Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii | PS2 | PSP | DS
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: LucasArts 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: LucasArts 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 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

In a year that has already received a slew of great games and is slated to receive a pile more by the time 2009 rolls in, it's surprising that a game like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed garnered much attention at all. Yes, it's a Star Wars game, which, in itself, is enough to appease a legion of fans of the intergalactic saga, but, as a game, The Force Unleashed isn't that impressive. Under all the hype and excitement regarding Force Powers and the Dark Side, is a fairly average hack-and-slash title. It can be enjoyable at times, but when all's said and done, it feels shallow and more than a little disappointing.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

Surprisingly, the game's plot is one of its most enjoyable aspects; storytelling is done quite well. You take the role of Darth Vader's secret apprentice, and while it's obviously not a character that existed in the movies, the game does a nice job of weaving him into the lore of the series. Simply put, everything makes sense. There are no unexplained plot holes and this apprentice wasn't just tacked-on for the sake of having a plot. Character development is actually pretty good, and if you're a fan of the movies, you're really going to enjoy The Force Unleashed's storyline.

After a ridiculously cool level of controlling Vader himself, you take the role of Starkiller, the apprentice, and you're off on a quest to vanquish a number of living Jedi. Starkiller feels quite different from Vader and while it's cool to play as a quick, speedy Sith, it would have been nice to have a bit more character variety.

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Once you settle into the game, you get down to the combat. Despite some interesting storytelling, the fighting is what this game is all about, but sadly, the battle mechanics don't feel as good as they probably could have been. The Force Unleashed combines much-hyped Force Powers with lightsaber mechanics and, at times, the combos and strategies that result can be pretty interesting. Just as often, however, The Force Unleashed feels like a shallow Wii-style button-masher.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

You'll swing around the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to perform swipes and stabs with the lightsaber, unleash Force Powers, and string together complex combos that can take out foes with ease. Pulling off combos, admittedly, can be pretty difficult and requires excellent timing on your part. But generally, just swinging around can get the job done, and there isn't much incentive to intelligently take down enemies. Still, the Wii controls are preferable to mashing buttons and jiggling analog sticks.

The lightsaber may be a bit of a let-down, but it's hard to argue with how cool the Force powers are. From the Force Grip that you've got from the get-go to more advanced Force-related attacks you earn later on, The Force Unleashed gives you a level of control over the Star Wars universe that we've not had before. It's very cool to be able to take control of these powers; sadly, it doesn't stay fun for long and, after a while, you may find yourself using the same basic combinations to take out wave after wave of hostiles.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

To add to the problems, the level design isn't all that great and many times locales feel like little more than areas to kill people. Star Wars fans will find more to enjoy here than most people and areas of particular story significance are neat. When the game has a focus on wiping out as many people as possible, I suppose it's understandable that making intelligent, interesting, and cohesive levels may have dropped a bit on the list of priorities. Still, just trudging from one area to the next gets old really quickly and does little to distract you from the monotonous fighting that makes up the bulk of the game.

Screenshots / Images
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