Impressions of Star Wars the Force Unleashed

by: Nathan -
The demo for Lucas Arts' Star Wars the Force Unleashed recently found it's way onto Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. The demo opens towards the beginning of the game where the Apprentice faces his "first true test" inside a tie fighter factory. While many aspects of the story are unclear Darth Vader tells the Apprentice everything he needs to know; who the target is and to leave no witnesses. Well that was good enough for me and apparently good enough for the Apprentice (though he did make a funny face). The first thing I noticed was that the level lay out resembled the first Lego Star Wars, in that the corridors were wider to allow freedom of movement and there was no shortage of big open spaces that encourage exploration and freedom of movement. Unlike Lego Star Wars the camera was not fixed in an isometric view but a more standard third person view. This does two things 1. It allows you to explore the space more and really get a feel for the immensity of the factory 2. It put the focus on the action.

The action was the biggest focus of the game play and in the demo the player can already use some abilities that would other wise be unlocked later in the game. Old staples of the dark force powers such as force lighting, force push, and force grip were present and fun to play with. Just like in Lego Star Wars many items can be manipulated by the force but unlike it's blocky counter part TFU allows you to throw objects in any direction. Indeed the most fun I had was in a section of the level where the apprentice must fight through enimes while crossing a catwalk. When force gripping a solider and flinging him off the side of the platform the camera focuses on the movement of the soon doomed person and you can wave bye bye (the apprentice doesn't acctually wave) as they fall to their death in slow mo.

I couldn't get used to the controls. Since the Apprentice has many abilities and a large part of game play is focused on combining those abilities together for devistating attacks all the buttons on the controller were put to use. While using all the buttons on the controller is quite often implemented in games in this case it really was a disadvantage because most of the buttons were being used all the time. I was constantly getting the function of the shoulder buttons confused with their trigger counter parts and more often than not I was holding down the block button while I tried to remember which button did what. The biggest problem with the controls was the auto lock feature. While pressed, not switched on or off but pressed, the Apprentice focused on the nearest available target which in most cases was the piles of crates or exploding barrels that littered the level and not the soldiers shooting at him. This was very frustrating until I realized that it didn't matter what object I was locked onto, the solider or something else, because either way I could use the force grip in one way or another to kill the solider. When I realized just how stupidly over powered and favored by the design the force grip was I was very dissapointed. When I play a Star Wars game as a jedi (sith, jedi, whatever) I want to use the LIGHTSABRE not the force powers. but that's just my personal preference.

As far as demos go Star Wars the Force Unleashed on Xbox Live was very solid for a demo. The graphics looked clean, the sound was good, the controls were functional, even the menu system looked pretty much complete. This isn't a surprise seeing how the final product is coming out next month but then again I don't expect much from demos in the first place. Any Star Wars fans out there that own a PS3 or Xbox 360 should find room in hard drives so they can take this game for a spin. 

Star Wars the Force Unleashed is scheduled for release in North America September 16th.
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