Empire at War lets you partake in the strategy behind huge galactic wars between the Sith and the Rebels. Knights of the Old Republic was more about the people. How they were reacting to the blight around you, and using this to make an emotional connection with them, or not. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Ultimate Sith Edition does have a good story, but it’s all about the action. It’s all about handing players the keys to the powerful potential of the force and lightsaber.
The Force Unleashed features a full cast of characters, many of whom are new to the Star Wars series, and others you will recognise from the films. You play as Starkiller, a man who was adopted by Vader as his apprentice when he was very young. The last of the Jedi are being rooted out and murdered, and Vader sends Starkiller to finish the job of the last remaining stragglers. But as the tale unfolds, Starkiller is left to question his allegiance and trust to his cloaked master. The Force Unleashed tells its story through top-class cutscenes, voice work and cinematography worthy of the Star Wars films themselves. Whilst you don’t really see that synergy between gameplay and story like you see in other plot-based games, between battles you’re given a little time to get introduced to the characters around you.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Gameplay
The gameplay itself keeps detached from the story, and involves explosive fights through hordes of Clone Troopers, special units and native wildlife, all culminating in a final boss battle that ends in a wonderful spectacle of lightsaber, lightning and force conflict not to be missed.
As a skilled Sith, Skykiller has been graced with the powers of the force; an ability you put to great use during your many battles. You can pick up and toss enemies like rag dolls, electrify your lightsaber to deadly effect, emit a shockwave to send all nearby enemies flying and much more. The lightning attack is easily the most powerful ability, but there’s enough incentive to keep things varied.
Yet despite these amazing abilities, The Force Unleashed, let me be frank, still manages to kick your arse. The best moves can only be completed by button combos, and it’s using these combos at precisely the right moment that creates a smooth, effective attack style. Of course, it’s never as simple as it sounds, and the best players will relish in the challenge of mastering new, complex moves to destroy their enemy.
Throwing explosive objects in the environment is one of the best moves in Starkiller’s arsenal. But the wonky auto-aim means that your projectiles can fly wide off the mark of their intended victim, sometimes even harmlessly launching themselves into the sky. When the action is so fluid and fast-paced as this, the precision required to line up objects with enemy clones is unachievable without getting knocked down by an incoming rocket or sniper shot first, leading to a ‘hope for the best’ kind of strategy. Not being able to fling large objects as effectively or effortlessly as the developers intended puts a dampener on your seemingly limitless power.
The bad guys don’t just remain simple, weak Clones. Some adapt and apply a shield that makes all force powers fruitless against them, while other creatures wield swords that are just as powerful as lightsabers. Not to mention the many deadly Jedi whom you face along your journey, as adept in the power of the force as you are. You will die a lot of times, with many leading to frustration at that Imperial Purge Trooper for spamming its rocket launcher, or at the long-ranged sniper-weilding Scout that knocks you down just when you were about to take out an AT-ST. However, death is the hard way of telling you that you need to think about your moves and your enemies’ weaknesses. Plus, variety in your combat will gain more Force points which go towards new force abilities and combos. All of your force points are saved, even if you die, meaning that if you hit a brick wall with an insurmountable force, you can always work up the force points for a more effective attack.
Unfortunately, The Force Unleashed chooses to use quicktime events once a boss or large enemy is low on health to present their breathtaking final defeat. The blend of lightsaber and force power action makes for stunning action climaxes, but you’re more likely going to be looking for new buttons to press than enjoying the scene.
As well as the full campaign, The Force Unleashed Special Edition includes The Ultimate Sith add-on which features three stories set in locals you’ll probably recognise from the films, not to mention featuring iconic characters like Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan. It’s an intense short-lived expansion that adds a little content, but doesn’t blow away the main game. Each mini-campaign is unconnected in what little story they have in them, and end abruptly without being concluded. The more advanced effects take its toll a little on performance, resulting in small moments of slowdown. What’s more, the difficulty of these levels is far below that of the bulk of the gameplay in the whole game, even though you are expected to play the add-on after the main story, which is a little disappointing.
In all, no other Star Wars title has handed you the destructive power of being a Sith or Jedi as well as The Force Unleashed. It may be a little outdated, but it runs flawlessly on my Mac and doesn’t look too shabby at all.
Publisher: Aspyr Entertainment Inc
Genre: Third-Person Action Adventure
Pros: Excellent combo-based gameplay, mix between force and lightsaber combat, stunning cut scene cinematography and sound design.
Cons: Wonky auto-aim, repeating quick-time events, add-on doesn’t add much.