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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - hands-on

When you say "Star Wars fighting game," the first thing that pops into most gamers' minds is the dreadful Masters of Teras Kasi, a fighter from the original PlayStation days. Force Unleashed, however, hopes to make one-on-one force brawling appealing again by dropping 27 characters from across the franchise into nine different destructible environments and, best of all, let you go totally nuts with force-abusing recklessness. Finally, someone understands.

We went a few rounds in the Wii version of Unleashed, and while we can't comment on the other console's controls, Wii's are heavy on the wiggling and waggling. Swinging the remote does the same with the lightsaber, be it a slash or a stab (both gestures are recognized by the hardware), but no, it's not the 1-1 control that fans so desperately want. Seeing as this is just an extra mode tacked on to the adventure, it's not that big of deal - just don't forget we're all still waiting for it.

Other staple moves, like the Force push and saber throw, are handled by similar waggling. Jutting the Nunchuk forward sends a shockwave towards your enemy, simultaneously jostling anything that's not bolted down n the arena. Smart use of the push, Force lightning and aerial attacks can deal huge amounts of damage before the other guy can recover. Force choking levitates your enemy, but they're still not defenseless, as they can hurl their lightsaber and run you through. You can also use the Z button to grab those loose pieces of the environment and chuck 'em at the other guy. Everything from busted statues to a fully operational TIE Fighter can be tossed about, with promises of other large items showing up in the various battlegrounds.

If you both swing or fire off Force lightning at the same time, they'll crash and hum, activating a motion-based minigame. You have to follow a series of gesture prompts (like tilt the remote this way, the chuck that way) that roughly correspond to the saber duel on the screen. The winner finished the slash and then executes a dignity-crushing kick to the face, sending the loser tumbling across the floor like a whiny de-armed Anakin Skywalker.

We mentioned earlier there are 27 playable characters in the duel mode. Some are exclusive to versus (like Dooku) but others are brand new to the series and part of the single player game (like the shouldn't-be-hot-but-is Darth Phobos). They all have the same moves and generally handle the same, but differ in four stats. Some are faster or have more powerful lightning, while the starring Apprentice is average across the board. There're also power-ups in each level, plus an "Unleashed" mode that grants you even more power (we promise not to call it a rage meter).

For a secondary mode, we have to admit the versus matches were simple to pick up and play. It's easy to picture plenty of lost hours watching Vader whip Luke's ass across the map, even if the overall structure of the combat is the same for everyone. We're going to take the high road and say that just makes the game easier to jump into, rather than complain about lack of differentiation.

To wrap things up, we'll run a shot of the character selection screen. Key fighters include: Darth Vader; Darth Maul; Count Dooku; The Apprentice; Luke Skywalker; Anakin Skywalker; Asajj Ventress; Aayla Secura; Darth Phobos; and Mara Jade, one of the more popular characters from the books.

For more on the single-player experience, check out our massive preview form before.

Apr 15, 2008

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