Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Force Unleashed - Review

The Force Unleashed marks a new project by Lucasarts to create a cross medium project similar to the old Shadows of the Empire project. While there have been several of these with various degrees of success, this one is the newest one, and one I would call the most 'mainstream' of all the projects. The following review will be based on the build of the game developed for the 360 and PS3.  How does it line up compared to past projects? Read on to find out...

Story: 4/5

I actually like the idea behind the story: Vader has a secret apprentice that he trains from childhood to be an assassin and agent to carry out his will. It seems a simple enough story, one might think it would go against the later story with how there is only one Master (Palpatine) and one apprentice (Vader), but the story has plenty of twists and turns to keep you pulled in. Especially half way through the game (spoiler alert!) where the Emperor arrives and orders Vader to kill Galen or he will destroy them both, so Vader impales him and tosses out into space.

BUT, it turns out it was a feint to throw the Emperor off, so Galen could form a rebellion to bring down the Emperor so he and Vader could rule....BUT, it turns out that was a lie all along. Vader trained Galen to be a tool of the Emperor's to flush out the last traitors to the Empire, so they could be crushed, but in the end, Galen dies saving them and the last remnants of disloyalty become the foundation of the Rebel Alliance, they even adopt Galen's family crest as their symbol to unite behind, it tied together nicely. I grant it adds some bumps to the EU that'll be fleshed out later, but overall, I liked it. Plus the ending where you can choose the light or dark side paths...that's great too, and I'll talk about that more below in the Downloadable Content section.

Graphics: 3.5/5

The graphics in this game are good, while not Uncharted awesome, they serve. Some clipping issues happen here and there, and graphical glitches, overall the game looks pretty. The sabers look right, the blasters, wookiees, walkers, the game looks like I am running around the Star Wars universe. Not much else I can say about that.

Sound & Music: 4.5/5

It's Star Wars, it sounds like Star Wars. When the game starts, you're treated to the same epic Star Wars opening, Williams' bold theme begins as the title scrolls by, giving you the set up for the game. The use of the classic scores from the movies is always a plus, but the music scored for the game itself does not disappoint either.  The main theme is bold yet with a somewhat sinister undertone, giving Galen's story. And the tunes used around the game are good as well, from the duel with Shaak Ti to the fight with PROXY to even the final scene, the music is different yet has hints of the movie scores too, mixing it together to give the game it's own unique musical tone as well.

The sound effects sound right. Walker gears sound right, saber hums and slashes, blaster shots, Force Lightning, it all sounds right. They've had alot of games to get the sound effects right, and they continue that tradition here.

Gameplay: 3/5

This is the real problem with the game. The gameplay is solid, but they didn't work out all the kinks in the final release. There are alot of issues they need to work on in order to make the game far more enjoyable. One problem out of the many is the targeting. While you're running around, you press a button to target an item or enemy, half the time it either targets the wrong thing, or doesn't really lock on, or you lock onto something else entirely in the middle of a fight, so your attacks go in the wrong direction. It's very very frustrating at times.

Another problem is the hit detection. Some enemies sometimes seem to not take damage as I'm ripping into them with the saber, so I hit them with a Force blast to send them flying, them start into them again, now able to damage them. And sometimes I died alot of times due to odd detection with stuff I thought I wasn't touching, or other times when I touched it nothing happened, and yet the other time it would kill me.

The battle system is simple, one button jumps, another for the saber, one for lightning, and the last for Force pushes. Some of these can be charged, and strung together into a combo. The combat is fast paced and moves really well when the glitches are not being a bother. While the system is no where near as deep as the Dark Forces games (which rock), the combat is decent enough  and works.

The last problem is the can be rather spotty at times. You're running along, need to jump across some platforms, but you go to jump, thinking you can make it, and fall to your death. Or sometimes you try to double jump and the second jump never happens. Really annoying when that happens. Overall, the gameplay has a solid foundation, if they can refine and improve upon it and work out the bugs for the sequel, the gameplay could be great.

Replayability: 3/5

This one is kind of middle of the road, really depends on your playing style, there are alot of extra costumes to collect, lightsaber crystals to find to alter the color and property of your blade, and a second ending to unlock. So the game has some replayability, but compared to other games, not as much.

Downloadable Content: 4/5

I'm kind of biased towards this one. While some of the DLC is just new costumes and skins to play as, there are three items of note. One is a mission into the Jedi Temple, where Galen must go through the trials of the Jedi, and where he faces himself at the end. It's a neat mission, but it's just a warm up for the next two...

The second mission is to Tatooine, and it is part of the 'Infinities' brand of stories, which are similar to the old Marvel Comics What If? stories, where they have a scenario play out along a different timeline, this one is based off of the darkside ending, where Galen becomes Palpatine's new apprentice and assassin, Lord Starkiller. He travels to the familiar sights on Tatooine searching for the droids, facing off against jawas, tuskens, Boba Fett, and even Jabba's Rancor. In the end, you find the spaceport and have to battle against Obi-Wan Kenobi in the flesh, and in the spirit. it's an awesome mission that ends with a cliffhanger which leads into the final mission...

The battle of Hoth, Lord Starkiller's outfit is now much more Vader-ish in the design as he travels alone to find a back way into Echo base. Fighting Wampas and rebel soldiers as you make your way into the base, passing by the command center, seeing the Walkers outside blasting away and destroying the shield generator. Eventually coming to face Luke Skywalker, before he runs away to the main hangar, where you have a rematch with him. The battle is fun, and then, he delves into the Darkside and now you fight Fallen Luke, and with that, the mission ends with Starkiller claiming Luke as his new apprentice.

The DLC is fun, the story is a cool idea to play with, and offers a chance to see some of the classic movie scenes in a different light, and the evolution of Starkiller's design from the mish mash in the Darkside ending of the main game to the Vader-styled armor in the Battle of Hoth was neat to see as well.

Final Score: 3.5/5 (not an average)

In the end, The Force Unleashed falls in the middle of the road as a game. It has alot of neat ideas and the story is well done, but it needs alot of work on the gameplay to help make this game a real joy to play. Some people might be turned off because of Galen's "uber power" in the Force, but that's just stylized license to make the game flashier. The book gave a more level approach with the powers, and the game just goes to the extreme degree for gaming purposes. The game is fun, but if you really are not a Star Wars fan or you happen to have a beef with uber Force powers, then this game isn't for you. Otherwise, pick it up and give it a play, I liked it, and I'm sure alot of you will too.

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