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