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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review

Posted By Curto on September 20, 2008

Unleash the power of the Force
Let's just get this out of the way (since it's the elephant in the room and all)...Video games get delayed all the time, and most of us never even know it. But Star Wars fans anxiously await news on the next big thing, and for the past few years, we were told that The Force Unleashed would be "IT". Announced as the next chapter of the Star Wars saga, this game would reveal the story that bridges the gap between Episodes III and IV.

Throughout 2006, StarWars.com treated us to the Secrets of Star Wars 07 conceptual illustrations of "the biggest multi-media event of 2007!" Curious fans couldn't wait to learn more about this game, and what would be the future of the franchise. Of course, the event didn't actually happen, as the game that it all centered around was repeatedly delayed and other items in the multimedia merchandising extravaganza saw a staggered release, thereby killing the big event we were all looking forward to, and earning the game a nickname of "The Force Unreleased".

Still, the delays have helped to build the hype even more. Now that the release date is finally here (tomorrow, actually), will fans finally be satisfied to see this untold saga unfold for them? Is this actually "Star Wars" enough for fans to enjoy? Read on and find out if you can really learn to "kick someone's ass with the Force."

Here's a look at the Xbox 360 version of the game, which includes the disc and instruction booklet:

"Kicking someone's ass with the Force"
This is what LucasArts promised players would be able to do in this game, and boy, did they deliver! Utilizing the full capabilities of the Havok physics engine, LucasArts has ramped it up with a pair of new behavioral technologies. Digital Molecular Matter (DMM) material programming allows the physical objects in the game to act just like they would in the real world: glass shatters, wood splinters, metal rends...it's truly a lifelike experience roaming through the game. With the euphoria behavior-simulator engine brings to life all of the characters in the game, creating a different reaction not only each time you encounter them, but also each time you play the game. What's more, the game is different each time you play...not only due to the moves you make, but also the reactions of the characters you encounter.

While I played the Xbox 360 version, The Force Unleashed is also available on the PS3, the PS2 (this version has unique content not in other versions), the Nintedo Wii (this version includes a dual fighting mode!), the PSP (which includes historical missions not found anywhere else), and the Nintendo DS (includes a somewhat different maps/characters than other versions.

There are a large number of fighting styles that the Secret Apprentice uses to fight with, and the longer you play, the more you learn by unlocking Force upgrades, lightsaber crystals, and even differnet costumes (I mean, do YOU wear the same clothes every day?) Other unlockable content include training missions, databank entries, and cinematics that you can view afterwards just to follow the evolving story.

The teaser demo level
Last month, LucasArts debuted a special demo level, which is a modified version of the second level in the game. You are given an assignment by Darth Vader to hunt down General Rahm Kota--one of the last remaining Jedi Knights, who has taken over an Imperial TIE Fighter factory. The demo was a great example of what you can do in the game, from running through hallways smashing everything in sight, including droids, Stormtroopers, TIE Fighters, Kota's militia, and even an AT-ST. Once you get through the hangar bay (which has plenty of things to destroy!), you have to make it outside where you get bombed by TIE Fighters doing fly-by shootings. My favorite part was using the Force to bend a metal support column so that it sticks out into the flight path of the TIE....then watch as it explodes on contact. It's a little short, but it did what it was designed to do....whet my appetite for the actual game.

Playing "The Force Unleashed"
The gameplay is pretty smooth. the story does lead you by the nose through the levels, as you progress throughout each world not only hunting down the Jedi, but also wiping out every "witness" as well. Plus, there are a number of hidden holocrons throughout, which will either give you temporary power boosts (Sith holocrons) or help unlock extra bonuses (Jedi holocrons). The camera stays behind you, and you can control it pretty easily so, if you are like me, you can look around each world and admire the scenery, scoping out your next victim. There's a handy map that helps guide you, since it's pretty easy to get lost while exploring (especially on Felucia or Kashyyyk).

Combat will vary on each level, as you get more familiar with your powers, and there are even bonuses for varying your moves, so it's not a button-masher game. When you face off against larger opponents, there's a fun "Dirk the Daring" sequence of button moves that will allow you to sith back and watch a beautifully-choreographed ending sequence for a cool payoff.

There's even a surprising bit of puzzle-solving element to the game! While it's not important to the overall story, there are several times when you'll need to figure out how to reach some hard-to-get holocrons, so you'll need to figure out how to use the Force to reach them. This was a nice discovery, because I wasn't expecting that.

There's also a much-too-short sequence where you need to travel into an environment that most people don't live to share the experience (unless you're Boba Fett), which is just about the most beautifully disgusting thing I've ever seen since Resident Evil, and it's just one of several "I can't believe they did this" moments in the story.

Darth Vader
You start out by playing Darth Vader on Kashyyyk, battling wookiees & stormtroopers as you hunt down a rouge Jedi. Let me repeat: Darth Vader vs. wookiees. And this is just the first level! As you explore the forest world, there are plenty of things to test your powers out on, trees, boulders, stormtroopers, wookiees(!), and finally a Jedi who is pretty powerful in his own right. This is where you see Vader acquire his secret apprentice, as a young boy who is very powerful in the Force. There's also a nice nod to the Original trilogy in this level that you shouldn't miss, incorporating this game in with the overall saga and let you know that yes, this IS something important you're playing here.

Starkiller, the Secret Apprentice
We first got to play the Secret Apprentice in Soulcalibur IV, where he faced off against an onslaught of opponents in another dimension on a quest for power. This was just the warm-up...as Darth Vader's slave (complete with a restraining bolt!), you are forced to serve the dark side, but being bad is always fun, isn't it?

The motion capture for Starkiller (and other main characters as well...Juno is pretty hot for a CGI character!) is very lifelike, almost disturbingly so. You can almost see the torment in his soul as the camera focuses on him while receiving his assignments from Vader.

While the first mission is initially similar to the demo level, it's much longer and you've don't yet have your full range of Force powers. Still, you can still slash astromechs in half, lift troopers into the air, and make TIE Fighters crash! As the game progresses, you earn more powers, can customize your look, and modify your lightsaber (I'm still looking to get my hands on this sinister-looking BLACK blade crystal!) and explore new worlds as you hunt down the last surviving members of the Jedi Order: Rahm Kota, Kazdan Paratus, and Shaak Ti.

But with any good Star Wars tale, there's a story of redemption here as well, and without giving too much away, Starkiller's path isn't as easy one, and the final outcome is based on how you have played the game. With reportedly 5 different endings, you'll need to try different combat techniques along the way.

As Starkiller, you initially start off fighting standard Stormtroopers and Kota's militia, but of course there are much-harded enemies the further you get through the game (I hate the Purge Troopers!), plus some familiar aliens (Rodians) and all-new ones (Felucians) that are meant to get in your way.

There are various environments where the action takes place in, and several planets are used at different times throughout the story. This allows players to not only explore more of the terrain, but also see how the planet has changed over time.

  • Kashyyyk - exquisite. You can almost feel the wind blowing in the air as you walk over plains and through the forests, and there's a nice selection of wookiee structures and bridges that are lots of fun to smash. Just don't get too close to the edges!
  • Felucia - beautifully done, although a bit confusing to explore...especially when the entire planet is trying to kill you! This is the level where the creators obviously had the most fun, with giant mushrooms and fungus plants surrounding you, uneven terrain to get lost in, and the natives are definitely restless here! oh yeah, and watch out for rancors!
  • Raxus Prime - a planet that has a long history in video games, seen originally in 2002's Star Wars: The Clone Wars video game (there's been a lot of debris added since that game!). This entire world is just a massive junkyard, with debris scattered all over the ground, but also floating in the air around you! I had fun roaming through the junkyard trying to identify all the pieces of the ships that are smashed to bits in the background! Plus, never underestimate the sheer unbridled joy of levitating a Jawa in mid-air!

    So is it worth the wait?
    Absolutely! This may be a new chapter in the Star Wars saga, but it totally feels right at home with the movies. As mentioned above, the delays have helped built the excitement for the game's release, and The Force Unleashed really delivers on what LucasArts has been promising...you really CAN "kick someone's ass with the Force!"

    There's some humor in here as well, through the character of PROXY, a droid who acts as a walking talking databank, providing you with background info in the game, as well as your guide through the training missions. Since PROXY has been programmed to train you by trying to kill you, there's an interesting relationship here.

    The music is also interesting...there are definitely elements of the classic tunes from the past, but tweaked a bit with a new spin on them. Plus, is it just me, or is there also a bit of Shadows of the Empire songs as well? Anyway, you haven't lived until you've heard the Ugnaught party music!

    The multimedia "event" tie-ins
    Comparisons to 1996's Shadows of the Empire are easy to make, but The Force Unleashed is totally different, since there's one character to focus on. While not as exciting as it might have been, there are other tie-ins to the game that are out there for those who want to really immerse themselves into the storyline. Here's a list of some of the items available for The Force Unleashed:

  • Dark Horse Graphic Novel It's got a cool story that skips over the battles (which is part of the game when you play it) and really does have some significance to the movies. This isn't a throwaway story that doesn't add to the saga....it's pretty important.

  • The Force Unleashed novelization, with one of 5 possible endings in the video game.
  • The Art and Making of The Force Unleashed book, with all the behind-the-scenes artwork and designs, with loads of background information on the making of the game.
  • The Force Unleashed Campaign Guide from Wizards of the Coast, for the roleplaying game.
  • The Force Unleashed. Prima's Official Game Guide to The Force Unleashed with hints, tips, and cheats for all platforms of the game.

  • The Force Unleashed Expansion Set - Wizard's of the Coast's Star Wars Miniatures features a 60-figure set, 14 of which was based on characters from the game. You can still find these at some stores, but thee have been a few sets released in the meantime.

  • Hasbro Action Figures - This is where most fans really got excited about The Force Unleashed. Back at Toy Fair 2007, Hasbro showed of the 7 action figures which left us eager to learn more, including some new troopers and a battle-damaged Darth Vader that are still available in stores. Also, be sure to look for some new store exclusives that will be out when the game is launched tomorrow.

    The Hasbro toy line includes:
  • Imperial EVO Trooper
  • Imperial Jumptrooper
  • Maris Brood
  • Darth Vader (Battle-Damage)
  • Rahm Kota
  • Shadow Guard
  • Juno Eclipse
  • Vader's Secret Apprentice Evolutions set
  • Attack on Kashyyyk Battle Pack (Target exclusive)
  • Battle Rancor with Felucian Rider & Saddle (Target exclusive)
  • Stormtrooper Commander (GameStop exclusive)
  • Darth Vader & Incinerator Stormtroopers (Wal-Mart exclusive)
  • Emperor Palpatine & Shadow Stormtroopers (Wal-Mart exclusive)
  • Role-Play Lightsaber
  • LEGO Twilight vehicle
  • Rogue Shadow Titanium Series vehicle

    UPDATE! Cheat codes
    Earlier this year, Hasbro released 4 different cheat codes that could be used in the game. They are as follows:

  • Mandalore will allow you to unlock General Kota "costume" and play as him in the game.
  • Wookiee will allow you to unlock master Khento's costume.
  • Holocron will allow you to unlock Starkiller's Hooded Costume (AKA the "Redeemed" Jedi outfit).
  • Lightsaber will allow you to unlock an extra powerful lightsaber that considerably increases the damage output of your lightsaber. WARNING: this may affect your ability to save the game, so use it at your own risk!

    Know any more cheat codes? Let me know and I'll add them to the list!

    Thanks to several of our readers (Rob & Rod), we've learned of some more cheat codes. Now some of these codes may hinder your ability to earn bonuses and/or save your game, so use them at your own risk! Note that most of these are for different platforms, and may not work on all systems.

    Confirmed for the Xbox 360 version:
  • Katarn will allow you to gain Maximum Force power level
  • MaraJade will allow you to gain amplified damage
  • Dantooine will allow you to unlock the Jedi Ceremonial robe costume
  • Korriban will allow you to unlock the Sith Stalker costume (wait until you see this one!)

    Reported for the PSP version:
  • Cortosis will allow you to play in "God mode"
  • Vergence will allow you to have infinite Force powers
  • Speeder will allow you to gain 1,000,000 Force points!
  • Tyranus will allow you to gain all Force powers
  • CountDooku will allow you to gain Maximum Combo level
  • GrandMoff will allow you to unlock ALL costumes!
  • ItsaTwap will allow you to unlock Admiral Ackbar
  • ChosenOne will allow you to unlock Anakin Skywalker
  • Acolyte will allow you to unlock Asajj Ventress
  • Notimo will allow you to unlock Chop'aa Notimo
  • TK421 will allow you to unlock a Classic Stormtrooper
  • Serenno will allow you to unlock Count Dooku
  • Pauan will allow you to unlock Darth Desolus
  • Zabrak will allow you to unlock Darth Maul
  • SithLord will allow you to unlock Darth Vader
  • DrexlRoosh will allow you to unlock Drexl Roosh
  • Palpatine will allow you to unlock Palpatine
  • Shocktroop will allow you to unlock a Heavy Trooper
  • Eclipse will allow you to unlock Juno Eclipse
  • Kleef will allow you to unlock Kleef
  • Scoundrel will allow you to unlock Lando Calrissian
  • T16Womprat will allow you to unlock Luke Skywalker
  • YellowJckt will allow you to unlock Luke Skywalker (Yavin)
  • JediMaster will allow you to unlock Mace Windu
  • MarisBrood will allow you to unlock Maris Brood
  • Stormtroop will allow you to unlock a Navy Stormtrooper
  • BenKenobi will allow you to unlock Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Hologram will allow you to unlock PROXY
  • Maverick will allow you to unlock Qui-Gon Jinn
  • Togruta will allow you to unlock Shaak Ti
  • IntheDark will allow you to unlock a Shadow Trooper
  • Secura will allow you to unlock Aayla Secura
  • Legion will allow you to unlock a 501st Legion Clone Trooper
  • HiddenFear will allow you to unlock Darth Phobos

    UPDATE #2! Another Rob writes in with some more info:
    "Dantooine, Korriban, MaraJade, & Katarn" will work on Xbox 360 (with warnings on the last two). Rob also tried several other Star Wars-y codes that did not work on the Xbox 360, (so there's no need to try them): "THX1138, R2D2, C3PO, Carbonite, CarbonFreeze, BEspin, Reven, Malik, Kamino, Mustafar, Owen, OwenLars, Hoth, Grievous, Yoda, MasterYoda, & Nerfherder".

    UPDATE #3!
    Darren writes in with another cheat code:
  • Sithspawn will allow you to unlock an extra difficult mode

    Ken also has a few to test one on the Xbox 360:
  • CountDooku will allow you to gain Maximum Lightsaber Throw level
  • MoldyCrow will allow you to gain all combos
  • Freedon will allow you to unlock a new combo
  • Sazen will allow you to unlock a new combo
  • Ossus will allow you to unlock all database entries
  • Viceroy will allow you to unlock the Bail Organa costume
  • Ferral will allow you to unlock the Scout Trooper costume

    I've updates the list above with the new info.

    Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is out in stores on September 16th.

    For more Star Wars; The Force Unleashed trailers, screenshots, and more, check out the official site at LucasArts.

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