No matter what PETA might think, there’s something hugely satisfying about making Darth Vader rampage though a wookiee village, literally causing fur to fly as he lobs the hairy warriors off bridges and parapets. Sadly you only play Vader at the start Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. After the first level, control switches to his apprentice, Starkiller, in a story that (under the dubious supervision of George Lucas) looks to bridge the gap between the latest Star Wars films and the original ’70s flicks.
The PS3, PC and Xbox 360 versions are all graphically impressive, with lovely touches like doors buckling under the power of the force, and the scenery looks like it could have come directly from the films. But graphics aren’t everything, and you’ll soon find yourself resenting the rest of it. For a start, it’s disappointingly linear, when a more free roaming sandbox approach would have fitted the point of the game – hunting down Jedi for Vader – far more comfortable. The only concession to choice occurs towards the finish, when you are given the choice between two endings, one of which leads nicely into the first Star Wars film, while the other sees Darth Vader killed and continuity thoroughly knackered. Still, the story is one of the few highlights of the game, and probably the only thing that will keep you going.
Less impressive is the variety, or lack thereof: The Force Unleashed is horribly samey. And as we all know, sameness leads to repetition, repetition leads to boredom and boredom leads to the dark side. Most enemies are burdened with artificial stupidity rather than artificial intelligence, and even your Jedi prey never put up much of a fight –
mindlessly hacking away with your lightsaber and throwing a bit of lightning around will deal with most of them.
Wii owners, of course, will have all of these problems without the benefit of great graphics. But the one trump card they were holding on to – the use of the Wii remote to manipulate the lightsaber (who didn’t wave their controller about, making ‘whvumm, whvumm’ noises the first time they got it?) – has also turned out to be a disappointment. Yep, the Wii controls are unintuitive and fiddly, and another example of the way that The Force Unleashed has missed almost every opportunity thrown at it.
George Lucas will no doubt continue to (ab)use the force and wring as much from his franchise as he can, but while this is a nice addition to the canon of the Star Wars universe, it’s not a great game. Much like the film prequels, it looks great but is massively lacking in substance. A real shame.
For Time Out magazine – for original PDF click here – Star Wars Force Unleashed