StarWars: the force unleashed demo impressions by Steve

[By Steve M]

I’m a huge Star Wars fan! there I’ve said it, I’ve come out of the closet and admited my most guilty pleasure.  I can’t get enough of light saber duels, starship battles, Wookies, bad acting and Princess Lea in her space hooker outfit from Return of the Jedi.  There I feel good for saying it, will I feel good after a run through of Lucasarts PS3 demo for SW:TFU? Well join with me my young Padawans and lets find out.

Set between episodes 3 and 4 in the Starwars saga, The force Unleashed is the tale of Darth Vaders secret apprentice as he is tasked with hunting down and destroying any Jedi who escaped the Order 66 incident, for those not familiar with this it involved the Emperor giving an order which instructed his clone troopers, who were previously under Jedi command, to turn on their bosses and kill them, and who at one point or another hasn’t hoped that order would arrive?

Oh go on just a little squeeze

Oh go on just a little squeeze

The demo kicks off with a sharp looking cut scene of the apprentice being knighted by Lord Vader, and he then instructs us of our first mission now we’ve graduated the Sith Lord Academy.  Spies have located a rogue Jedi and we’re dispatched to arrange his demise, and from then on we’re straight into the game.

The young apprentice begins with a limited number of force powers, he can cast lightning bolts, push objects and enemies with force push, and possible more useful he can use force grab.  This is probably the most interesting feature as it makes use of the developers much heralded physics engine, any object or individual that can be tampered with appear with a blue icon which indicates who you are currently locked onto, and hitting the R2 trigger grabs and raises said object/enemy into the air, from here its just a case of using the sticks to manoeuvre your item, or by pushing the sticks away from you and releasing R2 throw the object,  when throwing at an enemy there is a basic lock on but it seems you have very little say in this, which can prove a tad frustrating as the barrel you intended to throw at an oncoming company of Storm Troopers shoots off in the wrong direction.

Frying tonight

Frying tonight

Combat itself with the lightsaber I feel is a touch limited, involving some very basic combo’s, but force powers can be included to produce some impressive looking but limited attacks.  But here is where my first critisim creeps in, before my hands on and with only preview footage to go by, I was expecting, actually make that hoping, for a Starwars themed God of War title, God of War for me is a game that defines the genre, it wasn’t the first of it’s kind but it refined hack n slash gamplay to a thing of beauty, with one combo flowing into the next regardless of how many opponents one had.  The combat in SW:TFU to be fair doesn’t do a bad job, engaging multiple enemies at the same time is easily achieved, but the lack of possible moves is a concern, yes I realise this is a demo build I’m playing, but will the full game feature an ever expanding repotois of death dealing moves? We’ll have to wait and see for that one so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now, but what we do have in the demo does get repetative very quickly.

Fly my pretty fly

Fly my pretty fly

The enemy AI in the demo is’nt exactly stellar, they will on occasion take cover but are more likely to charge straight at you guns blazing, although fans of the films might argue thats a valid Storm Trooper tactic, also seeing a trroper and a rebel facing off no more than five feet apart and mindlessly blasting each other with no effect can seem a bit farsical.  The most comon adversaries you’ll encounter are little more that saber fodder, only requiring a few slashes with your blade to take down, and actually meeting your own end is pretty hard to do even on the hardest setting.  Your health is represented by a green health bar and beneath this you have a blue one for your force powers, now with every enemy you take down releasing health orbs, and your force meter regenerating the second it’s depleted, there really is no fear about getting stuck into a fight, not that i suppose Sith Lords do have these concerns, but in a game things like this matter and here I’m not penalised for over using my special abilities, it’s perfectly possible to play through only using the force lightning, which is actually a very powerfull attack, yes it’a cheap tactic but it’s possible to race straight through taking down everyone you meet with a single electric blast and not using your lightsaber once, of course that really is’nt entering into the spirit of the game but by the developers giving you unlimited force powers it really does take away a lot of the challenge from the game.

Graphically the game holds up well, we get some nice crisp visuals and effects and I’ve yet to notice any isues with framerate or screen tearing, issues I know rightfully concern many.  The game does a good job of creating the StarWars universe, fighting your way through the Imperial shipyard featured in the demo as Tie Fighters and X-wings do battle outside all feels so familiar, and I mean that in a positive way, combining with the epic score of composer John Williams it makes fans of the series feel right at home.

In conclusion i feel this is going to be a game for the Star Wars fan, with the promise of a well sripted story line to fill in between the movies it perhaps shouldn’t be missed.  Taken as a stand alone title it falls short when compared to the God of War and Ninja Gaiden series, and i’m not sure there is enough here for players with no interest in all things Star Wars, combat is limited and uninspiring and judging by the demo I feel it lacks any real challenge, I’m hoping things are different in the full release, the demo is after all what I presume the first hands on with the apprentice.  Will I be playing through the full release?  Definitely! but I am a rabid blind Star Wars fanboy after all.

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