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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • Powerful story
  • Unprecedented incredi-visuals
  • Delicious dark-side moves
  • Repetitive, mediocre action
  • Not enough thrills per hour
  • Not enough hours per game

This is not the game you’re looking for. Yes, it’s a massive shame. We’ve been salivating over The Force Unleashed for two years, as have most of you, but the end product just doesn’t live up to the massive expectations it built up. Well, as a game anyway.

LucasArts has billed The Force Unleashed as the link between the rather bloated Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, and the excellent original film, Episode IV, A New Hope. As a story, this game hits the spot. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that this is one of the best pieces of storytelling you’ll find on current-gen. No wonder George Lucas gave it his official thumbs up. It doesn’t try to cram in anachronistic cameos, or shoehorn in clever little nods to the original films to try and make itself cool: it just weaves a magical story that’ll keep driving you to the end, no matter how irritated you might get with some of the game’s clumsy flaws.

The beautiful visuals certainly help The Force Unleashed to get its plot and emotions across with maximum impact. Pre-rendered cut-scenes are incredible – perhaps the best you’ve seen this gen – as each of the characters looks genuinely alive, and the in-game business doesn’t look too shabby either. Coupled with that, the beautiful Star Wars score echoes throughout every moment, giving the experience that stirring, authentic feel.

The fact that the game is so perfectly pitched and presented toward Star Wars aficionados is its greatest asset, but for you, it’ll be the biggest problem. You see, as a game The Force Unleashed is not money well spent. It’s a fairly standard, fairly short action game with too few frills and too many problems. Oh, and no multiplayer whatsoever. Clocking in at around six to eight hours, depending on how talented you are with a lightsaber, or how willing you are to wander each level looking for every bonus item, this isn’t great value for money. Once the story is finished, you’re unlikely to go back for another play-through.

The problem is that games like Devil May Cry 4 and Ninja Gaiden 2 have come along in 2008 and rather embarrassed The Force Unleashed. While they offered slick combat that switched effortlessly between close and ranged combat, this game feels clunky and unrefined by comparison. The opening level of the game, where you play as Vader, is particularly slow and tedious. Picking up Wookiees and lobbing them into the abyss may seem like a laugh, but after around 50 or 60 times performing the same move, it can get a bit tedious.

It’s a relief, then, to take control of the Secret Apprentice in the second stage. He feels quicker, more responsive and has a better range of moves and combos (which can be expanded and upgraded as you collect cubes or level up). However, the action still feels linear and repetitive. You’ll quickly realize that each of the game’s fancy-pants locations are nothing more than corridors with attractive furniture (you know, to make them seem less like boring, old corridors). Boss fights, too, have a certain air of predictability to them and most can be beaten using the same combo over and over.

Breaking up the familiar, however, is the game’s advanced physics engine. There are plenty of objects to pick up and fling around, and the game’s subtle but effective auto-targeting system means you’ll usually hit what you’re aiming at. Things smash and break up in a realistic way, and yes, bodies flail about and distort when you lob them into walls. Sadly, the corpses disappear once they’re dead, which sends you back down to earth with a bump from any kind of reverie you might have built up by lobbing things around.

However, the main problem with the physics is that there’s just too much clutter on screen at once, and this makes selecting targets awkward. Allow us to explain. Say there’s a stormtrooper shooting you and you want to pick him up, electrocute him, and lob his corpse at another enemy (a lightning grenade!). Chances are that when you activate the Force to pick him up, you’ll grab hold of a useless hunk of garbage and throw that instead. You’ll try again. And again. Then by the time you’ve selected your foe, all your Force energy will be spent. Then you’ll die. Then you’ll be cross.

Later in the game it becomes a real issue, as foes get tougher and tougher to kill. So, instead of trying to get creative with the world around you, you’ll fall back on the trusty technique of slamming your enemy with a lightning bolt and wading in with a lightsaber combo just to survive the tougher battles. All of a sudden the dynamic, combo-based action game that The Force Unleashed was supposed to be just ends up as a button-basher. The fact is that in the more hectic battles, where lasers are hitting you from all sides, you don’t have time to get fancy and that saps the fun out of the game. Try a nifty move and you’ll end up on the floor, losing half your energy bar as the Apprentice casually gets back to his feet.

The other major bugbear we have with the game is the dodgy camera. Yeah, it’s a common complaint for third-person action games, and no, we’re not just going to shut up and get used to it. Although not as bad as many other cameras, this one will obscure the odd character (especially during boss battles) and it makes all platforming sections thoroughly miserable. In fact, there isn’t much of anything to break up the repetitive flow of the game. The Force Unleashed even has the cheek to recycle most of its levels, so expect to visit locations more than once. Even the extras, which see you learning new moves and tinkering with your lightsaber, are blander than a bowl of branflakes with no milk. Leveling up is a bit of a non-event, and we wonder if it might have been better to give the player everything from the start so they can work out how to mix up their moves as they go along. Elsewhere, lightsaber colour crystals (which you have to scour each level for) are little more than gaming fluff and power crystals are similarly uninspiring.

So, The Force Unleashed is more of a highly impressive tech demo with a great narrative tagged on, with any actual game present inserted only as an afterthought. Do you buy it? Well, that depends on how much you love Star Wars. The story is fantastic, and there’s a certain satisfaction to be had from hurling Tie-Fighters at Jawas… but the game still feels like a wasted opportunity. 

Sep 16, 2008

More Info

Release date: Sep 16 2008 - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (US)
Available Platforms: PS2, PSP, DS, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Genre: Action
Published by: LucasArts
Developed by: LucasArts
Franchise: Star Wars
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Violence

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43 comments

  • CreeplyTuna - October 27, 2009 8:14 p.m.

    um...when hasn't a hack an slash game been repetitive? and even if this game had multiplayer, it would have sucked(most likely) and that two would have hurt the review. i thought this game was pretty fun. i'd give it an 8.5 easy
  • Fuzzyturd - September 20, 2008 4:39 p.m.

    I rented this game and its not as bad as Gamesradar says it is. It's not as good as everyone hoped it would be, but it's still a perfectly fine game. The two main complaints about it would have to be the camera and the repetitiveness. But, it all depends on how you play it. If you're one of the people who just play games to say that you've beaten them and blaze through it as fast as you can then it's not for you. But if you're one of the people who like to play video games for fun then it's for you because once you start to get more of the combos then it just keeps getting better and better. About an 8 or and 8.5 +Great story +Great combos (if you use them) -Way too much hype which makes people think it's a bad game
  • NelosAngelos - September 19, 2008 9:57 p.m.

    Ouch...well, I need to save up my money anyways for other games.
  • doug-e-fresh - September 19, 2008 4:32 p.m.

    i agree i love this game. euphoria is amazing, story is great, and when's the last time you chucked a stormtooper at a tie fighter
  • Drake98 - September 18, 2008 10:59 p.m.

    I don't care what all the critics may say, but this and jedi outcast were both amazing games. They are the best games in star wars history by far!
  • Bigpapa360 - September 18, 2008 12:08 p.m.

    What happened to the days when you could play a game just for the enjoyment of slashing down some stormtroopers and jawas? Idc I gave it an 8/10 so.
  • JustAnotherGamer - September 18, 2008 12:47 a.m.

    Sadly, I agree this game is way to short i have been anticipating this game for years and i pre-ordered it. I took a day off to get the game and play it for a lil and i ended up beating it in 4 hours. (Dont call me a nerd lol) But i would have givin it at least an 8 i mean cmon what other game do u kno of where u can sith punt a jawa... But yea im a huge Star Wars fan and im pretty disappointed with the length of the game. I guess im going to have to return the game...
  • DJJackson - September 17, 2008 9:06 p.m.

    i think it'll be a great game (i live in britain and its not released till the 19th) and im a huge fan of star wars all i know is that it will be on my shelf
  • crazyqazqaz - September 17, 2008 3:20 p.m.

    Aaaaahhhhh!!!! What to do?? I thought it would be something like this. I agree with Z-man, it has been overhyped and I've been caught up in iy all. I thought it might be another Battlefront but it turns out to be a let down. I'm going to get it anyway though because I can't bring myself to take it off my birthday list. I'll get the Wii version because I like the look of the dual mode and I think that waggle controls might suit this game better. Overall a bit of a let down but I suppose we had it coming to us for giving it such a high standard to fulfill.
  • Shellghost - September 17, 2008 12:10 p.m.

    i'll give my money for this game if it is in a deal package with a 360, since im wanting to buy one since my brother got a PS3
  • SpikeDelight - September 17, 2008 6:23 a.m.

    Not enough hours per game. Genius. GamesRadar you always know how to make a snappy comment about a game. That's why I love ya. I do love this game though, and I'm well aware that it's not so great. I just love this canon storyline and I'm genuinely intrigued by it. I'm the kind of Star Wars fan who can refer to every vehicle by its acronym and refer you to multiple theories on how Vader brought balance to the Force, though so take that with a grain of salt. :D
  • Coolbeans69 - September 17, 2008 4:01 a.m.

    Major disappointment. :(
  • lewis42025 - September 17, 2008 2:53 a.m.

    for some reason, gametrailers gave it relatively the same score, yet for some reason, i am much more satisfied with your review. i think its because most of your complaints with the game resonate much better with me. it sounds like u really wanted to love the game, but its problems got in the way. much appreciated gamesradar. wish i could rent it, but ill probably have to buy it...
  • iluvmyDS - September 17, 2008 1:54 a.m.

    I wish I knew how to react. I feel like an infant seeing his favorite teddy bear engulfed in flames. I mean I understand a 7 isn't a horrible score, but that means it's mediocre. So maybe months from now I'll see this reduced to 20 bucks and I'll buy it then.
  • Defguru7777 - September 17, 2008 1:47 a.m.

    Disappointing...
  • TheWebSwinger - September 16, 2008 11:42 p.m.

    The demo was fucking frustrating, what with the spotty targeting/camera. Seems like a good rent though for a Star Wars lover such as myself.
  • Signofthezodiac - November 19, 2008 2:57 a.m.

    not bad not bad
  • lordsire2 - October 16, 2008 2:28 a.m.

    i think game companies shouldnt tell people about games until the day before they come out or a week before so it would be a surprise and nobody would git all stressed out becuz they want to play it thats how i was about halo 3
  • lordsire2 - October 16, 2008 2:24 a.m.

    i think u guys should have given it at least a '8' come on its got cool kills using ur imagination anyway u want and its telling you how the rebellion was born and who started it its a pretty big piece of information in the star wars saga and im also a big fan
  • Patius - September 22, 2008 4:59 a.m.

    All I want is to dismemeber. If I can't have that, then not buying the game. I think I'll go with Sol Cal 4 instead.

Showing 1-20 of 43 comments

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