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Some things I would change in The Force Unleashed

7:30 PM on 01.04.2010 // Brad Nicholson

The reveal of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II shocked me, but not for the obvious reason. In the teaser’s fleeting seconds I realized I didn’t bother with the original game despite its reception. Bad mambo. Missing a big release like that is akin to being stuck on a hospital toilet while your baby is born -- it stinks and you never quite live it down.

That bad toilet-related feeling hasn’t retreated since I’ve played it.

Why? Because The Force Unleashed is not a good game. I’d rather grind a grater across my breast than fight Vader or that f’ing electric ATAT another time. And that’s not to mention the various puddles of bile I can spill over the manic difficulty and pacing, the flat characters and the environmental retreads, the dumb menus and the Tusken Raider moral choice.

As bad as it is, there are some key mechanics and ideas that should carry over to the next iteration of the series. But there’s a lot of stuff that just needs to be changed.

This is just a little taste of the combat

  • All characters should be interesting. Starkiller was great. He was industrious, plenteously cruel, and yet capable of a modicum of kindness. His interplay with the dangerous PROXY didn’t disappoint either -- the two went as well together as C-3PO and R2D2 do -- but the relationships he forged with the game’s one-sided characters like damsel Juno Eclipse, the blind (and drunk) General Kota, and the Organas were lackluster because of their cardboard bracings. These characters should have had room to grow as the narrative progressed. We should have been able to witness Kota’s second transformation, or been able to peek into Juno’s head from time to time as she turned from the Empire’s witch to pliable jelly because of Starkiller’s swagger.
  • Love requires two parties. Dolls that make stupid comments and pleas every 15 or so minutes don’t qualify as a partner. Trust me. Their relationship needed more time. I would have added a reason as to why the two would even bother to embrace in the game considering the icy stares.
  • Menus shouldn’t load. Levels I understand. The transition between cut-scene to level, or level to boss stage need loading times. But when I want to change my lightsaber jewel or glance at a few stats I shouldn’t have to stare at a status bar or be prompted to restart the level. Menus should be fluid.
  • Moral choices shouldn’t be this simple. Choosing to kill Vader or Palpatine is just as boring as Juno’s personality. I should have been able to stage an epic Sith double backstab, earning the empire for myself. Or better yet, have the option to walk away from it all and leave the Rebels and the Empire to their own squabbles.
  • Ledges, my hand should be able to hold them. The platforming sections in the game were a rough spot. Starkiller can double jump, survive falls from hundreds of feet, yet his little Force-powered fingers can’t grab on to a ledge. This game should have this feature.

This is how a typical boss battle goes.

  • Lightsabers f--k people up. I don’t know what lightsabers are made out of (it could be molten gummi bears for all I care) but the fact that lightsabers can’t rend through flesh and bone in the game is annoying. The visceral feedback of having dangerous lightsabers would elate our baser brain and make lengthy combat sections against dumb enemies satisfying instead of tedious.
  • Screw Force resistant enemies. There are like 14 Jedi left during the game’s timeframe. There’s little reason why so many Stormtroopers should be stomping around with advanced shielding. This also slows down the game. These guys shouldn’t have made the cut, and wouldn’t, if my changes were instituted.
  • Consistent difficulty is consistently a good thing. Switching from "normal" to "casual" in the middle of the game is not good.
  • Blocking is fluid. The nastiest flaw in the game is lack of solid defensive combat options. This rears its head the most against large robots and boss conflicts, especially if there’s a combo involved. Starkiller should be able to block or evade whenever I want him to. I would make on the fly defense possible, thus magically make the game feel more like a third-person action title instead of a punching bag simulator.

The nature of this type of thinking is that I must exclude everything that is good about the game. And there are some great ideas and components that do pan out. The foremost on my mind is the strength of the overall story. It had typical Star Wars stuff, but the slight twist and wrinkle that I injected into the known fiction titillated me -- killing Vader is sort of a big deal. Outside of that, I enjoyed the option to fuss with character skins, tweak individual powers and then use them with sensible and superb controls, as well as the variety of environments traversed.

With that said, let’s move on to what some of my Twitter followers said they would change about the game.

@ikiryou - get rid of the platforming sections or make Starkiller glide over them. He's a Sith appr., not S. Belmont.

@davebell3 - More automation in some of the higher powers. Direct control over the force powers is great, but auto aim would be good too.

@Coonskin - The very beginning of the Death Star, where you're dropped in a wide open space with a shitton of enemies. Not fun at all.

@adamerse - A better menu system. Waiting a minute or two to switch between menus was painful.

@HavocFang - I'd like it if it had a less linear mission system. And a room where you could spawn enemies and objects to just mess about with.

@PenKaizen - I would have included more spaceship exploration and no bullshit alien planets. And no "Force Immune" AI.

Great thoughts all around.

With the sequel on the horizon, which we'll assume features Starkiller and focuses on moral choices and positive changes to the core mechanics, there's a good chance the next will be better. But that doesn't eliminate the point of this little activity: what would you change about The Force Unleashed?

Brad Nicholson,
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