Platform/s: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 & Wii
You play as Darth Vader’s young apprentice, Starkiller, sent to weed out and destroy the remaining Jedi in the galaxy to prepare you for the ultimate challenge; assassinate the Emperor.
Even though Force Unleashed is the best-selling Star Wars game ever, it has generally received negative criticism, due to lack of multiplayer options and a hack-and-slash approach to the game which ‘will allow players to never fully realize the game’s full potential’. I find the aforementioned statement to be utterly ridiculous, Force Unleashed is not an RPG, it is not Knights of the Old Republic, while the game does contain role-playing type elements, it is an action game first and foremost and you’ll do well to remember that.
Graphics: 3/5 – While not the most brilliant looking game I’ve ever seen, Force Unleashed nonetheless is a good-looking game. Great looking textures as well as extremely well-done character motion capture and likeness really adds to the game’s atmosphere. When I first saw and heard Starkiller, I could have sworn he was Samuel Witwer from Smallville, and sure enough it was. The developers really captured Witwer’s likeness flawlessly. The locations are detailed and varied and the starship interiors remain faithful to the Star Wars universe. It’s also worth mentioning that the force powers and lightsaber battle animations look really awesome. The game did have minor texture clipping and glitching and at times there’d be slow-down if there were too many people on-screen, though there was only one scene where slow-down made game-play cumbersome and that was in the Death Star.
Gameplay: 4/5 – Force Unleashed is an extremely fun game, Starkiller has fluid movements and is easy to navigate through the environments. The force powers are dead easy to use and the combos add a refreshing break to the hack-and-slash mold, the more varied and stylish your attacks are the more experience you will receive enabling you to increase certain aspects of your character, like fortitude, regeneration and force power ability (there are many more). After a certain amount of experience points have been earned you will be given force spheres allowing you to ‘purchase’ new abilities provided you have enough spheres for the specific ability. There are times where the game can become frustrating whereby Starkiller may become ‘stuck’ in a certain area forcing you to restart from the last save point. In one scenario I was fighting Vader and he cornered me into a wall which I then become lodged into and was powerless as Vader proceeded to stab me repeatedly with his lightsaber until I was dead. The ‘Star Destroyer’ scene has received plenty of flak from critics who have stated that the section is overly frustrating and should’ve been removed from the game (which would have been impossible because a trailer of Starkiller pulling the Star Destroyer down to the ground was used to hype the game so you can imagine the outcry were LucasArts to have removed that scene), initially it was difficult but after a few tries you’ll get the hang of it, I think that modern gamers (this includes the ‘critics’) have it far too easy these days and I may sound like an old man but back in the day if you played a game (like Megaman) and died that was it, back to the start for you, there were no auto saves every five minutes. The lightsaber combat feels solid and satisfying and the force abilities are loads of fun, force push and grab are two of my favourites.
Characters: 4/5 – Great time and effort has been taken in ensuring that the game is populated with rich and complex characters who could have been seamlessly integrated into any of the Star Wars films. The brilliant voice-acting is particularly of note, oftentimes shoddy voice acting can kill the atmosphere of a game however Force Unleashed makes you feel like you’re playing in one of the films. Matt Sloan provides the ominous voice of Darth Vader and Samuel Witwer is brilliant as Starkiller although I did think that the ‘love angle’ aspect was somewhat off-putting and uncharacteristic of an apprentice of a Sith Lord, you don’t see Darth Maul falling in love and oftentimes Starkiller behaved more like a Jedi Padawan as opposed to a cold-hearted Sith warrior.
Soundtrack: 5/5 – Force Unleashed is filled from beginning to end with classic Star Wars orchestral goodness, seemingly based upon the original trilogy although it does mix in some themes from the newer films. The game is a joy to listen to and at certain moments the battle music can be awe-inspiring such as when you confront PROXY.
Lifespan: 4/5 – While seemingly longer than a lot of modern games, Force Unleashed is still relatively short (12 – 15 hours) but having to find force crystals adds to the longevity of the game. The choice of two endings (Sith or Jedi) is a welcome addition and because I found the game to be just so damn fun, I’ll have no problem playing through it again to relive the experience. If you do plan on buying this game, please note that Force Unleashed – Ultimate Sith Edition has been released and contains extra levels as well as a ‘boss battle’ against Luke Skywalker.
Overall: 4/5 – I award Star Wars – Force Unleashed a solid four out of five, it’s a good-looking game, with a well thought out storyline and character development as well as hugely fun play mechanics (force powers ftw), though it can be a little frustrating at times, it’s a solid game that expands upon the well-established Star Wars universe and a recommended purchase for Star Wars fans.