Star Wars: The Force UnleashedESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer: Krome Studios
Downloadable Content Support
Being an avid fan of practically everything Star Wars, the fact that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was one of my most anticipated games of the year is not surprising. In their latest game LucasArts takes us into the story of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice. In this role you will find yourself performing various tasks for the Luke Skywalker’s father gone bad while keeping your identity a secret from the empire and your allies. As is common with all games of this series it will ultimately be your choice whether you will walk on the light or dark side.
Graphically, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is stunning. It is apparent that the developers put in a lot of time and effort into the design and layout of the game. The landscapes are extensive and the plant life and creatures are very detailed. The level of attention is even more visible with the background scenery as they are seldom static and beautiful to look at. From the trees on Kashykk to the giant purple mushrooms of Felucia the graphics actually give the impression that your character is traversing real planetary terrain. In some areas there are even winged creatures that fly peacefully through the sky oblivious to the fact that a giant battle was taking place beneath them. It is also the little details that make the games visuals stand out. As your character interacts with the environment you will notice his movements cause reactions. Watch as pollen particles float through the air or blades of grass sway from the wind as you move across them. The lighting and use of shadows in the game is balanced and objects and characters can be clearly made out wherever you may go.
The cut scenes that move the story along makes you feel as though you are watching another instalment of the Star Wars movies, not just a shoddily put together scene. You really see the attention to the character details from the dents and scarring of armor to the age lines on the face or the colouring of individual strands of hair.
The weapons in Star Wars: Force Unleashed include the standard lightsabers that change color as you insert special crystals. Sparks fly off of enemies and objects on contact allowing you to clearly see that you landed your strike. Your force powers also have some pretty cool special effects from a giant ball of energy that you emit with your force shield to a mass of lightning bolts shooting in every direction as a result of force lightning. Bottomline, you know that LucasArts made sure the visuals stayed true to the source material.
The voice talent is of top notch quality. The lead actors include Sam Witwer (Starkiller), Adrienne Wilkinson (Maris Brood), Cully Frederickson (General Kota) and Nathalie Cox (Juno Eclipse) and they all do a great job. A star from the movies, Jimmy Smits who played Senator Bill Organa in Episode 2 and 3, also lends his talent to game. The voices are clear and full of inflection. Even the sound of Darth Vader’s breathing is spot on.
The music of the game is taken from the original score of the Star Wars movies which is composed by John Williams and it appropriately sets the mood for the game and the action in each level.
As with the music the sound effects are also the original sound effects from the Star Wars movies. The most predominant sounds within the games are those of combat. The sounds of the blasters in the background can alert you to the approaching enemy while the sound of heavy stomps of a large creature like a Rancor really catch your attention. While in combat you can hear the impact sounds of your attack, and the effects of your force moves. Other common sounds include explosions and the unique hum of your lightsaber cutting through the air. As with the graphics, a lot of work went into keeping the authenticity of the source material that has been around for so many years.
As Darth Vader’s secret apprentice your main objective is to do his unquestionable bidding, be it sabotage, becoming an assassin, or simply hunting down the Jedi. Each level has primary objectives which are guided by directives and bonus objectives. Along the way you will encounter resistance from various enemies including storm troopers, Felucian natives, General Kota’s militia, droids and other planetary inhabitants and plant life. Once you have successfully defeated your enemies you will be required to fight a formidable foe (“boss”) from Jedi Masters to Imperial Commanders in an effort to complete the level.
It is obvious that the level designers took a lot of pride in working on a natural path for you to travel through while keeping the natural landscape of the environment intact. They included the many hazardous natural elements of these worlds such as plants that shoot at you, exploding vegetation and deadly cliffs. Your adventure will take you too many different environments that not only manages to challenge you but also keeps the authenticity of the Star Wars universe right in front of you.
As you progress through the game you will gain levels that provide you with force points that you can allocate into three available categories: Force Powers, Force Talents and Force Combos. Force spheres can also be collected by finding Jedi Holocron’s hidden throughout the levels and by completing bonus objectives. Jedi Holocron’s also contain new costumes for Starkiller, and lightsaber crystals.
Force Powers are made up of six possible skills: Force Push, Force Lightning, Force Grip, Force Repulse, Lightsabre Throw and Lightning Shield. The more points you put into a skill the stronger it becomes. Through the course of the game you will gradually become equipped with three of the six force powers including the Lightsaber Throw, Force Repulse and Lightning Shield. Your force powers are accessed by holding the Left or Right Trigger and hitting the corresponding button to activate it. The Lightsaber Throw can be particularly useful when you have a row of enemies to mow through while the Force Repulse is your ultimate defensive weapon. When you are surrounded by enemies you can quickly activate the repulse and launch the enemies back to give you some breathing room while at the same time it will cause quite a bit of damage on those you hit with it. At any time during the game should you feel you would like to reassign your force points in a specific category it will cost you one force point per category to do so. Force Talents are special abilities/skills you will be able to do by controlling the force. In most cases these talents will increase a specific skill or ability such as weapon proficiency, amount of force power, rate of force regeneration, physical resistance to attack, and amount of health. Finally Force Combos are special combat moves that can be purchased which make you stronger and may provide an edge in battle.
Along with being able to customize your force powers through upgrades, you also can customize your lightsaber by changing the color of the blade via color crystals. You can select from shades of blue, green, gold, purple, red and yellow. You can then equip power crystals to augment your lightsaber with different effects such as extra damage, health siphoning and increased deflection & reflection ability.
The control setup is much like a fighter game, where you can mix up the attacks to perform combos and special moves. Some of these moves are very simple from hitting the attack button four times in a row with a one second pause in between to pressing a combination of four buttons to perform devastating aerial attacks. Avid Star War fans will definitely notice the irregular lightsaber style that Starkiller uses. The common style is to hold the lightsaber in front of you, be it a dual-bladed lightsaber or the traditional solo blade. Starkiller holds his saber behind his back and launches his attacks from that position.
Playing the game on the standard difficulty it only took about 15 hours to complete the game, whereas on the hardest difficulty I have spent the same amount of time and have only completed two-thirds of the story as I write this article. The gameplay changes quite a bit when it comes to strategy between the difficulties, where you can easily button mash through the easier setting you may have to insert some tactics into your mayhem when you come face to face with the bosses at the end of each level. For fan’s of the series and newcomers to the game, I would suggest you play the game on the easiest or normal setting to gain the fullest enjoyment of the game then tackle it on the harder settings. I believe you will get more bang for your buck this way.
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