Review: Star Wars The Force Unleashed (DS)
Posted 19 Sep 2008 at 04:13 by Mark Lee
|"Without the gripping story arc, the title would be just 'another' space adventure..."
Showing that the Star Wars universe can solely survive on its rich cast of characters and vast universe, The Force Unleashed sees you playing as Darth Vader's newly created apprentice 'Starkiller'. The title then revolves around the idea that you must prove your worth as a Sith apprentice – chiefly by carrying out Vader's every command. Perfect fodder for a game then!
Whenever a new Star Wars title is announced it's always the story that fans look to and surprisingly, The Force Unleashed has an interesting and memorable one. (ED - which, for any Star Wars game post-1980 is likened to a miracle!)
It's when the plot twists half way through that the story hits you and the game finds itself fitting in nicely with the existing Star Wars saga and actually gains a larger significance to the later trilogies events. And believe us, that's a good thing as it proves to be the defining feature that keeps you going until those final credits have rolled. Without the gripping story arc featuring memorable characters which actually influence the story (and your decisions) the title would be just 'another' space adventure. If you don't care for Star Wars you may as well leave now...
Lucas obviously watches 'The Apprentice' too much!
You start the game as Darth Vader and make your way through Kashyyyk beating the fur out of Wookies in search of "something". Feeling like a training level you follow an incredibly linear, set path and repeatedly slash at the touch screen to use the force and redecorate the landscape.
It doesn't take long for you to realise that this is the way every level will play out. Unfortunately, the game guides you on a predetermined path akin to a 2.5D game like we used to see on the PS1. And although it's all in 3D (and you can therefore stroll through the levels at your own pace) the game isn't helped by being terribly blocky. If it was always taking this path, some pre-rendered backdrops would have been nice! Thankfully when things are up close the models always have brilliant attention to detail and the background events (although not always interactive) are a welcome immersion, never affecting the silky smooth framerate.
Battling enemies is all handled via the touch screen with just the D-Pad/face buttons being used as movement and the L/R buttons being used as both running and shielding. As expected you can use your lightsaber, throw enemies or objects around or even use force lightning. It wouldn't be Star Wars without a little force-play now would it?
As if that didn't give you enough scope to dispense of enemies, you can drag one touch icon into another to create a combo. For instance, drag the jump icon into the lightsaber icon and a jumping slash will be performed. The combo system works well, deepens the further you adventure and offers opportunity for advanced fighting mechanics. True mastery of these techniques are also needed to progress past the numerous boss battles encountered. And thankfully, there are plenty of fun battles to fight through. Some quirky events will also rear their head on the touch screen during pivotal moments in the story and they not only work well but bring a nice change of direction to the monotonous hack-and-slash play. We particularly liked guiding a ship in to crash land and merging one-to-one 'saber duels to a touch screen equivalent.
Force powers occupy the bottom screen and can be manipulated to create combos.
Unfortunately for all of these strong mechanics, as we previously mentioned it is the cumbersome level-guiding from one set piece to the next which will disappoint the most. If the story wasn't there or the opportunity to fight some truly excellent enemies at the end of each planet we would have given up on the game just past the hour mark. A good job then that this can be completed in around four hours – which is possibly the perfect time frame for the limited scope of the title.
Lastly, we must mention the presentation. Sadly the title doesn't have the traditional epic Star Wars presentation. Happily the audio side (as expected) is as good as ever yet the biggest let down for us was the lack of speech and use of comic book stills throughout.
If you're looking for a well told story within the Star Wars universe then Force Unleashed is a good title to sink your teeth into. The levels may guide you by the hand and they may be blockier than the entire LEGO Star Wars universe, yet the combat is interesting enough and the touch screen implementations solid enough to warrant a brief time spent in the arms of "Starkiller".
Our final review scores lie below...
- N-Europe Staff Writer
N-Europe Final Verdict
The enjoyable story, decent combat and overall play mechanics are dragged down by linear level design and a lack of graphical effort, making this title stop just short of being a true force to be reckoned with.
Admirably creates an alluring Star Wars atmosphere
Mechanics all work well enough
Levels are all linear!
Blocky graphics galore!
Very short with shallow multiplayer (multicard) battle mode