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Friday, September 19, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Wii - 2nd Impressions

See also: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Wii - First Impressions

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on Wii:

+Incredibly cool motion controls.

+You start off pretty powerful, the gameplay is empowering and fun.

+Story, while hokey at times, is surprisingly compelling, especially if you're a fan of the original trilogy (Eps 4-6).

+Duel Mode (multiplayer only) is a nice addition not found in the other console versions.

-Controls are laggy & not always responsive. Game is too finicky with individual controllers as well, sometimes giving false positives or not registering properly until switched with another controller.

-The final level is brutally frustrating, like it's a different game-- difficulty curve goes straight up.

-Graphics are poor compared some of the best available on the Wii, like Metroid Prime 3.

-Duel Mode being multiplayer Only feels intentionally crippled so as not to compete with upcoming Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels game.

Star Wars games, like the movies themselves, are basically critic-proof. You either love them or you don't. When it comes to Star Wars games, for big fans (like me) the trappings & fan-service within them can gloss over & take the sting out of some of the weaknesses of the overall gameplay.

I finished Star Wars: The Force Unleashed last night.... 3 evenings of playing, so pretty short-- that's the quickest I've ever gone through a game-- but it was really fun, and I was surprised that the story isn't quite as "throwaway" as I thought it'd be. I think it makes a nice addition to the overall Star Wars canon, though some of the tie-ins do feel a bit shoe-horned in or tacked on.

I've broken down this rambling post to 2 sections: GAMEPLAY and FAN STUFF. There are no big spoilers.


No game is perfect, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed does have its share of flaws. Small ones, like just overall lack of polish, and how the duel mode can't be played single player (like the Star Wars Episode III game (Xbox/PS2) duel mode can)... but now that I think about it, I wonder if developer Krome studioes took out that option so as to provide incentive to buy their upcoming Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels game coming out in November, which looks like it can be played single player.... if so, that's kind of cheap.

I also found an issue with the brightness level on the screen. It's adjustable, but even set at the highest level, it's still a bit too dark... until one planet where it's insanely bright needs to be set back down again until you leave it.

The biggest problem with this game is the camera. It is just plain bad. The devs should have just made it fixed to always be behind Starkiller, using the D-pad to turn the camera all the time during battle is really annoying.

Controls can be glitchy: during the final boss fights, when it came to the quick-time events where you have to twist one controller a certain way, when it was the nunchuk, it became VERY unresponsive, and basically stopped working, for that one task. I thought it might've been the level design, but I re-played through the first mission again & had the same problem-- which I'm pretty sure I didn't have the first time around-- so I think it might be that my Wii remote batteries were getting low. I checked my battery power on the HOME menu but it wasn't at the 1 red bar... so I think this game is overly sensitive to controller conditions.

Another example of this over-sensitivity: when I first started playing, my Vader kept Force Pushing, wouldn't stop. (Force Push is done by jabbing the nunchuk forward like a little punching motion) It kept doing it when I know I wasn't making any motion. After getting these "false positives" I switched my nunchuk & everything was fine. I've also heard problems from other gamers with the Wii remote that sound somewhat similar.

The final mission is BRUTALLY HARD. Yes, the overall game is fairly easy... even though you can level up, you start off the game pretty powerful. The motto for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is "kicking ass with The Force"... I even saw video where the game producer made the dev team chant that out while they were coming up with the basis for the game.

And through most of the game, it stays fairly easy, because you're doing the same thing throughout the game, and you're leveling up. But the final level is SO HARD, the enemies can basically kill you in about 3 seconds, while it takes many, MANY lightsaber stabs to kill them, and there are tons of them, *AND* there are next to NO health pick ups available. This insane difficulty reminds me of the final boss fight in the Xbox game Mech Assault 2: Lone Wolf (another game with a short story mode) What does making the final level so much harder really accomplish? If you thought the game was way too easy overall, just the final level being challenging isn't going to make up for that... and if you're a casual gamer, the final level would basically make you stuck, unable to finish the game.... well, the generous respawning here does help. But I died in EVERY room I went into... and had to re-do quite a bit, fighting the camera as much as fighting the enemies, making the gameplay so tedious, I wanted to put the game away. Grinding away isn't fun. The frustration in the last mission leaves a bad final impression that I'm sure played a big part in some reviews giving Force Unleashed a mediocre score.

The campaign is short, it can be done in about 6-8 hours... but there's a lot of hunting around flipping over debris looking for pickups & holocrons... and that is a bit tedious as well. Also there are 2 endings, so a 2nd playthrough is necessary for both picking up items you missed the first time, and getting the different endings. Though I saved the game on a seperate slot before the final mission, so I think I could replay that one mission again & get the 2nd ending.


I read one complaint about the 360/PS3 version that the main character Starkiller doesn't turn off his lightsaber, it's always on? In the Wii version, his lightsaber turns off when their are no enemies around, and on when there are. It will also turn on when you swing. This is a cool early-warning system, especially with the camera problems, so you know there's something coming up. And it makes sense to turn off your saber when you're not using it!

Starkiller's trademark is his reverse grip on his lightsaber. In the Wii version of Force Unleashed, he's holding his saber traditionally, which caused a lot of outcry from gamers. While I do like that reverse grip; it's cool-looking & distinctive, I can see why they made it forwards for the Wii so as not to confuse casual gamers... you don't want them thinking that they have to hold their Wii remote upside-down! Plus it gives it more of the feeling of "the Wii remote is your lightsaber" when both controller & onscreen lightsaber are used in the same direction. However, the PSP version also has the "forward saber" (and presumably the PS2 version as well), the Wii excuse doesn't apply there, and I'm sure that's just the devs being lazy & using the same assets for all 3 versions.

But there were a couple times in the Wii game where he held his lightsaber backwards! Once, on Bespin, I had target-locked an enemy, and Force Pushed him off a ledge, since he was target-locked, the camera kept panning down, I was trying to look over the ledge but couldn't. Even
though the enemy fell to his death off screen, the camera stayed locked on him so it pointed down on me, that's when Starkillers grip changed to backwards. As soon as I released the camera lock, it went back to normal.

Then another time in the final level, his blade was on, there might've been enemies somewhere, and I stopped moving (I was drinking tea or reading the manual or something) and again he changed his lightsaber grip to backwards! I don't know if these are just glitches or intentional winks to the fanbase. They are cool though.

I love all the cameos, they are really fun for Star Wars fans. I really liked seeing (& fighting) a lot of those Cantina background aliens from Star Wars. The voice acting overall was fairly good, especially Vader. But The Emperor had this one line, it was like, "blah blah blah blah.... andthenyouwilldie"-- he just blurts out that last part like it's all one word, it was so lame & cheesy, I laughed.


Oh man. They maybe should've done a take 2 on that line? Ah-yup.

The music is the same John Williams score that we all know & love, and (wisely) is a staple of all Star Wars games past & present. But they add some additional music... it's not bad but it sometimes sounds like a Godzilla movie or something... I'm walkig around & this Godzilla-movie-esque music is in the background... I'm wondering, am I the monster? Kinda... and I'm really liking it!

I love that this game is about playing a Sith or a baddie, and you've got to keep your identity a secret, meaning you have to kill EVERYBODY around you. It's very cool. Surprisingly dark for a Star Wars story. But not entirely without hope.

Yesterday I went out & got the Force Unleashed graphic novel, part of the reason I barreled through the game was I wanted to finish the story.... I'm not sure if the Force Unleashed GN is an adaptation of the game story, a prequel, or what so I didn't want to read it before finishing the game. Once I do read it, I'll post some thoughts on it in Comicbook.


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