Thursday, August 12, 2010

Star Wars: TFU or STFU?

Another Star Wars game? Our culture has become totally obsessed with Star Wars

If you ever need any more proof of that, just check out the endless line of merchandise, memorabilia, action figures, book series, lightsabers, and whatever random miscellanea you can find out there.

And now, Lucasarts brings us The Force Unleashed. Far from the first Star Wars game to hit the market. Is it the best?


The story takes place between Episode 3 and 4 of the original Star Wars film series and is meant to fill in some of the gaps in the timeline. Darth Vader has launched a quest to hunt down and destroy the remaining Jedi, and you play as his apprentice, Starkiller. Trained in the dark side of the force, his mission is to hunt down the big bad Jedi. Oh, and somewhere along the way he’s supposed to help Vader in his plot to overthrow the emperor.

That’s right, Vader plans to take the reigns himself apparently, though his motivations for doing so aren’t clearly explained. Maybe he’s had enough of the emperor’s shit and thinks he can do it better. Now Darth, being emperor of the universe must be cool and all, but what if the job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? It’s not all Star Destroyers and blowing up planets. What are you going to do when you have to listen to Jawa federation complain about high taxes on Tatooine for the nineteen billionth time, or deal with another droid strike on Courscant. I’d rather go play space golf with a Wookie.

But all joking aside, the story does paint an enjoyable tale of a young Sith who has to make a major decision that will affect the course of the galaxy. Starkiller is an archetypal good guy who struggles with the forces of good and evil. However, the character himself is also somewhat bland, a little generic, and you get virtually no backstory on him. I wasn’t totally sold. The supporting cast is a little better. You’ve got your love stricken co-pilot Juno Eclipse, a washed up former Jedi general whose name escapes me at the moment, and your loveable navigator/battle partner droid Proxy, who is intent on trying to kill you. Leia and Bail Organa from the film series also make appearances.

Gameplay wise, it presents itself as your general action game. You use force powers to fight your enemies, and keying in different button combinations lets you utilize different powers to vanquish foes. You can blast them with lightning, blow them away with a blast of force, and pick them up and sling them around. You can even punt smaller enemies through the air. Sounds cool? Well, it is, but outside that gameplay can prove to be a somewhat irritating experience.

You can get hit by a gust of force power, knocked down, and then knocked down again before you can even get back up. There are also some issues with the targeting system. When you approach an enemy, you target him but there’s no way to actually lock on. If he wanders too far away or if another enemy approaches you the target will switch to that enemy. And it may not even target who you want it to. I wanted to blast a stormtrooper with a lighting bolt, but the bolt ended up striking a stormtrooper all the way on the other side of the level instead of the trooper standing right in front of me. It’d be nice if you could lock on.

And some of the boss battles are just irritating. Case in point: Darth Vader. If you try to attack him directly he lifts you in the air, and you have to rapidly press O to break free. If you escape you better get away quick or you’ll get picked up again. I once had it happen to me six times in a row. Annoying as hell.

A good series to compare this to is God of War. You gain force points to unlock different moves and punch in different button combos, there are different costumes, most fights with major enemies end with a quick time event where you have to key in a certain button sequence just like in God of War. You can even do that L1 dash and attack move just like Kratos.

But we know it’s not just like God of War because it takes place in the Star Wars universe. And that brings us to the worlds you explore. Now, pretty much everything has been made up from scratch and I do give the developers some credit for that because you need somewhere new to explore – some fresh faces and places.

You have Felucia, an mushroom filled exotic jungle type of world teeming with creatures large, small, and ginormous. And then there’s Raxus Prime, which is garbage. No, I mean literally – it’s the galaxy’s garbage disposal planet. You’ll spend most of your time here fighting the locals, dodging lava pits, and holding your nose.

My only complaint is that later in these two worlds get recycled. The layouts are different but the design is the same. There’s only 9 levels, why can’t you think of 9 different places for us to go to? I was really hoping there would be some levels featuring planets from the films. Mix a little bit of the old with the new, y’know? There’s no Hoth, no Tatooine, no Endor; you don’t get to visit any of the planets from any of the films. Most of the level layouts were pretty well designed and I was looking forward to see how these developers would interpret some of those worlds.

There actually are missions that take you to Hoth and Tattoine available as DLC. You get to fight Boba Fett, Obi-Wan, and Luke Skywalker. It makes me wonder why the hell these were DLC. It sounds more interesting than most of what you do in the main game!

Graphics/Sound/Replay Value
The graphics are pretty solid; it isn’t the best looking game on PS3 but it’s passable. You get to hear the whooshing of the lightsabers and whirring of droids – pretty standard Star Wars fare. A standard runthrough should take about 9 hours if you run straight through.

However, there is quite an assortment of hidden items – costumes and lightsaber crystals that let you change the color of your lightsaber. Each level also has its own side objectives, such as destroying all the tie fighters or freeing the wookie slaves.

If you want to get a decent amount of play time from the game, the potential is there to do so, but more likely you’ll probably finish it once or twice and set it aside. Overall, if you’re a big Star Wars fan you might want to buy this, or if you really like games that allow you to wander around and blast people with superpowers, like InFamous or Prototype this might also be up your alley. In the end, it seems more profitable to give this a rental at most.

Score: 6/10

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