Retro Replay: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

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So I hear there is a new Star Wars movie coming out. Guess this is as good a time as any to revisit my personal favorite game the franchise produced, The Force Unleashed, and gush about how much I loved it. See, this is my third time playing through the whole story again, as well as the excellent DLC, since I’m playing the Ultimate Sith Edition on XBox 360, but this is such a fun game to jump on, pick a random level, and go to town on. I might be getting ahead of myself though. Let me start from the beginning for anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

Force Unleashed Walker

This story introduces a new character called Starkiller—which some hardcore fans will recognize as the name Luke originally had in early drafts of the screenplay—a force user who was raised and trained from a young child under the guidance of Lord Vader, to be his silent and lethal agent. Since his existence needs to be hidden from the Emperor as well as the other side, rebel and imperial alike fall victim to his blade, on his way to help Vader rule. I love the setup. The events happen between the first two trilogies, acting as a kind of prequel to explain where the Galactic Civil War began. The game taught me a few things about the lore, as I am much more of a Star Trek guy than Star Wars normally, but there’s no TNG game like this.

This is an action adventure game that was released in 2008 that had a nice long production period and a ton of ambition. It starts off with fan service, a text scrawl just like from the films, which is fitting because, until Disney bought the franchise, this game was seen as canon. To make sure players would actually want to experience the tutorial, they let everyone play as the Dark Lord himself, Vader. In this persona players have access to all of the crazy force powers as they tear through Kahyyyk slaying Wookies while looking for that Jedi. This level is a perfect taste of what is to come before starting players as the main protagonist and forcing them to build up to this awesomeness.

Force Unleashed Vader

New players may have a little trouble getting use to the physics engine and how it allows the force powers to work, but it won’t take long before droids are being tossed off cliffs with a smile (I’m very anti-droid). These physics and how the characters react is possibly the star of the show. Starkiller can perform several tricks, but the mainstays are force pushing, gripping (which leads to tossing), lightning, and throwing the lightsaber. Each of the powers will get plenty of use and makes me feel like a legit Sith badass. There is nothing better than force lifting an enemy and having him grab onto another while they both scream.

The story is the other big star here. I was hooked on what was going on and why my character was given his orders. I won’t spoil it, in hopes that some who haven’t played will give the game a shot, but it is pretty good, if not slightly convoluted in the middle. There are two different possible endings based off of one decision, but both are kind of depressing to be honest. What works here so well though is some superior voice acting and the relationships. Starkiller is not alone in his crusade, directly assisted by his droid, Proxy, who can create illusions and is constantly trying to kill him. What? It’s to help with the training. Then there is the pilot, Juno Eclipse, who exudes confidence and sex appeal. She’s a cool addition to the universe and it isn’t hard to see why Starkiller is crushing so much. I was too. I felt for each of these characters and wanted to see them proper or die horribly. The game has some incredible art direction, with great looking cut scenes and character models that bring the story together in a visual splendor. These levels represent the source material well and so much in them is destructible and can be interacted with, which is so much fun. This is one of the things I heard people talking about the most, because it is memorable. All of this together makes Starkiller’s missions feel truly epic.

Okay, I’ve gushed enough.

There are problems with the game. The mechanics for the force powers can often be frustrating, especially in the beginning. Locking onto specific items during combat is hectic and many of the attacks seem to vary in effectiveness and precision. There is a good bit of QTE segments, especially in the boss fights. The encounters are already a mixed bag, and it isn’t too bad, but sometimes these can be demanding, especially in the DLC fights. The difficulty in normal battles is based off of certain enemies being resistant to a set of attacks and just sheer numbers, which often feels cheap towards the end. As much as I love the presentation, certain levels seem bland and could have been much more creative. The graphics and textures also do flake out at times. The truth is though that most people will be able to overlook all of this for the spectacular experience—well, I hope.

Force Unleashed Costumes

This title is a collection of amazingly cool ideas that came together well, even if not perfectly, it is better than any of the prequel movies. The DLC has extra missions and a ton of popular skins, making Starkiller look like everyone from Darth Maul and Jango Fett to Kit Fisto, whom I had to look up to remember who that was. In my research, it was neat to see that this was the fastest selling game that used the Star Wars license at that time, but that isn’t hard to imagine with how many systems this came out on. Other than the usual suspects, this title also released on the PSP, PS2, and the N-Gage, which I forgot was even still around at that point, and it looks bad. Also, the Wii version is listed as the worst one to play. It did well enough to warrant a 2010 sequel, but that one is actually quite a disappointment okay to skip unless someone is like me and just needs more Starkiller.

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One who writes for different places, waking up late in the day to struggle with commas, broken controllers, and nightmares of Silent Hill and Yo! Noid.