To some people Star Wars is religion. I'm not a religious man, but if I had been Star Wars would have been my religion. At least as far as episodes four through six go and as I kid I collected anything, and everything that had to do with that galaxy far, far away. I would probably turn a blind eye to the more recent films sort of like how some chose to follow the old testament and not the new. It's easy to get tangled up in religious issues, and this is not the proper place for that.
The Force Unleashed has been in the making for many years at Lucasarts. Its the marriage of a concept of the strongest Jedi ever, and several ground breaking technologies. It is the bridge between the trilogies, and therefore something every Star Wars will want to experience regardless of the qualities the game possesses.
It starts out nicely on Kashyyyk, the Wookie homeworld seen in episode three, you are an extremely powerful Darth Vader throwing furry Wookies in every direction in search of a Jedi in hiding. But Vader stumbles onto something more, a child with a powerful connection to the Force, and he takes it upon himself to train his young apprentice behind the emperor's back. The Force Unleashed tells the story of this secret apprentice Starkiller as he stumbles along his path laid out by the Force. Starkiller is a fairly quiet and neutral hero, but his sidekick droid Proxy, always intent on killing his master, and the sexy pilot with the British accent Juno Eclipse make for nice additions to the colorful gallery of characters we know and love from the Star Wars universe. Other characters from both trilogies such as Princess Leia, and her adoptive father Bail Organa are in the game, as is a fan favourite I won't reveal.
I appreciate the effort Lucasarts has made in filling the void between the two trilogies with a plausible, and interesting scenario, that puts Darth Vader and the start of the rebellion in a slightly different light. It is certainly not without controversy, especially one of the two endings should carry a disclaimer along the lines that the events in the games were just that of one of Darth Vader's dreams (much like Bobby's two year dream in the classic soap Dallas). I can't go into details as that would spoil the experience for those of you who have yet to play the game, but suffice to say it will surprise you.
In the pre-release hype a lot of focus has been given to the physics and Force powers, and they make for an entertaining backbone to the gameplay. At the easier difficulties, you can button mash your way through most situations, but at harder difficulties you will have to employ more advanced techniques and combos. It is unfortunate that some of the boss battles raise the difficulty quite significantly, and even appear unfair or to be cheating, which creates a lot of unnecessary frustration for the player, and unwelcomed late night screams of profanity for his neighbours. Another thing that I would like to have differently is that all major encounters and boss fights are finished off with quick time events, that somehow cheapens the sweet taste of victory after a long and hard fought battle. But that is just my personal opinion on quick time events, and if you feel differentely about this the boss battles might be right up your alley.
What is more troublesome about the boss battles is that they are sometimes way harder than the rest of game, resulting in frustrating spikes in difficulty. It is not always clear what strategies are best to use against them, and more than a few times the best tactic is to take advantage of some kind of glitch, or unintentional mistake from the artificial intelligence.
The visuals and design of the game are both of high quality. Glancing at the beautiful artbook released for The Force Unleashed I realise that there are probably very few games that have been given a conceptual treatment as deep as this one. A mission to Cloud City of episode five fame, and the scrap heap planet Raxus Prime stand out as some of the best parts of the game.
Ultimately The Force Unleashed disappoints me mainly due to the lack of polish, as in screen tearing, bugs, glitches and the unbalanced peaks in difficulty. The controls could also have done with more polish, and the level design is very basic. It could have been a classic game, bridging two legendary film trilogies, with a story that certainly deserves its place in the Star Wars saga, but it is the large number of minor or slightly bigger flaws that only lands it a score of six out of ten.