Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is an interesting product, being the first Star Wars game on the Xbox 360 and PS3, in addition to being the first one that has been officially declared canon by George Lucas himself, as opposed to part of the larger "Extended Universe". Some aspects of this ambitious product succeed, while others fall quite flat.
TFU will have you playing as a "secret apprentice" of Darth Vader, codenamed Starkiller, in the time period between Episodes III and IV, making it the first project to try and bridge the two trilogies. The premise generally lives up to it's promise, producing a tale of a conflicted young man and his master, both searching for their places. TFU features some amazing cutscenes, thanks to the wizards at Industrial Light and Magic (who did the special effects for the films proper), and the incredible degree of animation allows for convincing movement and facial expressions, which helps avoid the robotic animations you see in many games that prevent the story from connecting.
Despite the cutscenes being pre-rendered, their graphical fidelity carries over to the in-game graphics, witch look amazing when the game is in motion. However, as nice as the game may look and sound, artistry can only take a product so far. And when the story ends, and you take control of The Force Unleashed, it begins to stutter. Gameplay, despite a lot of big talk from LucasArts prior to the game's release, is uninspired hack and slash fare- your lightsaber must be defective, because it takes more than one slice to down an enemy. However, TFU's hook is it's Force powers, and their aforementioned lack of a leash. However, everything on offer as featured in a previous Star Wars game, and often in more entertaining ways. This isn't to say the Force powers aren't entertaining, as they certainly are, and can be strung together into highly entertaining combos by players who take the time to learn the controls. The fun that can be gleaned from the combat system doesn't last long though, and things quickly get repetitive, which leads to the inclusion of Force-Immune and Lightsaber-Immune enemies in an attempt to keep things interesting. Instead of mixing up the game in a successful way, this results in frustrating experiences and many deaths that will have you raging at your TV.
The same can be said of the boss fights, which pull the camera back to a fixed position and put you up against Force-Resistant enemies that often possess incredibly strong attacks. Boss fights look great and are accompanied by solid Star Wars music (One memorable fight plays the Duel of Fates from Episode I), but as with the game at large, their cinematic flair is obscured by poor gameplay, and what should be triumphant climaxes after a long level end up as frustratingly grating trudges. One sequence towards the end is so frustratingly designed and executed, that what should be a five to ten minute sequence can stretch on for up to an hour or more.
The Force Unleashed is a schizophrenic product. While it's presentation, story and cinematics are top-notch, the actual videogame parts are less so. You're given some basic customization options regarding Lightsaber color, costume, and Force Power skills, but for the most part the gameplay is linear and repetitive. The Force Unleashed might have been better advised as a Star-Wars project in some other medium, as it seems more preoccupied with storytelling as opposed to gameplay. Despite that fact, the story it tells is fairly compelling- especially for Star Wars fans- and the gameplay isn't so bad as to write the game off altogether. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed tells a good story and looks damn fine doing it, though it might not impress so much once you've got the controller in hand.