First Jimpressions: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

As we announced earlier today, a demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has arrived to Xbox Live in downloadable demo form, and we were eager to snap it up and get our hands around this delightfully destructive game.

After spending a morning at the pleasure of Mr. Starkiller, how do we feel about LucasArts’ highly anticipated game? Is it a Force Unleashed or more of a Force Choke? Hit the jump as I share my first Jimpressions on this upcoming action extravaganza.

The demo starts with Starkiller seemingly having a flashback to the time Darth Vader murdered his father. Normal people would hold a grudge, but Starkiller instead joined the dark side and now serves as Vader’s secret apprentice. You are charged with your first task, hunting down a Jedi and bringing his Light Saber back to the Dark Lord. Graphically, the cutscenes are not the most amazing I’ve seen on the 360, but the animation is decent, and the voice acting is pretty solid — an easy thing to say with Matt Sloan providing his amazing Vader forgery.

As the game begins proper, you soon realize just how much power is at your disposal. With very simple button presses, you’re able to throw lightning, blast objects out of your way, and move things around with the power of the Force. The game utilizes an automatic targeting system that doesn’t always work the way you want it to, but the game is so versatile in its death-dealing that if you accidentally pick up the wrong object, you won’t mind too much since you can just use that to murder with instead of carrying out your original intentions. 

Starkiller himself handles a little too loosely for my liking, but it’s only a small niggle. Generally, the demo handles adequately, and the controls are intuitive enough for you to look like a merciless badass within seconds. 

The main draw of course is the ability to walk into a room and just annihilate everything, living or dead. It is here that Force Unleashed really shows its stripes and provides some solid entertainment. The expected sadistic thrill one gets from holding an enemy mid-air while he begs for his life is present and correct, and it never gets old watching an enemy spin through the sky as he’s flung miles into the distance. The Euphoria engine struts its stuff, as enemies grab hold of heavy objects in a desperate attempt to stay grounded before you throw them into oblivion. As one would expect, the physics are not quite as brilliant and inspiring as the hype would have you believe, but it’s a terrific engine that helps make the game that bit more fun. 

Even though Force powers are the order of the day, Light Saber combat is pretty robust in its own right, especially since you can imbue your Saber with the Force in order to make it even more deadly. Using simple combos, you’ll be able to charge your weapon with lightning for some visually impressive strikes, or work a Force Push into the flow of combat. Of particularly brutal satisfaction is the impale attack, where you can lift a foe into the air and then toss your Saber into his chest. Tasty. 

The game ends with a fight against an AT-ST, which threw me at first until I worked out what to do. In news that may irritate some, Quick Time Events play a role in the combat here, and you’ll be using a QTE to dispatch the Chicken Walker. Personally, I don’t really mind QTEs so I found it inoffensive, but I can imagine some people won’t be so keen. 

Ultimately, it’s a quick and fun little demo that does well to highlight the versatile and fun combat system. My one worry at this point is that the fighting will get a little old after a while and eventually one will grow tired of flinging enemies around. However, you get to level up at least once during the demo, during which time your Force Push is upgraded, so hopefully the inclusion of upgraded abilities and hopefully a lot more unlockable attacks should help keep things interesting. 

Going by the strength of the demo, things look good for Force Unleashed. I’m not expecting it to be a mindblowing Game of the Year, but I am definitely anticipating a lot of violent fun and a loyal experience for fans of the Star Wars universe.

James Stephanie Sterling