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blehman avatar 9:52 AM on 09.24.2008  (server time)
Bleview- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

We all know that the cblogs have been oversaturated with reviews for this game, be them good, bad, or indifferent, but we haven't seen my review. Besides, this is the first game I've actually finished in probably six months or so, and I just want to get my impressions/feelings down on it. So, without further ado, my review of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. And I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, and I'd appreciate it if you would too in the comments.

First off, I'd like to go over some of the positives of this game. The story is phenomenal. Top notch, second to only the original movies, this game is what the prequels should have been. The nameless apprentice, Proxy, and Juno Eclipse, your faithful pilot, make up the meat and potatoes of this tale. The apprentice is the baby faced protagonist of the story, as we all know, and comes off as boyish but not too antagonizing, as most of Lucas's main characters come off as now, and for what he's given makes the most of his time on screen during cut-scenes. Juno makes up the female interest and does a good job not being 'that girl', even though she does nag at times. And Proxy is now my favorite droid in the series (movie canon at least), as his whole mission is to kill you one day.

Along with the story, TFU has some of the best motion capture I've seen in a game. From the facial expressions to the slight movements, this game bleeds subtlety, at least in the cutscenes. The voice acting too is very high quality and, along with the score, makes this feel like a game/movie hybrid in the highest sense of the words. The in-game graphics are also top-notch, and besides from the occasional flicker I had no problems with them, or disconcerting platforms or backgrounds. Everything looks fantastic, from the dark, sci-fi space platforms, to the lush jungle world, to the mass of twisted metal of the junk-heap planet, everything is fully engrossing, with only the slightest disappointment of a "walled-in" feeling. I always felt that there was enough room in the levels to keep me going, with only one or two exceptions. The camera in the game does a pretty good job of following where you want it too, but it does suffer occasionally, throwing itself around to where you can't see anything and are left a sitting duck at the most inopportune times.

The gameplay in-game is, well, hit or miss. While you do have tremendous force powers by the end of the game, I stuck with only two or three through the game with only minimum usage of the other powers. Some, like the lightsaber throw, while pretty awesome to look at and use in single combat, put you at a huge disadvantage due to the fact that if you miss you're left without an opportunity to attack or defend while you wait for your saber to return. The controls in battle work pretty well, and you'll find most of the enjoyment in this game throwing stormtroopers around as if they're nothing, but the developers tried to pigeonhole platforming elements in it as well, and they don't work so terribly well. The reason for that, I believe, is that the jumping mechanic in TFU requires precise timing, and between the camera not adjusting correctly and the fact that you jump 'so far' and that's it, make lining up and judging distances a pain. For the force controls, after about the first hour, I'd gotten it down pretty much pat with only minimal confusion after new abilities were added afterwards.

Now the targeting system is another story. While I didn't experience too terribly much of the off-putting "aim at one thing pick up another", it was there. And it was usually there when it really didn't need it to be. Not a gamebreaker, but it was aggravating enough to be noticeably annoying. Not only because it always happened when surrounded by baddies, but usually when surrounded by baddies and you're trying to move something related to advancing in the level, or move something so you can throw it at the damn sharpshooters that you can't reach otherwise. And it always picks up the smallest, most non-threatening piece of junk in the level first, as opposed to targeting the large, laser firing enemy in front of it.

The only major, major gripe I have with The Force Unleashed is the boss fights. Now, I've been playing video games for a long time, and these are some of the cheapest fights I've ever played through. From moving completely out of harms way for extended periods of time, to throwing waves of canon fodder at you, the name of the game here is to keep you at the lowest point of health possible while they can block anything you throw at them. Not to mention that I felt one of the game's mechanics is completely broken in one of the games later fights. I've read that this is only affecting about three in five people though, so maybe I was just doing it wrong. Regardless, it aggravated the hell out of me, making me set the game down for the rest of the night. As for the QTA's ending the boss fights, I thought they were very well done for what they were, and really added a sense of Jedi finality to the fights, as you can't do ingame what they do there.

Between the good and the bad, The Force Unleashed struck a very happy medium with me. It's only 7-10 hours long, but it's a definite time-sink for those hours, and repeated playthroughs unlock more costumes and lightsaber options. While I can't recommend it at full sticker price, I do highly recommend it as a rental, or waiting for it to go down in price to about $30.

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