The Star Wars franchise has been the only gaming franchise to release more worthwhile video games than any other movie tie in. While there have been plenty of duds (The Empire Strikes Back on the NES, The Phantom Menace on the Sony PlayStation), there have been out right smash hits (Knights of the Old Republic, Battlefront 2, Jedi Knight 2). There’s one Star Wars title in particular that, although flawed in a small handful of ways, stands out from the crowd for a few good reasons, and was named one of the Top 25 Games of This Decade at the end of last year — Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Acting as a semi bridging between Episodes Three and Four, we are introduced to a secret apprentice of Darth Vader, only known as Starkiller. Discovered at an early age while Vader plowed through his home world, he was molded to Vader’s will, becoming his tool for future use in overthrowing Emperor Palpatine. When betrayal and confusion start clouding Starkiller’s head, you’ll have to make some tough decisions.
In all honesty, the pacing, location and power of the story would make hundreds of millions in box office revenue if this were converted into a movie. You develop a liking towards Starkiller, even if there’s a lot to him that is so mysterious, yet never explained fully. The cast of character you run along are charming, though don’t ever overstep their importance,nor overshadow the presence of Starkiller himself.
The scenery throughout The Force Unleashed is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a crisp, clean world, where everything looks proper. Starkiller, throughout the plethora of unlockable outfits you can obtain, looks as fully fleshed out as the story builds him character wise. One sticking point comes with ragdoll-like animations during force throws. They look a little overdone, on the borderline of sloppy. Otherwise, your visual portrayal of this in-betweener storyline does an excellent job.
Probably the most well structured area in The Force Unleashed comes in the audio realm. Naturally, the Star Wars music is classic, whether it be revisions of classic tunes, or a unique piece added exclusively to said game. In the case of The Force Unleashed, the vocal performances outshine every blaster, John Williams inspired musical score and everything in-between. The delivery is spot on, with the voice acting sounding inspired, creditable, with a script that’s fit for a full length motion picture. Starkiller sounds cold, occasionally emotionless, just as the story portrays him throughout a good chunk of the action.
While this was named to my Top 25 Games of This Decade, there’s one one significant fault to TFU — the mechanics in general. The camera view is never in the most optimal position, leaving you open to attacks from all sides. Add into the mix some less than desirable controls over Starkiller himself and some absurdly high difficulty later in the game (especially at the hardest settings) and you will experience some rage that you’ve never experienced before. You’ll literally develop force throw powers, ejecting your controller from your hands and lodging it into the wall. It can detract from the overall experience, however there’s enough charm throughout to bring you back to the light side of the force.
There are tons of incentives to keep you coming back to The Force Unleashed for a long time to come. Throughout the game, there are hidden holocroms that will give you boosts to your stats, or even new outfits to don. Some of these new get ups are absolutely amazing in design, from Jedi Knight garbs to Sith Lord robes. While they do not outright change your effectiveness in game, lightsaber power crystals will give you different options on your look, as well as its potency.
With a moderate length to it (lengthened somewhat by the difficulty and camera frustrations), as well as all of the collectible items and such, not to mention the solid core game its self, The Force Unleashed is definitely a Star Wars title worth making a movie over. Not since Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64 have we been introduced to a new character that demands further exploration into their past. Have some patience with the later levels, take it slow and you’re sure to overlook most of the camera issues. While the score may not represent a title that’s been lauded in my Top 25 list, the replay value and narrative will drive you deeper into this new world within the Star Was Universe.