Monday, May 19, 2014

Level Up: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

May the fourth be with you! Haha! Even though it’s a tired joke and I’m about a week late… Anyways, I was a little late in getting “into” Star Wars, and though I’m not sure I’d consider myself among the fans yet (considering how much some people I know are into it) I gotta just say that it’s a fandom that is well deserved. Even as old as I was watching the original trilogy for the first time, I wanted MORE. Luckily, that is not hard to find now a days, with many comic books, TV Shows, books, board games, video games and tons of other media based on it (sorry if I’ve opened that fresh “expanded canon” wound for anyone). Now when it comes to people wanting to be “in” Star Wars, one of the first things I hear (along with light sabers) is how they would use the force. Well here’s a game with a title promising just that: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for (among many others) the Nintendo Wii.
This game takes place between the original trilogy and the prequels. The game starts with Darth Vader searching the Wookie home world for remaining Jedi and discovering an abandoned child he can sense is strong in the Force. He decides to raise him as his own keeping him a secret from Emperor Palpatine (cause as Episode 3 shows Anakin can “take care” of kids). We learn that Vader’s ultimate goal is to assassinate the Emperor and rule the galaxy with the child called “Starkiller” (a name that would be “trying too hard” in a universe where the main character isn’t named “Skywalker”). Or Vader claims. However when Palpatine orders Vader to kill his apprentice, Starkiller is knocked into space, where two secretly dispatched droids save him. Starkiller meets up with one of the Jedi that he had previously fought with, where he learns of the Jedi way while traveling throughout the galaxy.
What really holds the story is that there is a whole lot of ambiguity to some of the character’s motivations. As previously mentioned, Vader said he wanted Starkiller by his side to rule the universe, but later attempts to kill him. He saves Starkiller, but it’s never clear if he actually intends to share the rule at all. And what about Starkiller? He aligned himself with the Rebellion, but still kept in touch with Vader. Is he seeking revenge, or will he change sides? Even after the game is done, it’s hard to say what the characters wanted. The big disappointment is that there are two endings, and without activating a spoiler alarms, they are the “good” and “less good” endings. I would have liked a few more options.
Star Wars: the Force Unleashed can really only be put under the vague category of “action adventure game”. Starkiller is sent to various planets in order to walk around and destroy so and so. However, you’re just waiting for me to talk about the light saber and the Force, aren’t you? This game has an upgrading system and with each new ability you unlock, you might find a new power you enjoy more. The bad thing is that the Force makes combat kind of dull and repetitive for the this reason: you might as well stick to what works, and what works is grabbing one person and slamming them into the others like curling rocks over and over. Yeah, it’s cool to be able to use the Force and the destructible stages do give you some freedom of creativity (anything that reminds me of Freedom Force is cool), but it can get dull. Later on in the game, they’ll try to overwhelm you with enemies to maybe even things out, but then it becomes infuriating as you’re so used to playing a certain way, it feels unfair when you can’t do it.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed isn’t a great game, but it functions well enough and does what needed to be done. The Wii version has some control issues with forced motion controls, but at the same time doing a motion for a force push and having it knock a room full of guys on their ass is so satisfying. There are also God of War inspired quick time events with cut scenes, and they’re cool for what they were, but there are FAR too many here. The game play has some issues, but given what they wanted you to be able to do in this game, Lucasarts might have painted themselves in a corner. The story is good to me in its mysterious character motivations, but I can see how other might think it’s more like they just aren’t fully realized. However, at the end of the day, I just can’t say that there is anything terribly flawed about this game, and it does have a few cool aspects that really won me over. Its story is placed between the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequel films, and that’s kind of where its level of quality is placed too: mediocre, but nothing insulting. I give Star Wars the Force Unleashed 7 levels out of 10.