Star Wars games are hit and miss, mostly miss these days, especially since the prequels landed on our screens. Iíve been waiting for a game to stand head and shoulders with the Jedi Knight series of Star Wars titles, so far, nothing has ever come close to eclipsing the adventures of Kyle Katarn that began with Dark Forces a long time ago on my old 386 DX 66.
When I heard that LucasArts were working (with Lucasí blessing) on an official Star Wars game that bridged the gap between Episode 3 and 4 I was somewhat sceptical, after all, I didnít really get on with the prequels and would have preferred the trilogy to stand alone. I however watched the Force Unleashed closely, because it promised some new game technologies that would bring us better, reactive environments and new life-like animations from the likes of Digital Molecular Matter and Euphoria.
Iíll go on record stating this right now, Force Unleashed has been getting some pretty average reviews and I can see why. However it has some of the best music in a Star Wars game as well as some of the best game storytelling in any video game Iíve seen for a long time. Unfortunately the game is plagued with several glitches and problems that hamper the enjoyment if youíre unlucky enough to hit those things right away.
You are thrust into the role of Darth Vaderís secret apprentice, codenamed: Starkiller. Fans of Star Wars will tell you that Starkiller was going to be Lukeís original name until George Lucas changed his mind and re-wrote it. I wonít spoil the plot by telling you anything more except that the game does have two separate endings and you can see them both if you pay close attention to the final moments of the penultimate battle.
The big selling point of Force Unleashed is that itís the FORCE Unleashed, re-imagined and redesigned to be bigger, better, bolder and totally insane, over the top. The game does a good job of that in the first few levels, itís fairly well designed and the difficulty is pretty reasonable. Then when you get past a certain point it ramps things up and throws in force resistant enemies, enemies that can block your lightsaber and enemies that laugh off even the most powerful blast of force lightning you can muster.
You go from being Darth Vaderís secret apprentice to feeling about as badass as Vaderís teaboy. Where even the most ineffectual insult from a half blind Uganaut can leave you crying on the floor. The AI seems capable of picking you off from half a mile away with their sniper rifles and you face up against Imperial Evo troopers who are equipped with environmental shields, shields that can stand up to being hit by a thrown rock the size of Texas it seems.
As you progress, you level up Starkiller and can choose to upgrade his powers, taking them to newer and newer heights. This works fairly well, you can add new combination attacks and abilities, upgrade the force and even change his costume and lightsaber crystal. The latter provides a certain bonus to your saber, from damage, to environmental effects like lightning. The controls handle fairly well outside of this system, combos are easy enough. Though it feels more arcade than the Jedi Knight games, it is fun. The lock on system is pretty abysmal and Starkiller will often hurl objects towards the wrong enemy compared to the dangerous AT-ST you were aiming the rock at.
You collect Holocrons as you progress to unlock new costumes, new ability/force/talent spheres and even saber crystals, so thereís some replay in going back to find the goodies that you missed. Unfortunately thatís where one of the biggest and nastiest glitches can occur, thatíll leave you unable to actually progress any further and level up your force powers. Something in the game breaks and youíll need to restart from scratch.