Gamescom 2010: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Hands-On Preview - The Force Personified
Written Monday, August 30, 2010 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
If there is one franchise that has a loyal following on tap then it is the Star Wars series. With films, books, games, TV shows, toys and a seemingly endless amount of paraphernalia it is safe to say that every nook and cranny of the universe has been explored within an inch of its life. So the idea of creating a fresh new angle to the story was always going to be a tough one to pull off. The first Force Unleashed managed to pull players in by offering them a range of force powers and lightsaber combat: and who hasn’t dreamt of that since they first saw that iconic intro? Now the sequel is back for more, and hopefully it can refine that winning formula and create a game that isn’t just good, but is actually pretty great.
The first major issue is one of particular note, as long as you can bear some spoilers from the first title. When you’ve killed off your lead character just how do you go about bringing him back into the story? Lucasarts did toy with the idea of introducing a whole new character and storyline, but felt that the protagonist from the first game, Starkiller, pushed all of the right buttons and had already woven himself a niche in Star Wars lore.
The story sees our hero awaken on a battered Kamino cloning station, the source you may recall of all of those pesky Clone Troopers back in the day. Things seem to have taken a turn for the worse on the planet and that may have something to do with your unlikely benefactor. Enter, stage left, Darth Vader. It seems that he did not take too kindly to Starkiller turning against him and so took things back to the drawing board, enlisting the local clone experts to recreate his old discipline. After a number of failed experiments they have seemingly succeeded at last.
Or have they?
The crux of the story this time is the emotional turmoil facing Starkiller as he seeks to discover his past and his true origins. With Vader proving to be a less than reliable source of information, and his own Jedi master adamant that force powers could never be cloned, it is down to our hero to uncover the truth. With the story taking in all aspects of the previous title as well as some high profile cameos from a number of fan favourites like Yoda and Boba Fett, you can expect this game to deliver the kind of audacious set pieces that really make Star Wars what it is.
Obviously a new story is only one part of what the team has tried to do here, as the first title did have a number of issues that were widely acknowledged. First of all the combat has been tinkered with in a bid to make it far more varied and interesting, which is a direct response to the linear and often repetitive nature of the original. The variety of enemies on offer has actually been reduced but the key has been to make each foe unique from a combat perspective. Sure, there will still be generic Stormtroopers, but there will also be enemies with a higher resistance to lightsaber attacks or some with certain weaknesses to your force powers. It means that each encounter becomes more of a tactical affair as you try to balance quick combos with force attacks.
You can also utilise the new Mind Trick power in a variety of amusing ways, it can lead to your foes turning against each other of throwing themselves to their death for example. It seems simple, but can give you a real edge in a mass brawl as you turn your foes against their allies while you take a breather. The ability to string together force and melee attacks is also a subtle alteration, not to mention a whole bunch of grab attacks, air juggle abilities and satisfying instant kill style finishers. Once again you can power up all of your moves and force powers as your progress, until they become so over the top that you will probably giggle with glee as your enemies get tossed around like rag dolls. Of course you can always skip all of that levelling and just use Force Fury once you have crushed enough foes to power it up. This allows you instant access to your maxed force powers for a brief time and means you can really wreak some havoc.
A quick playthrough of the prologue level showed all that was good – and maybe a little of the bad – about the game. The combat and force powers are supremely intuitive to use, and the ability to fling foes around and chain your skills into ludicrous combos is as fun as ever. Coming up against troopers with melee weapons capable of blocking your attacks poses your first problem, well, that is until you heat them up with a little lightning and fling them into a force field. You can also slice and dice your foes in a more realistic manner this time around, with Starkiller able to lop off limbs and heads with sublime ease.
Your first real challenge comes as your face a robot with you ability to freeze you in your tracks – quite literally – however, rip off its shield and drop it on its head though and the tide will turn. The combat seems fairly seamless, though there is still some slowdown when multiple enemies flood the screen and the game seems to struggle with the intense action. Towards the end of the scene, you get to experience the first in a series of events that see you run for you life from danger, with batteries of guns pummelling the corridor and forcing you to flee headlong through your foes. These moments are meant to instil the feeling of pursuit that is taking place in the story, with Starkiller aiming to stay one step ahead of his former employers.
For the big finish, you get to fling some incoming Tie Fighters into a communications tower, crush a couple of AT-ST’s and then hijack Vader’s swanky new fighter. It seems Lucasarts do not want the pace to let up even when things are just kicking off.
Things are looking like a nice set up from the first title, with more varied combat, a deeper story and a much more interesting mix of gameplay. Time will tell whether the variety can sustain throughout the game this time around, not to mention the fact that some of the graphical issues on show really need to be sorted out before release – as there is no point having a wealth of force powers to use, if it sends the game into a chugging crawl.
Most of the first games issues have been addressed and this game is looking like a great continuation to the saga.
Expect the force to be with you come October 26th in North America and October 29th in Europe.