OK, I know that many gamers have played this one at some point in their gaming history. When Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (TFU) was released in 2008, I gave it a go as well. However, I never managed to get through it, and ended up trading it for other big games that I was looking forward to. That being said, when I came across it in my local Gamestop at the extremely budget-friendly price of $7.99, I couldn’t help but pick it up to give it another try. I was interested to see how my opinion of it would change now that it doesn’t have that new game price. So, has my opinion changed, you ask? Oh, yes, dear friends, it has.
Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will. — Yoda
The plot of TFU falls somewhere between the timeline of Episodes III and IV, where the Empire has won the Clone Wars, Princess Leia is young, but reaching a high level of respect among the rebels, and Luke has yet to be discovered. The rebels are nothing more than a group of fledgling freedom-fighters, scattered between the planets and far from organized. Darth Vadar is tasked by the Emperor to seek and destroy the last of the Jedi Knights – the only thing standing between the Empire and total control of the galaxy. You play as Starkiller, an apprentice of Vadar who was kidnapped from his Jedi father at a young age. The force is strong with him, and Vadar has spent much time and energy training Starkiller to be a formidable Sith warrior. Darth Vadar unburdens his Jedi-killing task on to you, but with a secret agenda lying behind it all. You are to help Vadar weaken the empire enough take out the Emperor and climb the corporate ladder. Seems easy enough, right? Star Wars fans know that Lucas isn’t one to leave us with a predictable and simple plot. Throughout the game, there are so many twists and turns in the story that you begin to wonder who you should really trust, and eventually decide what path you will take.
As you progress through the linear story, you will destroy nearly everyone and thing in your path. Thankfully, you come well equipped to handle all that carnage. You begin with a lightsaber and a small array of Force powers. Combining your attacks to create unique kills will gain you more experience points than if you were to simply hack and slash your way through the game with your saber alone, so combos are encouraged. XP is spent on leveling your character, and there are so many choices for upgrading that you can really fine tune Starkiller to your playing style. I found this to be quite helpful, allowing me to pick and choose the powers that worked best for me, as well as upping my health and mana as needed. The use of powers is the best and most prevalent part of TFU, and the kicker is that you can combine them to create some incredibly interesting kills. Nothing is more satisfying than holding an enemy in the air, flinging your saber into him, stopping his buddies in their tracks with lightning bolts, force-pushing them all into a group of baddies, and watching everything explode.
While the powers are really cool, you are given so many enemies to fight throughout the game that you begin to tire of them. There just aren’t enough new powers and combos to keep the third-person combat interesting when you spend the entire game fighting wave after wave of baddies. There are also a few issues with some of the powers. The Force Throw is far from accurate, which becomes frustrating when you get to a point that requires accuracy in that area. Force Repel consists of you gathering your power for a few moments, and then expelling it out from you 360 degrees. This is helpful when you become surrounded by enemies, but you take damage while you charge this power, rendering it obsolete. You would only use this power when you are becoming overwhelmed, and if you take damage while charging it, it is better to try a different tactic to reserve your health.
TFU utilizes quick time events to defeat most of the large enemies you will face. However, they usually appear very quickly and without warning, often times while you are in the middle of performing a combo, thus failing the quick-time event. The quick time events also distract you from enjoying the fun cinematics of taking these behemoths down. It’s a small complaint, but a complaint nonetheless. Another issue lies with the camera angles. While you have control of it, once you get into battle, it becomes difficult to maneuver it while you are stringing combos. Many times you will find that it won’t follow you the way you need it to, making locking-on to enemies challenging. Often times you will lock on to an enemy, only to have your lock shift to a different enemy off screen, thanks to the camera.
The graphics are quite stunning for how old they are. Character models are great, and the faces are extremely expressive without that creepiness many older games used to struggle with. The voice acting is top notch, and you really become engrossed in the story as it unfolds. The environments are not only bright and vibrant, they are incredibly interactive. Each level has its own unique look, and the enemies to match it. There are tons of environmental fodder to be used at your disposal to destroy enemies, helping to alleviate the repetitive combat of this action-platformer. Simple puzzles also help break up the monotony a bit, though they rarely supply any level of real difficulty.
The achievements are very attainable – you can accumulate nearly all of them in one play-through. If you use a guide this can be done rather easily, but if you are paying attention to the achievements you should be able to get most of them without help. Many are tied to kill numbers and types, and many are unmissable story-based achievements. Also, the replay value is quite high, since some achievements will require multiple play-throughs on varying difficulties, and the campaign is relatively short (though there is so much content that you don’t feel gypped). Also, there are two endings to choose from, giving you yet another reason to play it again.
While TFU has its set backs, it is still lots of fun. I think the low price allows you to enjoy it much more, since you didn’t drop $60 for a game that is less than perfect. The combination of a fun story, interesting leveling, and ease of achievement-gathering makes this one well worth eight bucks.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is Worth a Buy!