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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (X360 & PS3)

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (X360 & PS3)

The Force Unleashed is a new title from LucasArts based on the immensely popular Star Wars franchise. There has been much hype around this game as it is based on Naturalmotions’s Euphoria engine and features technological highlights such as Digital Molecular Matter.

The game takes place sometime between Episodes III and IV (the old and new trilogy) and it does a rather good job of tying both trilogies together. Certain mention has to be made of the storyline because compared to most games it is rather advanced and Star Wars fans will also appreciate the fact that it slightly expands upon some of the existing content.

The selling point of the title is the ability for all players to “unleash the force” and in this regard it does exceptionally well, never before will you have seen such dramatic uses of force techniques such as Force Push or Lightning. When you push over an enemy unit, such as a Stormtrooper, he doesn’t just fall over, he flies through the air as if shot in the chest by a giant cannon. You can even Force Grip soldiers and throw them over cliffs or into incoming spaceships flying some distance above the ground. Force repulse can be used on groups of enemies to push them over the edge of mountains or bridges and looks dramatic in action.

The first level is an absolute blast as you take control of Darth Vader walking through a level populated with various members of the rebellion. As Vader is extremely powerful this level is exceptionally easy but it is an ideal introduction to the various force powers at your disposal.

After the first level you are presented with the core storyline and you take control of Vader’s secret apprentice and your task is to take out various Jedi warriors. You start off relatively powerful with Force Push and Force Grip in your arsenal but by the end of the game you have learned considerably more and are almost as powerful as Vader was in the first level.

The game has a good levelling system in place and every enemy you dispose of gives you experience points, and when you have earned enough of them you rise a level. Each of these levels earns you one of three upgrade points to assign to your character, one for combos, one for forcepowers and the last for overall abilities such as health or defensive abilities. Each environmental level has hidden Jedi Holocrons to find and some of these also give you further experience points.

The way you upgrade your character has an effect on the way you play the game, some players may prefer to focus on attack upgrades or health gains while others will concentrate more on areas such as force recharging. By the end of the game even if you collect all the power ups and kill everyone you meet for experience points, you will not have ultimately “maxed” out your character, so the game therefore places the upgrade paths firmly in your hands.

Unfortunately, one downside is the fact that the game continually kicks the player to loading screens, even when navigating the menu system, I found this extremely annoying and mid way in the game I would hold onto upgrade points longer because I knew when I went to upgrade I would be waiting as each upgrade section loaded into memory. Now I am aware than neither the PS3 or Xbox 360 has a wealth of RAM at their disposal but I am sure that this system could have been finetuned considerably to cut down on loading.

So far I have discussed the awesome force powers, however there are some downsides to the game mechanics and unfortunately the targeting system leaves a lot to be desired. Almost every object in the game can be grabbed, however quite often in the heat of battle you end up grabbing a box or crate rather than a soldier who is firing at you. Obviously this issue is compounded by a plethora of objects in some scenes which makes targeting the correct unit quite difficult. Often this means that you will end up jumping and moving quickly into a scene to use your lightsaber on your foes when the use of forcepowers would have been proved difficult (or very time consuming). This is such a shame as when you do get it right, they look awesome on screen.

The Force Unleashed uses Pixelux’s Digital Molecular Matter (DMM) and Naturalmotion’s Euphoria. DMM basically gives objects real world style characteristics, so wooden objects for example would splinter, shatter such as in real life. Metal objects would be heavier and cause more damage if thrown at an enemy, they can also deform if bounced off other metal objects. Euphoria is meant to give enemy life forms certain AI self realisation abilities, such as trying to steady themselves if on a moving or shaking surface. While both of these technologies add a certain amount of realistic dynamic to the environment they fall short of the hype they have been getting over the last year.

DMM to be fair works relatively well in specific situations, but there have been rumours that the technology has too big a performance hit on current console processing technology, so the use is limited, PC Nvidia based PhsyX is a much more immersive experience when paired with the required hardware.

Combat in the game is enjoyable but equally frustrating at times. Boss fights for example can be rather tedious, quite often a large portion of your force powers will not work so you are left to find out which powers to use and which combination of these powers are needed to take them down. The AT-ST’s for example simply need to be electrocuted then attacked on a repeating basis. To make matters more annoying, sometimes when you are knocked over an enemy unit will have the same attack timings as your standing up routine so you will get hit three or four times while mashing the jump button to break the loop.

The level design is a mixed bag, frequently the art direction is wonderful, however as your progress through a level you will see that many of the design elements are repeated in huge chunks so it ends up looking as if the developers have been cutting corners to get the job done.

There are some puzzles within the game and most of these glow blue which means you can interact with them on some level. Basically you just need to work out on which level you need to manipulate them. You will either need to throw something at it, pull it or push it, or use your lightning on it. It is nothing particularly exciting or creative but proves a reasonable addition to the core gameplay mechanic.

Graphically the Xbox 360 version suffers slightly more than the Playstation 3 and frame rate issues occur from time to time as well as some screen tearing. If you are lucky enough to have both consoles then I recommend you get the PS3 version.

The audio side of the game is very polished and although the original actors didn’t handle the in game voices the replacements they have in place do the job well. I think most of us will know for example that Darth Vader is being voiced by another person, but the job is handled well enough to be believable.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a fun game and LucasArts have created an entertaining and playable experience which focuses firmly on the cool force elements the player has at their disposal. Some of the technology incorporated is a little too advanced for the console platform and is perhaps in need of some further development before it comes to fruition. Unfortunately it isn’t all positive and some of the combat is uninspired and the level design can be repetitive. All in all it will prove a welcome distraction for fans of the franchise, but it may be rather uninspiring and tedious for the rest of us.



The use of the force powers are great, but quite often you will targeting the wrong units and finding it frustrating.


Very appealing and polished, slightly better on the PS3.


Great voiceacting and musical score.

Not much to gain from a replay, once its beaten (which takes around 8 hours), its basically over.
(not an average)

An entertaining romp but a little uninspired and repetitive.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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