Some people want to fly like Superman. Others want to climb walls like Spidey.
But me? I wanted the Force.
You can move stuff with your mind, shoot lightning from your fingers and carry a light saber. What’s not to love?
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was supposed to represent the apex of that fantasy, and for chunks of the journey, it did. But a funny thing happened while I was living this dream — this game made me want to punch holes in the wall.
While the Force is strong in this piece of work from LucasArts, so is its penchant for frustration. Whatever greatness it has is neutered by glitches and other problems that would require a Jedi-like mindset to even tolerate, much less ignore.
It’s a shame, because some of the game’s elements hold a lot of value, such as the story, which is an attempt to bridge the gap between Episodes III and IV.
You play as Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice and the man charged with helping Vader and the Emperor destroy the Jedi. The story has a few twists and turns, and I actually found the characters and plot more interesting than the last few movies combined.
What makes Starkiller special is his extreme aptitude with the Force. He has the ability to grab things and move them (Force Grip), zap foes with Force Lightning, and knock enemies back with Force Push. Starkiller is amazingly powerful for his age, able to blast through doors and snatch Tie Fighters out of the sky.
There’s even a point in the game where he can use the Force to send a massive Star Destroyer crashing into the ground. But more on that later.
In terms of other positives, the game looks outstanding. Starkiller’s adventure takes him everywhere from the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk to the inside of the unfinished Death Star (like you didn’t know that was going to happen). They are all vast, detailed worlds that do a good job of visually pulling in the player.
But sadly, it’s not enough to cover some of the game’s maddening issues.
At the forefront is the pall of bugginess cast over the entire experience. It’s as if it wakes up sometimes and decides not to work.
Whether it’s a game freezing, the inabilty to replay certain missions and bouts of lag, some game sessions for me could be classified as an absolute mess.
One vintage, head-exploding, expletive-worthy sequence is the Star Destroyer mission. You have to Force Grip the ship, follow the directions of the thumbstick icons that pop up, move the Star Destroyer into prime crashing position, and then Force it down.
When the ship is in the right position, a hazy red blotch under the thumbstick icons turns green. Did I mention that you have to fight off a wave of Tie Fighters every time you get it into crash-readiness?
When I managed to work the Star Destroyer down to the point where it was practically kissing the ground, the little red blotch decides it wants to stay red — despite the fact that the stick icons even tell me to stop moving.
I wasted about 45 minutes re-positioning the ship, breaking off Force Grip to fight the Tie Fighters, re-gripping the ship and waiting for the “go” signal to crash it. It never came.
The whole experience was like trying to hang a picture frame while being directed by someone with untreated OCD. Go right. No, left. Down. Up. No, down again. It’s still not right. I ended up just turning the game off and trying the next day (it worked).
In addition to those precious moments, baby-sitting the spastic camera is no fun during battle, or even in general. The jumping mechanics are atrocius, leading to more than the occasional missed ledge or stupid death. And if you can help it, try not to get knocked off your feet. It takes forever to get back up, and you can’t defend yourself, so you’re a free target for the multitude of enemies who drill you with lasers. That’s always fun.
And by action game standards, the game is still relatively short considering the pain it puts you through — my unofficial count is about seven hours.
You don’t need to be Luke Skywalker to see some of the good in this game, but I’d recommended it to only truly devout fans of Star Wars who aren’t satisfied enough with “Knights of the Old Republic” or even the old “Jedi Knight” games.
As for myself, I can only say … disappointed I am.