they did in the movies.
For those that follow the rule of ďno multiplayer=no replay valueĒ should just stay away from or rent SWTFU. For those that have nothing against playing solely the campaign you might find a reason to pick it up again once or twice. For starters you can search for holocrons, which provide a couple of bonuses. The main holocrons to look for contain lightsaber crystals. These come in two varieties. One changes itís color and the other gives it a special ability. For example one crystal will increase itís ability to block blaster bolts, while another will absorb an enemies health. Another reason to play it again is because itís actually rather fun. Thereís just something about throwing things at people and discovering a new way to kill something with the force is entertaining. The best barometer would be to download the demo thatís available on XBL or PSN. If you find yourself playing it 5-8 times then you might want to buy the game.
While I wish SWTFU were more polished I still have to give it some credit. Itís fun enough to keep me playing to the end and go on to a second play through. If you can stomach the loose targeting system and the glitches that will have you trapped between walls; youíll find an entertaining game that almost any Star Wars fan should own.
Next review: Silent Hill: Homecoming read