Force Unleashed crushed under the weight of expectation


I really thought this was going to be the one. Finally a Star Wars game that matches the made up game that has been in my head since 1977. I will finally feel like a real Jedi, stomping my way through the Star Wars universe. All those moments of straining to use the force in the real world (like to answer the phone and pick up your beer and stuff) will pay off, and I will, at least for a moment, be there.

Every Star Wars game so far has been a let down. None of them feel right. I guess Battlefield came closest but even that felt lightweight. There was no decent story, well no story at all actually, the characters seemed to slide along the floor (I hate that – see Hitman for a really bad example of slidey feet syndrome) and the online mode was, well, dodgy. Bah!

But Force Unleashed was supposed to be different. It’s canon for a start. You know, it follows, is part of, and adds to the story in the movies. That means we will get to fill in more of the missing pieces of Vaders life. Cool. The gameplay is cutting edge, fusing three separate physics and game engines to make wood that splinters, metal that bends and stormtroopers that try to get out of the way. Super realism. Awesome! The main character is super cool. It’s always better to be a baddie, and the apprentice is the super bad ass that I wanted to be. Great.

But now I have played it (admittedly only the demo). I am disappointed.

Look, I am not trying to flame this game just to be all controversial and shit, you know I wanted it to be great, but the small bit I have played has left me cold. It misses the target, not by much, but it does.

Do you remember the early tech videos where they showed us the stormtroopers clinging on to objects as they are flung about by the force? Well that does happen sometimes, but so what? It adds nothing to the game play at all. It’s like the melting ice cubes in MGS4, what is it for? What I was expecting was these guys to grab onto objects in order to save their skin and then rejoin the fight and nail me for being careless. But it doesn’t happen. I even tried using the force to lower them gently onto the edges of platforms to help them to grab on, but they won’t. Gutted.

All the npcs have health meters over their heads. Why? What’s the point of that? I’ll stop hitting them when they fall over (which they do quite nicely), I don’t need a green line to tell me when that happens, do I? How very 1999.

Controlling the force is fiddly at best and pointless at worst. When you want to grab onto a stormtrooper you first have to run around in little circles until the auto targeting system finally decides that the tin can is less of a threat than the man with the laser gun, and only then you can fling him away. It’s far easier and more effective just to run up to them and slice ’em up good. Except you can’t do that either because the lightsaber is not a lightsaber. What I mean is, as with all blades in video games (this means you Soul Calibur) it doesn’t do what it should do, which is to say you can’t chop people in half. I was thrilled when I sliced an astromech droid and it fell into two glowing pieces, but I soon realized that it was only the droids that did this (and they do it the same way every time). I can put a devastating sabre move on a puny stormtrooper and all his limbs stay on. I know, I know, it’s for kids, and collision detection and character models aren’t that complex and don’t I realize all the clever maths that the PS3 is having to do to get the stuff on the screen, blah blah blah. I don’t care! I want slicing!

And when they do fall over life force is sucked out of them and flies over to you to keep your health nicely topped up. WTF? Green life force flying through the air? Even Yoda can’t do that. What a load of crap. Maybe it’s to compensate for the fact that you can only block whilst standing still, so you never block, so you get nailed by lasers all the time, so you have to kill the ‘troopers as quickly as you can just to stay healthy. There’s a good life lesson. Ha!

And then we go up against an AT-ST, and instead of using your awesome force powers to pick it up, or chop a leg off or something cool, we just whack it a couple of times and then press X or whatever when the screen prompts us to. >sigh<

Ok, this game is not rubbish, the physics stuff is clever, and I know I would find it enjoyable, even fun to play, but, as I alluded to in the title of this rant, I WANT MORE, or BETTER! I AM PART OF GENERATION X-WING AND I DEMAND PERFECTION! You know what this game feels like to play? Psy-Ops, or Second Sight, only not as good. It is such a shame that all the clever stuff they have done with the environment is just like the parsley on fish. Looks nice, but after a couple of seconds you ignore it and get on with eating (or twatting stormtroopers with a shiny stick – as I said earlier, it’s not a real lightsabre).

You know what I have just realized? The Star Wars license is a bad thing. It raises expectations too much. Star Wars fanboys are too obsessive (I should know). If this was just a normal game I wouldn’t have been so critical and I would have judged it on what it can do, and not what I thought it should be able to do.

Will I buy it? Well luckily I don’t have to make that decision as my son wants it for his birthday (he loves it but he is 11 so what does he know?). So I will get round to playing it in November, but will I buy it on release day? Not on the strength of this demo that’s for sure. Maybe they shouldn’t have released a demo at all, but that’s another article.