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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Hands-on

24 July 2008

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had fake lightsaber fights with a flashlight or some other ridiculously inanimate object, right? Regardless of that, I can’t be the only one looking forward to LucasArts' upcoming title, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I had the chance to sit down with the lead designers of the game in order to get a detailed walkthrough of certain levels. In addition, I sat down and played the game for myself, which was one of my brighter moments at E3.

I’m not going to give out any spoilers through this preview, but I will discuss a couple of cutscenes just so you guys have a gist of what to expect. I’ll be discussing these cutscenes within the next paragraph only, so if you guys want to skip over that, feel free to.

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The game’s opening scene has Darth Vader landing on the planet of Kashyyyk, home of the Wookiees. He’s been sent here to execute a Jedi Knight and must walk through some lush forests to reach his victim's home. Once on location, another cutscene takes over and Vader questions the Jedi about the whereabouts of his master since he feels a strong presence of the force. The Jedi lets Vader know that he had killed his master a long time ago and that there is no one else in the home. As Vader goes to execute the Jedi, his lightsaber flies out of his hands and into the hands of a young boy with incredible power. Vader acknowledges the boy's power and, after killing the father, saves the child from the storm troopers preparing to fire him into oblivion. This is clearly the beginning of his apprenticeship and the game moves forward from this point.

In between the opening and second cutscene mentioned above, a decent amount of gameplay takes place on the fictional world of the Wookiee. This lush environment is filled with trees which makes this roaming through this area into the perfect opportunity to demonstrate one of the coolest aspects of the title. Their Digital Molecular Matter system allows the game to simulate material and the way it would react in the real world. What makes this so amazing is the fact that it creates unique situations from ordinary actions. Every time you break down a tree trunk, the wood will splinter and break differently every single time. This makes every playthrough provide a different gameplay experience.

On top of this, the AI is somewhat self-aware. They’re noticable of their surroundings and adaptive to the world around them. As I watched Vader use the force to whip a Wookiee across the screen, you’d see him trying to grab onto other Wookiees for support or trying to latch onto trees to prevent from being tossed about. This action of reflex from the AI adds an entirely new element to enjoy throughout the game and truly adds to the experience on an overall level.

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Once I was done checking out Vader (who looks incredibly sleek in the game), I had the chance to check out the apprentice. Now, perhaps the neatest part about Darth Vader's secret apprentice is the fact that he has a mind of his own. It is because of this that you’ll have the opportunity to fight not only for the dark side, but for the other side as well. This obviously allows them to add a nice depth to the story that revolves around revenge and deceit, much like the movies.

As for the apprentice's overall skill level, well, that’s another story. Let's just say that the apprentice can kick some major ass. His unique skills will develop as the game moves forward, much like you’d expect from a title with minor RPG elements. One thing that had me laughing was the ability to “mop the floor” with the bad guys. By this, I mean you could literally take control of someone with the force and utilize the euphoria engine to swing him around mindlessly on the floor like a mop. If there happened to be a crate or one of his buddies nearby, he’d grab onto either and hold on for dear life. It definitely added a touch of humor to the title among other things.

The guys at LucasArts explained that their entire idea behind the force in this title was to be able to display unlike ever before. They know what you’ve seen in movies and games before and they wanted to take that look and feel and push the boundaries of it even further. In my honest opinion, I feel that they have. Some of these abilities and the way they look are absolutely gorgeous. At other points, like when using the force to slowly break down large metal doors, you truly sense the power and destructiveness of the force. It's really impressive when you experience it firsthand.

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With so many great titles coming up and the majority of them being typical generic shooters, I think Star Wars: The Force Unleashed can find a pleasant home in any gamers library as that “change of pace, kick some ass” type game that's just non-stop fun.


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