Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The Force Unleashed was always going to be a different kettle of fish to the usual licensed fare. It’s had some time and effort spent on it; that was noticeable at preview stage. What wasn’t quite so obvious was the fact that as a stand-alone piece it’s as weighty a title as we’ve played on the Wii. This, combined with a Star Wars feel which comes across brilliantly, makes for some darn good fun. It has some niggles, and the occasional game-breaking one at that, but these are easy to overlook from a game that we found genuinely impressive and refreshing.
While we’re not in the business of comparing the Wii to the next-generation systems, sometimes it’s hard not to. The Wii version was developed by Krome Studios, separately from the PS3 and Xbox 360, and as such isn’t merely an insipid copy of the other versions. If anything, we’d say it’s a better take on the game. Sure, it’s not quite as pretty, but the look is as nice as you could expect on the Wii. While the other machines have some Force-based puzzling elements, the Wii manages to do without the breaks in play. The meaty storyline offers enough of a breather, and some degree of reward, to every stretch of stormtrooper bashing. The fact that every level is pretty much the same thing means you could well find that if the core mechanics don’t work for you, you’re left with a particularly dull title. It didn’t for us, though, as you’re constantly being fed new Force powers and toys to tinker with. This almost constant training essentially turns what would otherwise get pretty tedious into something that works out to be the perfect length and rarely if ever becomes tiresome.
The key to this is the Force powers. While the gameplay doesn’t necessarily demand that you get creative with these powers, if you don’t you’re missing the point of the game. The key powers are the lightning, Force grip and Force push – and combining them, once you’ve unlocked the appropriate skill, is where the joy really comes in. There are a wide variety of skills to acquire, and their use is directly linked to how devastating you want each power to be. Our favourite was, of course, the lightning attack, and powering it up using the rather staid upgrade system meant that we were utterly devastating with it. Each power can be turned from a weak "Oh yeah, I forgot I had that" power into a "Mwah ha ha haaaa, now you will all die" affair with relative ease.
As mentioned, apart from the Star Wars appeal, we weren’t expecting too much of note from this, but when you first see the telekinesis in action, we challenge you not to be amazed by the fluidity and quality of the mechanic. It works beautifully well, and Krome clearly wants you to use it as much as possible, because the carnage that a well-placed Force throw can reap is the most satisfying aspect of the game. It’s a useful move as well, which ensures complete usage throughout the game. Yes, the Force powers work wonderfully well in Unleashed, and as a core mechanic, they’ll keep you entertained long after the game’s finished with the multiplayer Force duels.
That multiplayer is a little Marmitey, though. We loved it because, having played through around ten hours of story mode, we were totally au fait with the Force powers and owned everyone else. It’s clearly a tacked-on extra, and a little floaty and lightweight, but it adds a huge deal of longevity, and as a Star Wars beat-’em-up it’s better than any other we’ve played. Much like many other aspects of the game, some things are a little broken. Darth Maul not having his staff, Maris Brood wielding a regular lightsaber and the characters being entirely expressionless don’t help it feel like a truly groundbreaking add-on, but the simple fact that it’s there and is wonderfully over the top makes it something all your friends will want a piece of. Whether they’ll want to keep playing it is a different matter, but you’re bound to find someone who wants to see who wins between Darth Maul and Luke Skywalker.
So what about those broken bits? We’re disinclined to list them, as they don’t really have too much of an effect on your overall take on the game. They are most definitely there, though. The more traditional sections with the boss characters aren’t what you’d call particularly fun. Sure, it’s great beating up on Darth Vader and watching his attire get gradually taken apart, but given that the Wii’s controller doesn’t really do the lightsaber bits all that well in one-on-one combat, the battles don’t really go off quite how they should. Whereas tackling the rank and file is perfectly dealt with, as you rarely need to use anything but your Force powers, the larger characters and boss battles require something a little more focused. This means a fair amount of waggling with the Remote, and that’s the least polished part of the game. Fortunately the boss battles are punctuated with a good few quick-time events which require a degree more interaction with the game than most. It is something of a shame that the lightsaber doesn’t really make the most of the Wii controller, and by association the boss battles’ lameness is, for us, the least impressive part of the game.
Then there are the bits that are genuinely broken. Unleashed is a glitchy game. There aren’t a huge amount of them, but those blips occurred with us at pivotal points. The biggest culprit is watching the larger boss characters glitch into the walls and get stuck there. Fighting a bull rancor, which was one of the trickier battles, we jumped up to gain some higher ground, which apparently caused the beast to charge headlong into a wall and stay there, allowing us to electrocute the thing to death without fear of attack. Something similar happened with two of the other larger bosses, and while it’s a nice reprieve, glitching is never a satisfactory way to finish a level. Considering the amazing physics employed with the Force powers, we were expecting a few issues with some comedy physics. Surprisingly, everything in that sense behaved itself marvellously, and went a long way to making up for the errors in the code that were there.
The general consensus is that this version is the best of the bunch, and having played the next-gen iteration, we’d concur. It’s also tremendously fun, and keeps you going throughout with the constant and generous addition of Force powers. The fact that it adds something genuinely weighty to the Star Wars canon makes it that much more rewarding. We were amazed that such a pivotal plot point in the series was given to a videogame to describe. The duel mode multiplayer is a corker as well, and while it does have its issues, you can’t complain about something which will extend the life of the game considerably. Even with the issues, glitches and broken bits, of which there aren’t that many, Star Wars Unleashed does a great job of drawing you into the world and delivering a compelling story. Super-fans, fans, and those who don’t really care too much about Star Wars will love it alike.