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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Wii - First Impressions

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I've been waiting weeks, if not months, for this game.

I haven't anticipated a game this much since Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron on PSP (and Star Wars Battlefront II on Xbox before that)... so Star Wars: The Force Unleashed being a first-day purchase for me was a given.

But I was wary of the Wii version. It was developed by Krome Studios, not the LucasArts dev team that did the Xbox 360 & PS3 versions. And the Wii controls are so different than any other console.

Over the months, there's been some info, first looks, etc, that have given a good idea of what to expect with the game. The Wii version looked like it wouldn't be the greatest game ever made, but the controls did look not bad. For the most part, it's pretty good.

(dev walkthrough video of gameplay can be found here.)

In a nutshell, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on Wii is a beat-'em-up with tactile "waggle" controls that while repetitive, really add to the sense that you're waving around a lightsaber. There are some minor problems, the controls are still a little sloppy-- it's a good game that could've used some more polish to make it great-- but the good things about the game outweigh the problems.

I've been playing it the last 2 days, I'm on Felucia right now... I think I'm about halfway through the game. The controls do work fairly well mostly, but they are not as precise as I'd like. You wave the Wii remote up/down/left/right and the lightsaber does move in those directions-- but it is *NOT* 1:1 precise movement. There's a bit of a lag, and you don't necessarily get those directions for each wave. It doesn't really matter, because it all works the same way... it takes a bit of getting used to, after about 30 mins of play, I got the feel for it, and really started to enjoy it.

Not only does the Wii remote control the lightsaber, the nunchuk controls a lot of The Force abilities. Push forward (like a punching motion) and you do a Force Push which plows enemies in front of you off their feet. Slam downward with both the nunchuk & Wii remote while pressing the Z + B buttons will do a Force Repulse that clears out everyone around you. It is *SO* satisfying to do these gestures, 'cause they kick ass! It just feels REALLY GOOD to do these motions & scatter stuff like they are made of cardboard or something... The Force ROCKS.

IGN review: 7.8

Gamespot review: 6.0

Gamespot got some details WRONG about the game, which needs to be cleared up. Let's set the record straight here.

Gamespot SWFU (Wii) review: When you throw in a variety of force powers and some poorly implemented quick-time events that all utilize motion controls, you'll find that Force Unleashed is possibly the most waggle-heavy action game available on the system, a distinction that seems fun for the first hour or so, only to quickly lose its appeal.

The Wii remote controls the lightsaber, which is your main weapon, if you're gonna pick up the Wii version, EXPECT to be waving the Wii remote a lot when fighting. THAT'S WHAT YOU DO. I think that anyone who wants the Wii version knows this-- like me, it's probably WHY they want the Wii version in the first place. Yes, it could be more precise, but it's not terrible. The reviewer also says that this must be the most waggle-heavy game for the Wii... which I'm sure it isn't. I bet there are some crappy-rated games like Soul Calibur: Legends that require the Wii remote to be shaken the entire time.... which is why they're crappy...

I do have to say that there's probably a lot of button-mashing in the other console versions of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and here it is "waggle-mashing" if that makes any sense. You do flail the Wii remote around a lot. Here's a tip: don't let anybody watch you playing this game. You'll die of embarrassment.

Gamespot SWFU (Wii) review: Some variety comes by way of Force Unleashed's God of War-style quick-time events, which result in some terrific, violent-looking moves, whether you're smashing on an opposing Jedi or defeating a rancor in a series of thrilling acrobatics. As cool as they look, these sequences don't work that well. You usually need to tilt the remote or the Nunchuk to match the onscreen diagram and then thrust it forward. It requires surprising precision, and not only does it take your eyes and your mind off of the action, but it is more annoying than fun.

It DOESN'T require "surprising precision"... you have to match it, yes, but it's not that hard. [EDIT: I think I might know why the reviewer had trouble with it-- it seems that if the Wii remote batteries are low, it makes it NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to use the nunchuk properly for the twisting quick-time event; for some reason it won't twist properly. ] The other actions are when one of the controllers comes up on screen, you sinply have to shake that controller once to register the action.

In this game, these quick-time events with the Wii controls work BETTER than timed button presses of the other consoles because you don't have to be looking directly at what it wants you to do, it's much easier to see a diagram of a Wii nunchuk out of the corner of your eye than a small button where you have to make out exactly which button it is. So the Wii version allows you to watch the cool onscreen action a lot more than normal "press X button here" diagrams where you have to look directly at it to make sure it says press X not Y or whatever....

Another mistake the Gamespot review made about the Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is that when you die, the enemies stay at whatever health they lost. That's WRONG. In boss fights, the bosses gain back a portion of their health if you die. You come back full, they gain like 25%-33%. If they were at 75% when you die, they get full health. if you die, you don't have to re-kill everybody you've killed already... which is actually nice, it cuts down on the tedium. How many boss fights have we had to re-do from the start and it really kills the momentum of the game? A lot.

One of the biggest problems with the game is the camera. It doesn't really stay behind you when you move, you have to do a lot of adjusting using the D-pad on the Wii remote. It can be pretty bothersome while fighting, and makes it hard to see/target enemies, particularly tough bosses.

There is a Duel mode, but it can only be played with multiplayer, there's no AI-controlled Duel mode. Compared to the Episode III game developed by The Collective, which also has a Duel mode that can be multiplayer *OR* AI vs single player, it's a disappointment that the Wii Duel mode wasn't fleshed out enough. Also, there is autosaving, but you can't go back & select which levels or missions to replay, you can only continue. Little things like this are rough spots in the game that I wish could've been hammered out.

The graphics obviously aren't as good as the 360/PS3 versions. They are the same as the PS2 version. I actually think they're alright.

There's a lot of hunting around in the game, unlike the 360/PS3 version where you get health from every guy you kill, in the Wii version you need to find health pickups scattered throughout a level. There are also Holocrons which unlock artwork, and saber & other bonus pickups. There's a lot of moving rocks, boxes, statues, etc. around with The Force to find this stuff. It kind of reminds me of Elebits, oddly enough!

I suspect the general story is similar to the 360/PS3 versions, but I think the level design & missions are different in the Wii version. So far I've had to go to the Jedi Training temple on Coruscant 2 times to train secretly. Since I'm a secret apprentice, I have to kill the guards there. Doing it once is fine, but it's a little weird doing it twice-- what did the Empire think when they found all the guards dead at the temple the first time? If they keep finding their guards dead at the Jedi Temple, um... don't you think that's gonna raise a few flags? yeah, so that part of the story maybe doesn't make too much sense, but overall it's a nifty idea to have this apprentice. I just wish he was more interesting looking than that guy from Prison Break. Think about the past Siths, like Darth Maul-- he looked awesome. Or Assaj Ventriss. I would've preferred a cool-looking alien over a drab human, but oh well.

I haven't finished the game yet, but so far it's been pretty fun.

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


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