The Force Is Unleashed…But It’s Still Pretty Tame

September 22, 2008 at 11:12 am 2 comments

I’ve been a little surprised at the slightly negative press that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has been getting ever since launch.  The Metacritic score across all platforms seems to average around 67; quite lower than everyone has been expecting.  Having spent some quality time with 3 different versions of the game (Wii, 360, and DS) I can see what everyone seems to be complaining about.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine game and among the best in the franchise.  I certainly don’t think the game is bad enough to earn a Metacritic score of 72 on the 360, or even the 69 on the Wii and PS3.  However, there are a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to the gameplay.  I won’t be doing a traditional review since I haven’t beaten the game yet, and I won’t mention anything about the story (for the same reasons), but from what I hear, the story is the best part about the game.

360 screenshot

My major issue, at least with the 360 version, is that it’s trying to take the best elements of different types of action games, but it doesn’t do any of them as good as the games TFU is imitating.  A lot of times the combat rips off games like Devil May Cry and God of War, and it some ways it’s similar to the combat in the recently released Too Human.  My issue is that it doesn’t feel entirely smooth.  There’s a certain flow to the combat in the God of War series that makes fighting a dozen enemies at a time very…cinematic and visceral.  It’s partially missing here.  Also, the combo attacks, while they look cool to perform the first few times, don’t really do anything the change the game.  For example, you can unlock an ability to combine a lightsabre strike with your Force Lightning attack.  It looks cool to pull off, and this single attack does do more damage than, say, a regular lightsabre attack, but I just don’t feel like it’s doing anything that different from just swinging the lightsabre around.  There are also odd glitches that pop up here and there.  It’s nothing major, and certainly nothing to crash the game or anything, but it’s like ripping the polish off the game.  Also, the camera feels at times too loose, and at other times too tight, especially in the Raxus Prime  junkyard level.

On the Wii version, the game is slightly different.  Like any game that’s multiplatform, it’s unfair to compare the Wii version to the 360 and PS3 version since the systems are capable of different things.  That being said, I had a surprisingly good time playing the Wii version.  When I first saw the images and videos from the Wii version, I was impressed.  The graphics looked as good as Super Mario Galaxy and the combat seemed solid.  When I started playing, I noticed that the graphics aren’t that great (still not bad for a Wii game, though), and much of the physics-based stuff is gone.  However, compared to other Wii action games, this one is pretty good.  Swiping the Wiimote controls your lightsabre and thrusing your Nunchuck activiates Force Push.  The Wimmote isn’t 1-to-1, but it’s close; swing left and Starkiller swings left, go right and he does the same.  Swing up and down, and Starkiller strikes up and down.  And one of the best things: Force Choke.  It is supremely satisfying to grab a stormtrooper by holding Z, twist the Nunchuck (slowly if you feel badass), and choke the life out of your helpless victim.

Wii screenshot

Wii screenshot

Another thing about the Wii combat.  Something I read on IGN’s review rang true to me:

“you’ll need to time your swipes perfectly to string together combos that, in other Force Unleashed games, can be done by mashing the attack button over and over again (in this reviewer’s opinion, the Wii version is superior on that front)”

What I found is a slightly more ‘tactical’ oriented combat.  You can just mindessly swipe the Wiimote just as you would mindlessly mash buttons, but executing combos just feels better if you’re patient and time your lightsabre attacks as you would in real life.  Another thing that differentiates the Wii verison from the others, at least visually: Starkiller holds the lightsabre in the ‘normal’ position as opposed to the ‘reversed’ position found in the 360 and PS3 versions.

Across the 360 and the Wii, the Force Grip attacks are a little imprecise.  Sometimes if you want to grab something specific, you have to stop, look at the object, and then pick it up.  Usually, stopping like this leaves you open to attack (even if your guy can autoblock most shots).  Using the twin sticks on the 360 controller does a decent job of moving the object, but launching it is something else.  I’d say, a third of the time when I launched something it didn’t go where I wanted it to.  It’s not too bad though, as most of the time I found my mark.  On the Wii, you hold Z and raise or lower the Nunchuck to raise and lower the object, but the problems from the 360 version persist here: throwing is a little imprecise.

As a bonus, the Wii version does have a multiplayer mode that I played very very briefly, but it seems a little tacked-on.  It’s not a terrible multiplayer mode, but don’t expect a serious fighting game (play Soul Caliber IV for some Sith-on-Sith fighting action).  The DS version isn’t terrible, but it’s not that great.  You tap icons on the touch screen to perform attacks, but I don’t really see why they couldn’t let us press A,B,X,Y for attacks.  I envision using the Touch screen to view the action, and touch and drag objects to Force Grip them.  The top screen would display either a map or a list of your unlocked combos and how to perform them.

Wii multiplayer

Wii multiplayer

Overall, from what I played, the game is fun. Anyone that says otherwise is probably biased against anything Star Wars for whatever reason.  You do feel like a badass Sith warrior throughout the game.  I love just walking into a hallway, being confronted by a dozen enemies, and unleash a Force attack so devastating that I not only knock down everyone, I destroy the walls and ceiling, nearby lights and computer terminals, all in one stirke.

It’s a definite buy for action fans, and although Wii owners will be missing out on some great graphics and physics (but what else is new?), the Wii version’s motion controls definitely add something new to the game.  To me, the best Star Wars action game is still Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, so if you really want to play one of the best games in the franchise, track down a copy of that one.  An Xbox copy will cost about $24.99 (I think) Used at your local Gamestop or EB, and a Gamecube copy runs about $29.99; eBay prices aren’t that much better either.  Again, The Force Unleashed is a good game and seems to please die-hard Star Wars fans, but don’t expect an HD Jedi Outcast.

On a related note, if LucasArts wanted to release an HD remake of Jedi Outcast with The Force Unleashed powers, I’d be all over that.

(images from


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laurynomaly  |  September 23, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I never thought that running with the lightsaber in reversed position was the safest, most effective way, especially in a combat situation.

    The story is amazingly exciting and I loved the cinematics through and through. I [watch people] play games for the same reason I watch movies–for the characters and character development.

    This game by far, kicks ass, but it is all in all too short.

  • 2. Laurynomaly  |  September 23, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    b0nus. Juno Eclipse is the one that gets to say “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” She’s totally h0t.


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