Star Wars has quite a video game history. It’s a little mixed in terms of quality, but there’s no doubt that some great games have come out of the franchise. The newest entry to the series is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It’s largely been touted as a technical marvel, combining three physics engines: Euphoria, Havok, and Digital Molecular Matter. How does it come together? Find out below.
For reference, here’s my review standards:
|I’ll discuss four things that I find important in the medium of video games:
Story, which deals with the game’s story.
Presentation, which encompasses the game’s visuals, sound, and UI.
Gameplay, which will entail the mechanics of playing the game.
Technical, which is composed of the technical achievements and faults in the game.Finally, I’ll wrap up with my overall view of the game, and rate it based on three options:
Worth the purchase – I got my $60 worth, and really enjoyed the game. Might play it again down the line.
Worth a rental/bargain – The game was alright, but I probably wouldn’t play it again. I would’ve been OK with moving on halfway through the game.
Skip it – The game isn’t very enjoyable and not worth my money nor time.
The Force Unleashed takes place between episodes 3 and 4 in the Star Wars saga. It fits the gap rather well, filling in information on the last of the Jedi and the creation of the Rebel Alliance. You control Darth Vader’s secret protégé, known only as “The Apprentice” (leave your Donald Trump jokes at the door). Your mission is to eliminate the remaining Jedi to complete your Sith training, after which you will join Darth Vader in an attempt to overtake the Emperor.
The story actually surprised me – I really enjoyed it. It was as good a story as any of the prequel films – which, admittedly, isn’t spectacular, but is definitely entertaining. The lead struggles with the light side vs. dark side, as is expected. His development is a little disappointing, as it seems to be a bit transparent. That is, you aren’t aware that he is struggling within until he outright says that serving the dark side is horrible (after which he continues to serve Darth Vader). You don’t actually ever make any choices of your own until the very end – which seems lacking when compared to most games playing the ‘choose between good and evil’ card.
This game looks great. The character models are highly detailed and the environment is spectacular. The utilization of the three physics engines makes a real difference – the characters and environment react correctly to you actions and make the world come to life. As you move the enemies around, they stumble, catch themselves on the environment, and simply do more than just flop to their death. Havok does its usual work with objects, and digital molecular matter causes the various materials to bend and break as they should.
As for cons, the attack animations are a little stiff at times, and I quickly became annoyed of the action camera that randomly took control away from me to show how far I flung an enemy. Other than that, I can’t say anything else negative about the visuals.
I was instantly frustrated with the menus, simply because they took so long to load (5-10 seconds when loading menus? How does that happen?). Other than that, they were functional, though ugly.
The combat is separated into two main parts: saber combat and force powers. The saber combat is a traditional beat-em-up. X is used to swing the saber and combos are executed be modifying the saber combat with force powers (such as adding lightning to the saber). This is simple and a bit repetitive, because the combos don’t vary too much, leaving you with few options. Sorry, it looks like Jedi Outcast’s saber combat isn’t coming back anytime soon.
The other side of combat lies within force powers. This part is great. I love being able to grab things from the environment and toss them at enemies. That of course isn’t near as satisfying as grabbing the enemies themselves and throwing them off of cliffs. That doesn’t hold a candle to grabbing an enemy, throwing him into another enemy, and watching them both fall off of a cliff. Add some lightning to the mix, and you get a group of seizuring stormtroopers flying around, clinging to each other. Oh yes, much satisfaction. The only thing that bothers me is the targeting system – I occasionally had a problem with grabbing the wrong object or throwing it in the wrong direction (when throwing at enemies a long distance away).
Oh, there’s a few RPG elements thrown in as well. You get to choose what force powers, combos, and attributes to improve upon. You can also change your costume and light saber color, both of which are cosmetic. There are also modifiers you can add to your light saber that add damage bonuses and the like. These additions help add a little depth to the game, but aren’t so distracting that you have to worry about it if you’re not an RPG fan.
The engine is really the shining star in this game. The integration of Euphoria, Havoc, and Digital Molecular Matter is astounding. Often, you have objects bouncing off of people and walls, people grasping to rails, particles flying everywhere, and the environment bending and swaying to your motions – and not once did the framerate drop so far to make it distracting. In fact, it only dropped a couple of times at all.
The A.I. is a little dull, but that’s to be expected in a game like this. Due to Euphoria, however, they seem to get a lot smarter when they die. My favorite dumb NPC moment was when I released some wookiees from being enslaved by stormtroopers. The wookiees retaliated against the stormtroopers, as you would guess. What was hilarious is that they continued to beat upon the stormtroopers as I held them up in the air. To finish it off, when I held the stormtrooper over the edge of a cliff, the wookiees ran and jumped off (with notable enthusiasm).
Other than that, everything worked as expected. I didn’t experience any major bugs – the only one I remember is a camera problem that left me clueless as to what I was looking at…it righted itself in time, however. Smooth as butter.
I’m sure this won’t come as any surprise:
Worth the purchase
I had a lot of fun with this game and might go back to it. While it had simple saber combat, everything else was quite satisfying. Pick it up if you can.