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The Blue & Gray Press | November 18, 2017

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‘The Force Unleashed:’ Lucasarts Beats a Dead Horse

By ELIOT HAGEN

The Star Wars cash cow’s teat was once rosy in hue and unchaffed, but decades of milking the franchise has left it bone dry and atrophied, with a horrible prequel trilogy and a slew of mediocre to borderline unplayable games.  Though I acknowledge that several Star Wars games were stellar, (The “X-Wing” series, and the “Battlefront” series, for example) “The Force Unleashed” is not.

There were several good things about this—the incorporation of the Euphoria engine made using the Force as realistic as it’s ever been in a game.  The graphics were excellent, as were the sound and music.  However, a game that could have been excellent is only average due to poor level design, poor enemy design, broken game mechanics, and a relatively incompetent handling of the Star Wars mythos.

It was also way too short and easy, with the only difficulties arising from bad design as opposed to true difficulty.  A skilled gamer will be able to beat this one in about 10 hours, unless it freezes mid-level or even during the final boss, as it did for me.  Oh, and be prepared for LONG loading times—even between menus and submenus.

The levels were all relatively similar, with many levels being revisited to artificially lengthen an already short game.  You have star cruiser environments, jungle environments, and the ‘junkyard’ planet, Raxus Prime.  There’s also a level on Coruscant and the Death Star.  This was particularly disappointing seeing as there are so many planets in the Star Wars galaxy that they didn’t use, including Tatooine and Hoth.

The combat was repetitive and often unintuitive, and the targeting system was absolutely horrible.  Even when there was only one enemy on screen, you’d often end up hitting or using your Force lightning on a piece of debris rather than your real target.  It’s even worse because in order to target someone you have to hold down the targeting button.

The number of interactive objects is staggering, with your Jedi, named ‘Starkiller,’ being able to use the Force to hurl anything from a Tie Bomber to a tiny scrap of metal.  While this is useful to clear enemies, it can be annoying because of the targeting issue.

The more intense and cinematic fight sequences are handled entirely by incredibly simple quick time events, so you’ll usually end up using the same combos throughout the game. In most boss fights, I could corner my opponent and spam the same move over and over until he died, and many enemies who should have been incredibly difficult, like Darth Maul and Darth Vader, were the exact opposite, the fights with them being easy and formulaic.

The Imperial Star Destroyer boss fight, however, was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to endure, not because it was difficult, but because it took far too long due to constant waves of attackers.  Also, the on-screen prompts that were meant to tell you how to pull down the Star Destroyer were, in fact, incorrect.

The enemies are pretty average, with the same old recognizable ranks of the Imperial Army along with AT-ST’s and other vehicles.  You’re also forced to fight strange robots, Rodians, Felucians, Rancors, and Jawas.  The problem with these is that, once you unlock certain moves, the challenge is completely removed.  There’s a broken move that allows you to kill any vehicle or Rancor without any effort at all, and do it without losing any health.

There are no health pickups, but don’t worry—every time you kill an enemy, you get a fraction of his health added on to yours.  This removes all strategy when fighting large groups because all you have to do is kill a few low-level enemies and your health will be full again.  The only time where health would ever become an issue is during a boss fight, but, as I said, you could always exploit the broken gameplay to win those.

The storyline wasn’t horrible simply because it’s Star Wars, but it’s an insult to the original saga, with several lines being taken directly from the movies and being spoken by inferior characters.  There are identical shots, identical sound effects, identical monologues, even—but this doesn’t make the game better.  It just cheapens the movies.  And by movies, I mean the originals—not the abominations that are the prequel trilogy.

It also comes complete with the requisite love interest named ‘Juno Eclipse,’ and it’s clear to any fan of the movies that the makers of the game were trying to recreate the Han/Leia chemistry.  They failed.  In addition to that, the storyline and treatment of characters like Darth Vader and The Emperor destroys a part of the original movies.  While a paradox isn’t created, the plot here drags the rest of the timeline down with it.

This game isn’t horrible, but it’s not worth buying.  Rent it, beat it in a weekend, and get on with your life.  The Force is most definitely weak with this one.