In case you hadn’t noticed there are an awful lot of games coming out at the moment. New games, re-releases, indie games, freeware – the bit-tech offices are getting swept away by a tidal wave of gunfights, statistics and CDs. That’s why it’s taken us some time to get around to The Force Unleashed.
The good news though is that the game was worth the wait in our humble opinions and though Lucasarts has been veritably raping the Star Wars franchise to death over the last few years, it’s good to see a return to form for the laser-sword-swingers and their croaky voiced enemies. This is anything but a quick cash-in.
Harsh? Maybe, but it's been a long time since the last really good Lucasarts-made Star Wars game. Jedi Knight is a distant memory and we were starting to take it as a sign that only Traveller's Tales and BioWare can make good games out of the mega-franchise.
Thankfully, Force Unleashed manages to make a good impression from the off. Most games these days like to kick things off with a tutorial sequence longer and more tedious than listening to Yoda a best man's speech make. The Force Unleashed doesn't do that though, instead it puts you in a pair of shiny black plastic boots and tells you to just go ahead and massacre everything you can see whether they are Stormtroopers, Wookies, children, Kittens or strangely empowered marshmallows.
That’s right, the game starts off by casting you as Darth Vader and letting you slaughter a planet full of Wookies. Force Lightning, Force Grip, Force Pull – hell, all the forces are yours to control and the feeling of invincibility is intoxicating. It’s a hell of a way to get a game started.
If you’re not up on the backstory of Force Unleashed though then you’ll probably be asking yourself why the game puts you in Vader’s Perspex booties and not Luke Skywalker’s moccasins or Kyle Katarn’s loafers. It’s a valid question and there’s a very simple answer; The Force Unleashed may be a good game but it isn’t a game about being good. It’s a game about being bad. You’re a Sith, not a Jedi.
Cast as Darth Vader’s young and super-top-secret apprentice in everything after the first level, it’s up to you to prove your worth to Master Vader by slaughtering Jedi. Prevail and you and Vader may be able to take down the Emperor and bring the Empire under your control, ushering in an age of bruised necks, well-polished shoes and equality for mouthy marshmallows everywhere.
Sure, the plot may be a bit too out of left-field for the die-hard Kenobi-wannabes, but if it means we get to shoot lightning out of our fingers rather than just use Force Heal constantly then we’re all for it. Nobody ever got anywhere in Jedi Knight by following the Light Side path after all.
And trust me, you’ll be doing a lot of finger-zapping over the course of the adventure and from the moment you land on the first planet with your sexy obvious-love-interest in tow you’ll have to be making full use of your Force abilities. You won’t be able to rely on calling in the unfaithfully accurate Stormtroopers in for back-up either as Vader has kept you so secret that not even the clone troopers know who you are. In fact, they think you’re a Jedi and will do everything they can to kill you.
Granted, even to the non-die-hard fans this can sound a little bit silly at points and is just an obvious way to make your character fight both the bad guys and the good guys so that you aren’t left feeling all that despicable when you wipe out an entire clan of Jawas. One of the great things about The Force Unleashed though is that the story is actually very well told. The writing is tight and witty, the animation clear and realistic and the voice acting top-notch. True, Vader doesn’t sound quite like his old self, but Samuel Witwer's main character is an excellently portrayed linchpin for the action to centre around.