20 Sep. 2008

The Force Unleashed Review


So here’s my formal written review of The Force Unleashed.
I’m playing on the PS3, so if you have a different console, I suggest you head over to IGN.com to check out their reviews for all of the other platforms.

Story

The story for this game has to be the best aspect.  It really does a great job of leading in to Episode IV, however, the links to Episode III are not as evident as people like to think.  This is really kind of like a prologue to the Rebellion era, as we see some pivotal moments in the formation of that galaxy far far away we know from A New Hope.  The endings (yes, there are two endings) are both fantastic, capping off a great story with truly epic payoffs that effect the Star Wars Universe in very profound ways.  I don’t want to spoil too much, so I’ll pretty much leave it at that, but also add that although the overall story is excellent, the character relationships could have been developed a little bit more.  I’m sure the novelization expands on this, and I may just pick it up, in light of how great the game was.

Graphics

What do I need to say?  I played the game on the most powerful current gen console, so the experience was definitely a great one.  Not only does this game serve as a great tech demo for Naturalmotion’s Euphoria Engine and the new Digital Molecular Matter, but the game also looks fantastic.  Textures and detail are not sparse, and for the most part everything has a great, uniquely Star Wars feel to it.  Some of the visuals are on par with the expansive vistas of the Prequel Trilogy.  However, the environments lack the all encompassing feel that was promised a couple years back by Lucasarts.  There are lots of great interactive elements in each level, but they lack consistency.  Where you can render a massive Wroshyr tree into mere toothpicks, smaller saplings just sway in the wake of your mighty Force abilities.  Were all elements of the environment as interactive as they had promised, it would have been much more impressive.  The other minor critique I have is that the game has little persistence with regards to your destruction.  Enemies and objects disappear after being destroyed, leaving you with little ability to leave a mark on the level.  Overall though, an impressive accomplishment in graphics.

Gameplay

Here’s where the game starts to fall apart.  Although it’s fun in the beginning to thrash enemies with Force, it gets to be a little repetitive.  You’re pretty much going up against the same enemies throughout the entire game, just with new weapons and annoying things, like immunity to your Force abilities.  As well, the upgrading system is fairly shallow, only allowing you to enhance you abilities, and offering no customization.  After two playthroughs (to get both endings) I had pretty much maxed out all of my abilities, talents and combos.  Pretty disappointing, as a more flexible upgrade system would give you lots of opportunity for multiple playthroughs.  All in all, the lasting appeal leaves you wanting more, without the ability to fulfill that want.  A great idea if this were the beginning of a franchise, but that is unlikely.  I’m sure I’ll go back to it and try and beat the higher difficulties, but I will in essence still be playing the same game, just in a more challenging way.  But if you like straightforward action/platformers, this ranks up there with games like God of War and Prince of Persia.

Sound

Here is another place this game shines.  It’s Star Wars, so of course you have all of the elements that make a great Star Wars soundscape, as well as a score that builds on classic themes and creates new ones that will definitely be added to my library of Star Wars music.  And on top of that, the voice cast is the best ever assembled for a Star Wars game.  Sam Witwer plays the Secret Apprentice, Starkiller, with a great deal of depth and emotion, giving better resonance and true character to the story of TFU.  Other cast members include Star Wars alums Tom Kane(Yoda from Clone Wars), Catherine Taber(Padme from Clone Wars) Matt Sloan, Jarion Monroe, and Jimmy Smitts himself as Bail Organa.

Design

The art direction and design of this game is beautiful.  From taking key locations from Episode III, to developing new locations, every environment has a very genuine Star Wars feel.  The addition of design elements from all six films really does a lot to tie the game in to the saga.  The myriad of costumes (Starkiller has a new outfit for each level) all have great design elements and are reminiscent of different characters from throughout Star Wars lore.  Some of the visuals in the game are even beyond anything in the films, such as an Imperial facility built into the mouth of a great sarlaac on Felucia.

Overall

Overall I would rate the game as an 8.5 out of 10, mostly because of the shortness of it, as well as the lack of replay value.  If the PS3 version included the Duel Mode of the Wii version, I’m sure it would bring the game up to a 9, if not a 9.5, so let’s hope for a downloadable add-on in the future.  My recommendation is that if you like Star Wars and have the means, this is a must have for all fans, but if you have the patience of a Jedi, you could wait for it to hit Player’s Choice, which it undoubtedly will on all platforms eventually.

And if my opinion isn’t enough for you, then you can check out this video review from IGN.com

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