Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review

Force Title

Title: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Developer: Lucas Arts Entertainment (Publisher)
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 1.0 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

With the Star Wars holiday last week, I’ve made it my personal mission to get plenty of throw-back reviews going for the Star Wars games that are available on the PS Vita.  Since these are newly-compatible as direct downloads to the Vita as well as the PlayStation TV, I believe it’s important to bring information out so everyone knows whether these games are worth buying and playing.

Previously, I have reviewed three of these games: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Battlefront II, and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes.  Not any of this stood out to be an outstanding game, but two of them do provide an entertaining experience for the Star Wars fan.  Moving onto more games, we have something that might be more of a treat than these previous games.

The PSP was known to get some full console releases around the same time as the actual console release of the same game.  One example of this is when Lucas Arts came out with a new Star Wars game that takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.  Built with physics around the powers of the force and part of a special project between games and comics, here is my official review of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed!

Story

Force Story

The Force Unleashed takes place between Episode III and Episode IV of the Star Wars film saga.  While on a mission to the Wookie planet of Kashyyk, Darth Vader encounters a young boy strong in the force.  Secretly taking him under his wing, he trains the boy in the ways of the Dark Side of the Force.  Years later, the now-older boy called Starkiller, is sent on missions by Darth Vader in order to hunt down the Empire’s enemies in a secret plan to grow in strength so that he and Vader can overthrow The Emperor.

The story of The Force Unleashed is an intriguing story in that it shows the life of Starkiller and how he is shown not only the Dark Side, but also the Light Side of the force in his travels.  However, it should be noted that the PSP version doesn’t have every story scene that the console version has.  It doesn’t have as much character development, but still has plenty for you to understand what’s going on.  This is due to other changes to this version that I will mention in the next section.

Another thing to note is that, since this game takes place after Episode III, there are a lot of major spoilers from the prequel trilogy in this game. While most Star Wars fans have seen all the movies countless times already, some people may not have.  It is advisable that you watch through Episodes I, II, and III before tackling this story if you don’t wish to be spoiled.  The character descriptions have tons and tons of major spoilers from the prequel trilogy.

Gameplay

The Force Unleashed is an action-adventure game.  Throughout each level and stage, you will be traversing various planets and space stations, taking down enemies and bosses as you go from one end of the map to the other.  There are platforming elements as well, so this is kind of a mix between a 3D Platforming game and an action game.

When you go into the game, there are a few different modes you can dive into, which are all available from the start of the game.  There is Story Mode, The Force Unleashed Mode, and Multiplayer.  Story Mode is where you can go through the game’s story campaign, but The Force Unleashed Mode is something that gives a bit of a unique aspect to the game.

TFU Mode allows you to do three different types of scenarios.  You can do a Force Duel to choose a character to play as, like Starkiller or Luke Skywalker and face off against a Jedi or Sith in a boss fight.  There is also Order 66 Mode, where you can use the powers you learn in Story Mode against waves and mobs of enemies.  The most unique is Historic Events Mode.  This allows you to re-live a few major battles from the movies, such as the Sarlac Pit from Return of the Jedi or Dooku’s Quarters from Revenge of the Sith.  The Historic Missions were exclusive to the PSP release.

When you’re going through the game, you will be playing as Starkiller and always be equipped with a lightsaber.  Your goal in each stage will be to travel through the areas and knock out as many enemies as you can until you reach boss fights and then repeat the process until you reach the main boss for that level and complete the level.

What is unique about this series is that there were a lot more physics involved regarding using the force.  You can use powers like Force Choke and Force Push, but there’s more to it than just that.  There is a lengthy skill tree of force powers that you can learn and upgrade by using points you gain by defeating enemies.  You can use force lightning as well as moving objects around with the force.

The length is that you can break and move a lot of the environment by using the Force.  You can pick up and throw objects as well as enemies.  Sometimes to the point where you can create a Force Vortex around you to gather every object and enemy in the area and launch them out in all directions, damaging them as well as anything they’re flying out to hit.  Many of these powers lead to a lot of fast-paced battles that are not only flashy but thrilling at the same time.

Force Game

Managing your fights has to do with your force meter and lightsaber upgrades.  The Force Meter is like a Magic Meter.  Every time you use the force, it uses up some and then regenerates later.  Otherwise, the game would become far too easy with you just having a constant stream of force lightning throughout every stage, outside of bosses that require a lot more strategy and testing of different moves to defeat.  You also upgrade the lightsaber by finding color crystals to change its color and different power crystals to enhance different force powers that you use more than others.

All in all, the story mode should take you a good 8 hours to complete, and you can easily add another couple hours by diving into the other game modes.  If you want to increase the fun, there are also dozens of cheat codes you can put into the game to make it more casual by disabling force depletion or enabling character skins to play as your favorite Star Wars characters, like The Emperor, Aayla Secura, or Admiral Ackbar.

Controls

The control scheme for the game isn’t going to be very hard to get used to.  The game does use most of the buttons on the PS Vita, but not too many to make things incredibly confusing.  The game tells you how to play the game pretty well, so you shouldn’t have a hard time learning how to do everything.

You can move around with the Left Analog Stick or the D-Pad.  The camera moves by itself, so there’s no important reason to redirect anything to the Right Analog Stick.  The two triggers are used for guarding/deflecting with your lightsaber as well as using a dash.  The rest of the game is handled with the face buttons.  You can use X to jump and double-jump.  You can use Square to attack with your lightsaber.  Finally, the Triangle and Circle buttons are used for various other force powers as well as firing off lightning bolts.

It does take some getting used to, especially since you can’t use lightning in the tutorial level where you play as Darth Vader.  But, once you get through the first couple levels, it becomes a natural reaction.

Presentation

Force Pres

The presentation of the game has some good parts and it has some bad parts.  On the bright side, the visual presentation turned out pretty decent.  There are definitely a few more jagged edges thanks to the stretching onto the Vita’s screen and this is also apparent on the PlayStation TV.  However, it’s not a huge different to how the game already looked and won’t make a huge difference when you’re in the middle of the action.

The big thing about the presentation is the frame-rate.  The Force Unleashed has a somewhat-unsteady flow to its gameplay.  Every so often, I would see the frames jump for a second or two.  This happens in the different menus as well as gameplay.  This is by no means game breaking, but it’s by no means smooth either.

One last thing to make mention of is load times.  The PSP definitely had some issues showing off full console games like this, especially with trying to make them run well at the same time.  Because of this, the game has some lengthy load times.  We are looking at about an average of 14-15 seconds for each stage that loads.

Summary

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a game that brings back memories for some and is a new venture for others.  On the downside, the PSP version has some frame-rate issues, long load times, and is missing a few snippets of the story.  If you can look past the minor technical mishaps, you’ll find something that offers a lot of fun if your definition of the word is using the force to play with pretty much everything around you. 

7/10

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