Hello all! Last week, I wrote about this cult GameCube game about ghosts, and explored how a game doesn’t need to be a triple A title to be fun.
This week, despite being swamped with work and NaNoWriMo (7000 words so far!), let’s check out this Star Wars title that was maybe just a little overhyped. But it was still a good time.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a silly-titled game from a few years back, for PS3, 360, etc. It’s also one of the last LucasArts-developed Star Wars games out there *checks notes* one of the last good ones. Taking place between Episodes III and IV of the Star Wars saga, you play as Starkiller, a Jedi whom Darth Vader trains in secret. The idea is for Starkiller to kill off any remaining Jedi in hiding (apparently because Vader is lazy) and ultimately, kill the Emperor so Vader can rule the galaxy. Things take a different turn as Starkiller meets Juno Eclipse, his pilot, and starts to see what the Empire really is. But basically, the game boils down to going out on missions and defeating scores of enemies.
You accomplish this mainly by lightsaber and Force attacks, which are Starkiller’s only offensive options. The lightsaber is self explanatory; you press a button to slash with it, and you’ve got a decent if simple combo system at your disposal. You can throw the thing, too, which is great fun. It’s not a complex God of War or Devil May Cry setup, but it doesn’t have to be.
Force Powers are what the game’s all about; it’s right there in the title.
Force Lightning everywhere.
Rather than spend your time with the Force levitating gold droids or manipulating dice rolls, Unleashed really lets you feel the powerful side of the Force. The Force Push, for example, sends hapless Stormtroopers flying at full power, while Force Lightning is...well, you can see it in that screenshot. There’s also the classic Force Choke if you’re feeling nasty, and a huge Force Maelstrom attack that serves as the game’s room-clearing move.
The Force Powers, especially Push and Maelstrom, are enhanced visually by blue Force energy flowing around—you can see the Force, which helps make it so great—but also through the game’s heavy use of physics technology, which was part of the game’s marketing campaign. Using a combination of physics solutions—Havoc, a system called Digital Molecular Matter for environmental objeects, and NaturalMotion’s much-lauded Euphoria Engine—Unleashed creates some of the most believable environment interactions ever seen. There’s a wonderful sense of realism (well, as much as there can be in a Star Wars title) in the behavior of enemies and objects that have been Force Pushed. Enemy bodies in particular never seem to wig out like so many ragdoll corpses do, and things like glass and metal react believably when struck with objects.
It’s one of those things the average gamer may not notice too much, but you really have to just look at it. It’s when you study Unleashed as you play; that’s when you see the magic. It’s nothing short of amazing, even now, eight years after the game was released.
Also, there’s this silly bit.
Unleashed is a game that, while fun, is a game that tries a bit too hard in spots. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the part where you use the Force to rip a Star Destroyer from orbit and send it crashing to the ground. Sounds awesome, right? Except the game kinda fumbles this moment, turning it from “possible gaming moment of the decade” to “an exercise in tedium and frustration.” The game suffers from dull boss battles and a sometimes repetitive gameplay loop. And while not super short, it isn’t exactly lengthy either.
But it’s still a fun romp; like last week’s title, it’s the kind of thing you’ll enjoy once, and maybe pick it up again years later for nostalgia’s sake. And if you’re a Star Wars nut, you’ll love it, because it’s got a solid plot full of Star Wars goodness (even if some parts are a bit zany). There’s a sequel, but it’s not quite this one. Somewhat underrated, The Force Unleashed is. Not a masterpiece (except technologically), but a fun time.
Next week’s game is a classic arcade beat-em-up that’s better than Streets of Rage. Yeah, I said it.