|System: DS, X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: nSpace||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Lucas Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-6||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed should be re-titled, Forced & Leashed. This extremely linear game leads you by the hand, giving you very little freedom to do your own thing. Then again, I suppose you can't expect to be calling the shots when you're the apprentice of the most controlling and despicable despot of the distant future in a galaxy far, far away.
You begin the game as Darth Vader and eventually regress to play as his apprentice, Starkiller. Don't ask me why the game doesn't progress toward becoming Darth himself. Then again, you may as well learn from the best. While it sounds exciting to play as this unknown, secretive character with insane powers let loose in the Star Wars universe, the DS game fails to capture that exhilaration. Instead, it's like driving a Harley with training wheels down a flat Saskatchewan highway.
The Force Unleashed is just too ambitious of a game for the handheld. Instead of an interactive movie, the DS version is more like an interactive comic book. There are no voiceovers. The story is told through texts and static images, with the odd cutscene thrown in. These cutscenes, and some of the in-game graphics, especially those in the first level, really set the stage for something extraordinary. But like a magician's stage, the visuals are merely an illusion. These great visuals sandwich the less-than-spectacular graphics that make up the meat of the game. Unleashed is definitely the low-rent area of the Star Wars universe. The graphics are uneven, and the gameplay is unbalanced. It's incredibly short, and incredibly easy. The multiplayer components are second-rate. Even the score sounds like it was pieced together using rejected edits from the original Star Wars theatrical soundtrack. I could go on, and I will.
What Unleashed does have going for it is the storyline. It's mostly told with text, but if you're a Star Wars freak, you'll devour the saga. True to form, these in-between-the-movie scenarios never reveal important information that would be pertinent to the main epic. But it's still fun. It's like playing in the Star Wars universe during the Empire's summer holidays. To keep things relevant and authentic, you'll come across several main characters, including the Darth, as well as popular locations such as the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk. These backdrops do look good, rendered in full 3D, but there are some significant framerate issues that cause the game to sputter and stall in places, once again corroborating my sentiments that the game is too overly ambitious for the DS.
Primarily, the gameplay is hack-and-slash, but thanks to the control system that utilizes the touchscreen and the stylus, this is not a button-masher, at least in the literal sense. The face buttons can be employed, but more as an alternative for left-handers if they are more comfortable with that configuration. The D-pad controls movement of the character, while the Force abilities are activated on the bottom screen. All the visual action takes place on the top screen. Force commands such as slash, push, throw, electrify, and grip are easy to activate and feel natural. As I've mentioned, the game is easy to play and in a short time you'll begin to feel omnipotent. It doesn't matter if you're battling faceless Stormtroopers or Jedi Knights; with a few deft moves you can make short work of all of them. On the one hand, it's good to be able to wield such power, but it's disappointing that you don't really have to work for it. Even when you level-up, it's difficult to judge your power increase, since you're incredibly powerful right out of the gate. There are very few instances where you are required to use a specific move. Mostly you are just concerned with mowing down the hordes or beating a boss. You are given the option of using a lot of different moves to accomplish the same results. This may feel like you're given a lot of freedom, but it's like using different vehicles to drive you from point A to point B, where the only objective is to get from one point to another.