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CONSOLE: Xbox 360 DEVELOPER: LucasArts PUBLISHER: LucasArts
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 16, 2008 GENRE: Action/Hack'n'Slash
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

War of the Stars.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is another one of those games I'd been ready to shun for its complete lack of originality—but it is gravely wrong to do so. It greatly resembles another game, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. In that particular game, I could use telekinesis and fling objects around the game world with absolutely no challenge. I could grab people in the air, blast them with assault rifle bullets and then just fling them away like useless, bullet-hole-riddled garbage. And I could do all of this as Scorpion from Mortal Kombat. Sold.

The Force Unleashed's similarities to Psi-Ops do not end simply with the physics engine. You appear to have the same telekinetic powers, except this time you're incredibly nimble—and instead of fighting with guns, you're fighting with a light saber. I love the light saber.

The story is what propels The Force Unleashed forward the most, and it is like sweet apple pie: appealing to everyone, except the weirdos who don't like apples. Those people don't deserve your time. I find this game to be easy to follow, which allows people who don't know much about Star Wars to understand what is going on almost as easily as the die-hard fans can. By introducing a new character to the universe, it helps explain things a little more clearly to outsiders. It also put the Rebel Alliance in place, an important element in episodes IV, V, and VI of Star Wars. Naturally, this game takes place between episodes III and IV.

At least until Disney decided all extended universe games, books, and comics are non-canon. Oh, so Kylo Ren is okay, but Starkiller isn't? On your bike, Disney! Seeing as I didn't go much on The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones when I watched them years ago (I've never even seen Revenge of the Sad Excuse For a Prequel Saga), I'm glad that the game shifts most of its focus onto the original trilogy. But the game also shifts its focus in another way, placing you on the Dark Side of the Force. It feels good to play as the Dark Side for a change. I've always thought the Rebel Alliance were wussies.

I got engrossed in the Star Wars universe very quickly, and this is the first time I've really felt like that with a Star Wars game. I played Jedi Academy—and Jedi Knight II, too—but I never felt like a Jedi. Shadows of the Empire was almost there in capturing the vibe of the series, but not how it feels to be warrior of the Force. The Force Unleashed captures it beautifully and really pulls you into the universe itself, and makes you an ass-kicking son-of-a-biscuitbox to boot.

The Force is something we all really want, and when we're playing as the main lead Starkiller, we have it.

Starkiller is equipped with a light saber and a growing selection of Force powers and talents, including but not limited to throwing people in the air, blasting them with concentrated Force power, and zapping people with lightening. Those little Jawas on Raxus Prime get a full toasting, whining in torture as they die from a single zap of electricity. It is satisfying to hear them squeal with their high-pitched voices as they become breakfast.


That's no moon, it's a space station!

Because The Force Unleashed is story driven, it suffers from being linear. It consists of levels broken down into a set of checkpoints, ambushes, and minibosses, each ending in a fight with a specified Jedi. Defeating enemies and bosses earns you experience, which in turn earns you Force Spheres.

Force Spheres are associated with one of three elements based on color—and upgrading sections of these may improve your health, combat abilities or other such necessities. Although you can get through Apprentice difficulty with barely a scratch, it is very, very difficult to defeat the game on Sith Warrior difficulty without leveling up. There is an exploit to make grinding and the whole game simpler but never easier.

The physics either work in your favor or they don't. Occasionally, enemies may get stuck in the floor and jiggle about, which is good because they take damage while this is happening. But other times, even when you launch a SNOWSPEEDER at an enemy, it might just bounce off their head completely. But enough about the Havok engine; we know it's awful.

The gameplay, overall, is very good. Even as a person whose knowledge of Star Wars only goes as far as the video games, I don't feel confused or bewildered by what's going on. This is how to use source material for a Star Wars game. Also, I can skip the cutscenes (once the level has loaded), so score two for LucasArts. They know what they're doing!

Or knew... Why did they all have to die!? Or close. It's basically the same thing.

The graphics were dated even when the game first came out. While the skyboxes and aircraft in the background look amazing, the interiors are bland and not very inspiring. This is the only real flaw with the game—well, that and the Havok engine, but I already covered that. Luckily, graphics aren't everything. But if they were, the FMVs would really make the game stand out. Whereas the gameplay visuals need a lick of paint and some polish, the FMV sequences are lovely to watch, containing some really nice facial animation.

Sure, there's an element of "slap Star Wars on it and it'll sell", but this game still is definitely worth your time, and it's fun. That's what it boils down to, really. If you don't like the license, on this occasion that shouldn't be an obstacle.

However — Ultimate Sith Edition doesn't end here. It comes with a second disc, which contains the downloadable content and the basic game code stored on disc, so it can be run standalone. Included are three campaigns: Jedi Temple, and the two "Infinities" campaigns, Tatooine and Hoth. Also provided are the paid skins pack and every unlockable costume (sans those you need to enter cheat codes to get).


In my experience, there's no such thing as luck!

The Jedi Temple campaign takes Starkiller back to his roots, as he searches to learn more about his father. This doesn't happen in the game, so this scenario is entertaining the possibility that he did. Travelling to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, he meets heavy resistance from what appear to be Imperial Troops. Now, I thought he was on the Dark Side, so perhaps they should have explained why I'm getting my ass kicked by soldiers that should be allies.

Packing no more than about forty minutes of gameplay, it is mostly combat driven. If you're a fan of the puzzles or platforming elements in the main game, you may feel a little bit dissatisfied. The enemies are also the very hard enemies from the end of the game, and the boss battle is a little bit challenging, too. We are not told an awful lot about Starkiller or his father through this downloaded content, and the ending leaves much to be desired. A fun little level regardless, but it could have done with more puzzles. The challenges were woefully short, and expanding these would have been great.

The Tatooine campaign offers only about half-an-hour of gameplay, but it's much more exciting and morish. Following an alternate storyline based on the bad ending, Starkiller is now a Sith Warrior (ultra powerful bad guy). He has been sent to Tatooine to find two droids: one Astromech, one Protocol. If you know your Star Wars as well as I do (you learn enough to get by while playing Lego Star Wars II), then you can probably guess that I'm talking about C3P0 and R2D2.

It seems that someone-who-shalt-not-be-named (Leia Organa) stole the Death Star plans and stored them in one of the droids, so Starkiller is sent to destroy/procure the droids (placing this early into episode IV). His first target is Jabba's palace, 'cause if there is anyone who knows what's happening on Tatooine, it's him. But things take a turn for the worse once Jabba decides to feed Starkiller to his little pet instead. Starkiller has become exceedingly powerful since the Jedi Temple campaign, and it quite clearly shows in his combat abilities. He feels much more fun to control, and combat feels tighter and more responsive. The outfit in this scenario is very cool indeed.

One thing that impressed me the most about this scenario is the graphics. In this campaign, the visuals are far better than those in the rest of the game. A great deal of work seems to have gone into this content, whereas the other packs feel lacking. This is how downloadable content should be done. Again, the content places more emphasis on the combat and less on the puzzles, but I am not complaining this time, as the battles against Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi are awesome. I urge you to consider playing this chapter. It is absolutely astonishingly good.

Last off, we have the The Hoth campaign, which provides another half-hour of gameplay. It is not as fun as the Tatooine campaign, either, or as stunning. It starts to look like an incomplete or scrapped level part-way through. It's not an awful level—it's just that, after the Tatooine content, this seems like just another level from the game, and one that didn't get finished. Also, they chose Hoth, which is extremely predictable. This content isn't exactly original... far from it. Your usual dull corridors and general ambushes that they managed to avoid with the Tatooine pack.

Of course, there is some extra content, but this pretty much consists of your outfit and a few new enemies. Once you've played half of this DLC, you've experienced all it has to offer. This is a fun scenario, and, indeed, it's good to have for a bit of the old catharticism, but you miss nothing if you choose not to play this campaign.

At least this scenario shows us what would happen if Starkiller and Skywalker went one-on-one. However it ends with Luke deferring to the Dark Side. Because it's a hypothetical story, I suppose it isn't a problem, but I thought it was a dumb thing to do.

Review over, now let's blow this thing and go home!


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