Publisher: Lucas Arts
Developer: Lucas Arts
by: Katrina Pawlowski
Sometime between Episodes III and IV of the Star Wars movie saga, Darth Vader broke the rules and kidnapped a brand new baby apprentice. During the time between films Vader raised the boy in private, training him in the ways of the dark side in the hopes of overturning the Emperor. The game starts out with you playing as Darth Vader on a mission to take down a rogue Jedi hiding out on the wookie planet Kashyyyk using beautifully developed force powers. After you find the Jedi's son prodigy which Vader decides to raise as his own, you change gears to playing as this new Apprentice on various missions on a variety of planets to ultimately take out the Emperor with some pretty wicked force powers that you develop over the course of the game, nicely complimented by a few different physics engines that give the game a lot of beautiful aspects.
The different physics engines controlled explosions, character ragdoll effect, and the individual Force Powers at your disposal (Force Grab, Force Push, Force lightning, and Lightsaber throw). Gravity was especially fun to play with. Force pushing enemies across a bridge caused the bridge to bounce violently, tossing more enemies over the edge. Force grabbing enemies and throwing them at one another, as well as lifting things from boxes to Tie Fighters created hours of interesting destruction. The possibilities for impressive kills was nearly endless, and visually pleasing to watch unfold on the screen. Unfortunately mixed in with all the beauty was a fair amount of frustration.
In a lot of arena battles; mini-bosses like Rancors, and AT-ST walkers up to the major boss battles, the lock-on for Force Grab was very finicky. Items were often thrown at our Dark Apprentice, and he was supposed to catch the items and throw them back before the chipped off large portions of his life bar, disorienting him long enough to get hit again by the time he stood up. Catching thrown items rarely worked just right, and he would instead grab un-threatening objects in the environment just in time to be hit by the deadly object. A lot of the 7 hours spent playing the game was replaying boss battles until the lock-on worked at least enough of the time to survive the fight.
As an additional challenge in the non-arena battles, you will often encounter enemies who are immune to the majority of your force powers fairly often. This turned the Apprentice into more of a close-combat specialist, limiting his impressive powers quite a bit. As a sort of Rock-Paper-Scissors effect, this limitation could have worked better, forcing the Apprentice to mix up his tactics in each battle. Instead, all of one battle required Force Lightening, while another was Lightsaber only. In a few areas these enemies were mixed up nicely, but not nearly often enough.
That being said you're sure to have a lot of fun throwing a Tie Fighter at someone, picking up and tossing around some Wookies or Storm Troopers, crumpling a defeated AT-ST walker, electrocuting some Droids, and otherwise being a great Sith Apprentice. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was an enjoyable preliminary title, showing off a lot of beautiful graphics, physics engines and great potential for additional Star Wars titles.