There once was a time when most Star Wars games just weren't any good. There were the occasional blips on the radar ages ago, but the majority of Star Wars videogames weren't received very well; some in fact, have appeared in "Worst Ever" lists, such as Masters of Teras Kasi. Thankfully, the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and especially the Xbox, have given us some of the finest Star Wars games, such as the Rogue Squadron games (GameCube), Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox), and the Starfighter games (PlayStation 2). We also have the very cool Lego Star Wars franchise, which may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they're still pretty solid.
Now there's the much anticipated Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a game that prides itself on utilizing multiple engines to perform a number of different tasks. We detailed those engines in our hands-off preview, but now we're going hands-on with this all new Star Wars and our feelings are mixed. There's a ton of potential, but something's missing…
Off the bat, it's worthy to mention that Force Unleashed is not a bad game. On the other hand, it's a rather decent Star Wars title. It boasts some pretty impressive gameplay mechanics that really make you feel like you're part of the dark side, or that you really are part of the Star Wars universe. Having force powers such as the ability to Force Grip, Force Lightning, Force Dash, and Force Push is what Star Wars games should've had long ago.
These abilities allow your character, the Apprentice, to feel like a proper and complete fighter. Star Wars fans should know what these abilities do, but in case you need a crash course: the Force Grip is the same telekinetic move that Darth Vader has, allowing the player to grab objects or people. You'll be able to use the Force Grip to pick up and throw objects, enemies, open doors, and so on. Force Lightning is precisely as it sounds, it allows the player to expel a wave of lightning as an attack. The Force Push allows the player to release a burst of energy as an attack, or as a means of breaking down obstacles. Lastly, the Force Dash is a simple quick burst of speed forwards.
When you're not using your limited Force powers, you'll largely engage in melee combat with your Light Saber. The Light Saber allows for various combos, which you'll be able to gain more of as the game continues, and will be your primary means of recourse. When you've got the combat abilities down and actually begin to engage, things don't seem to hold up quite as well as expected.
For one, the first immediate problem I noticed is that if you're using the Force Grip, you can't move your player. It'd have been nice for LucasArts to at least let you walk slowly, otherwise, you end up a sitting duck for attacks from all around you. Second, melee combat doesn't feel fluid; going back and forth between Devil May Cry and Force Unleashed makes that much more apparent. You simply never feel like you're in total control over your character, as the actions feel sloppy, lacking precision and fluidity.
Third, the Force Grip can exhibit some annoying issues, as sometimes it doesn't catch the object you're targeting. I often found myself having to press the R2 button numerous times until the Apprentice finally gripped the object – and this occurs even if the reticle is highlighting said object. Fourth, there are collision detection issues; for example, I could use the Force Push to blow the door open, the opening I've created is obviously large enough to get through, but you won't be able to, requiring you to perform another shot.
If you can overlook these issues, Star Wars: Force Unleashed can still be an enjoyable game. It won't win any prizes, but it does feel satisfying enough to be considered a decent Star Wars game. Throughout the game, your experience will help earn upgrades for your character, granting him new abilities and moves, so you aren't stuck with the same range of attacks.
Visually, Force Unleashed is a good looking title with a very clean picture. The framerate doesn't stutter, and the 720p resolution looks solid, thanks to good use of anti-aliasing, and quality texture work. Lighting is well done, as reflections and eye-candy are nearly everywhere you look. Additionally, stages have a very proper Star Wars look and feel, by sporting the necessary epic qualities.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is set to arrive September 16th in the 'States, and two days later worldwide. There's a demo up on the PlayStation Network, check it out and see if you think this one will be worth your time and money. Stay posted for our review.