Partnering with Tearfund

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360)

Rated: 12

Story: The Force Unleashed is set between the prequels and the proper Star Wars movies and you play Darth Vader's secret apprentice, hunting down the few remaining Jedi in the galaxy to 'retire' them.

The plot takes in the origins of the Rebel Alliance and features the occasional familiar character. Ultimately, the George-Lucas-approved revelations aren't that startling but it certainly all beats Attack of the Clones.

Gameplay: Run through linear levels, fighting anything that gets in your way, in an effort to reach the boss and whack him/her/it with a big, glowing stick.

Besides carrying a light-sabre, you also gain various Force abilities as the game goes on. You can pick up objects and enemies with the power of your mind and fling them around, shoot lightning from your fingertips and blast enemies away from you, among other things.

There are hidden bonuses to discover and there's some leaping around platforms but it's hardly Tomb Raider.

Save System: Loading a saved game returns you to the last checkpoint reached. This isn't usually a problem since the checkpoints are mostly close together.

Comments: No matter how many sub-standard films, games and plastic figurines the Lucas empire churns out, there is a part of many males my age that will forever go misty-eyed at the mention of Death Stars and Princess Leia...

Thus it was with a certain amount of nostalgic hope (but not much expectation), that I put The Force Unleashed into the disc tray and booted it up. It speaks volumes about the quality of recent Star Wars output that I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a game of almost complete mediocrity.

Charging around with a light-sabre while throwing enemies about with psychic powers is always entertaining but the experience is constantly bogged down by linear levels, uninspiring design, dumb AI, repetitive combat and slightly awkward controls. Taking on an AT-ST or rancor beast is exhilarating the first time; by the fifth time it's somewhat tiresome. After a while, the game becomes something of a trudge as you return to locations that have already been visited in order to beat up yet more goons.

Thankfully there are only ten levels, so seeing the story play out doesn't take long. Plenty of areas can even be sprinted through without fighting, helping to get things over with.

That said, The Force Unleashed isn't awful. There are plenty of nice touches, including interactive scenery, great facial animation and an exhaustive database, but, in general, the game is rather sloppy. Fortunately, the warm glow of Star Wars saves it. If you're still struggling to focus thanks to my previous reference to giant space weapons and gold-bikini'd royalty, you'll probably be prepared to overlook some of the short-comings and simply enjoy indulging your inner Jedi.

Just bear in mind that there are plenty of better games to play first...

Conclusion: Don't expect genius but it's worth a rental if flinging Imperial storm troopers around with the Force sounds like fun.

Graphics: Pretty enough, although the locations are seldom striking and a couple of the levels are simply dull. The game judders a bit sometimes. (Try going misty-eyed again and you won't notice so much. Think of Ewoks or something.)

Length: Short, verging on the Very Short.

Rating: 3/5 if you're a fan of Star Wars, else 2/5.

No comments: