Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Force Unleashed

First, a cautionary tale about pre-orders. The previews and whatnot for Force Unleashed looked ok so being the spend-happy chap that I am, I decided to pre-order it. Then a demo was released (or unleashed? No, let's go with released), and I got about halfway through before getting very bored with it. But it had been a while, so I'd forgotten my pre-order existed. The reviews started  coming out saying that the game was average at best, "I might get that when it's cheap" I thought. Then I received an email saying my pre-order copy had been shipped. Balls.

Though it's turned out better than I expected. I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm finding the full game to be entertaining enough. Still not £40 entertaining, but definitely better than I was expecting from the demo.

A quick run down of the pros and cons, specifically for Dave, who asked for one:


  • The force powers are nicely done, and the physics engine is very good. The two combine to ensure that when it's going well you feel like a true ultimate badass.
  • The graphics are detailed and colourful, and the game can throw a lot of enemies at you, which is also useful for the ultimate badass factor.
  • The story fits in very nicely (if you didn't know, this bridges the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope), and the acting is better than in the three Starwars prequels. Admittedly not a high bar to have to hurdle, but still.
  • The sound is all you would expect. Stormtrooper radio chatter, appropriate character themes & scores, blasters and lightsabers make all the right pewing and swooshing noises.
  • The lightsaber and force power upgrades and customisation are nice, allowing you to tailor your saber from the situation you're in. Also any experience you earnt from killing enemies is kept even if you die, so levelling up will gradually improve you even if you're in a difficult section.
  • The planets and locations that haven't featured in a big-screen tale are a bit lacking, and don't feel as good as rampaging through locations you recognise. One particular mushroom planet is rubbish, has annoying and ugly enemies, and you go there more than once.
  • The controls and camera are utterly hateful. Lock on is based on the direction your character is facing, rather than the camera, and small tweaks to your facing to change the focus of your lock on are pretty much impossible. The targetting is as likely to lock on to an inoffensive metal bin as it is to select the giant metal laser-spitting foe stodd next to it, which causes no end of swearing. Jumping feels floaty and imprecise, which makes the very occasional platforming section (thankfully mostly just used to reach bonus pickups) frustrating.
  • In order to keep the combat varied, they have been forced to create a range of enemies who are able to effectively fight at close quarters with a lightsaber-wileding sith. Usually this means that enemies take several hits to kill, and are usually able to block your attacks. Some enemies are completely immune to force powers, which plays against the title's strengths.
  • You can fairly easily get into situations where an enemy attack will stun you or knock you to the ground, and then other enemies will continue firing rockets at you, which do the same as son as you're on your feet. You can quickly go from full to no health.
  • Load times to access the options menu. No, I'm not kidding. The menus are ugly too, with some weird scan-line effects that can make some heading text more difficult to read, despite being on a HD screen.
The other stuff
  • There are mid-level save points, and they're fairly regular. Though every now and then you'll hit a section where you're forced to fight a few tough battles in a row without a save.
  • It has quick time events. They don't actually bother me that much in this game, since you get a lot of time to react, and except for a couple of situations, they're entirely avoidable (ie, the mid-level bosses and large enemies can be killed using a QTE, but equally you can just fry them to death with your force lightning). 

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