Xbox 360 Review: Star Wars – The Force Unleashed

Is the Force strong with this next-gen Star Wars game?

Let’s face facts here, there have been some good and bad games based on Star Wars. My favourite was an old game by the name of Rogue Squadron II for the good old GameCube, while the worst was either its sequel or the game to coincide with Revenge of the Sith. But I’m more than sure there are worse ones out there and having watched a retrospective, I can say that there is. But there are also good games out there, so where does that leave The Force Unleashed?

The Force Unleashed follows the path of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice by the name of Starkiller. The first mission puts you into Vader’s hands as he clears out a Wookie colony hunting a Jedi, he comes across Starkiller as a child and saves him from being destroyed by Stormtroppers, it’s an odd move for the Dark Lord but it becomes instantly clear that his intentions are not honourable. TFU takes place between Episode 3 and 4, so it helps bridge what is a very large gap in the Star Wars story. There are some cool cameos like Princess Leia and a few surprises. The story itself is brilliant and will certainly please any fan of the sci-fi saga, it’s a nice touch that the game lets you choose your own ending…but I won’t spoil what they are.

Starkiller is trained to hunt down hiding Jedi through stages. Each stage usually begins with you fighting your way through rebels, Stormtroppers, droids and huge creatures like Rancors. The end of each level usually results in a boss fight with the Jedi you are hunting down, but they are fairly easy since the deciding blow usually comes down to a QTE, which the game seems to have a lot of. Combat itself can be fun but once you begin to upgrade, you barely have to use your lightsaber except for the bigger fights, you can just grab hold of an enemy with Force Grip and launch it to its doom, which never gets old.

There are a ton of moves to upgrade, but the menu to access needs to load every time…it’s a small load but it seems unnecessary. You can also get upgrades for your lightsaber including a very sweet black crystal that is very powerful if you find it, the menu to add crystals onto your lightsaber also needs to load for a few seconds. Despite having a ton of moves, most of the crucial ones become unlocked through progression of the game and the more advanced moves will go on the backburner since you can mostly use the same simple moves and succeed.

Force Push, Grip, Lightsaber Throw, Lightning Shield are the main attacks that I tended to use, but you have to be conservative with your Force Meter, which drains very quickly but refills also at a similar speed. Fighting is fun but it can become somewhat repetitive towards the end, it’s a shame that most of the larger fights against AT-ST’s and Rancors are finished with quicktime events, they look cool but it doesn’t feel as satisfying.

The thing about TFU is that it’s incredibly easy; I never struggled with anything apart from bringing down the Star Destroyer in the second to last mission, which is incredibly tough and idiotic in its design. Essentially you need to destroy wave after wave of TIE Fighters and then bring down the Star Destroyer with the analog sticks, moving them till a red dot turns green then you can pull it down…but it takes forever and it’s very difficult to get it in the right spot, it also tends to swing back when the next TIE fighter wave hits. It took me ages to do; I hope you get through it easier than I did.

The AI in TFU can sometimes be laughably bad, I noticed times where enemies didn’t even acknowledge my presence until I began attacking and then it was too late for them. Later fights against tougher opponents can be unfair as they can back you into a corner and keep pummelling you with their lightsaber or blaster so you can’t get up in time to move away, there are also a few annoying parts where you can get knocked off the stage and have to do a section again…very frustrating.

The game only lasts around the 8-9 hour mark, but will go up if you are gunning for the achievements. Despite being short, the game doesn’t feel like its ended too soon…it seems almost perfect in its length, another level may have made it worse but I can imagine that some people might feel short-changed. Level design does leave a lot to be desired, with some odd choices and very similar stages. I loved the game but I can see it’s very flawed at times.

TFU looks pretty impressive with some great character models and locations, the voice-acting is also top quality as you’d expect from LucasArts. There does tend to be a few framerate issues when the game auto saves and I have come across a few glitches with enemies getting stuck in objects and so on, it’s a shame but one that I can forgive.

The Verdict

The Force Unleashed may not fulfil its destiny as the best Star Wars game to date, but it has some great ideas, an intriguing twist on the storyline and can be a blast to play, no matter how brief it is. Just a few glitches and poor design hold it back from being a truly amazing game.