By SpikeDelight 4 Comments
I waited with baited breath for the release of the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed demo, and like many, was sorely disappointed when I finally got my hands on the actual game. But before I get into all these specifics, let me describe myself a little bit, as it might be a factor in all this that I am quite demanding of my Star Wars games. 'Huge' wouldn't be an adequate description of my Star Wars fandom. I am the kind of fan who, if you asked me "How long did Han Solo say it took him to complete the Kessel Run with the Millennium Falcon?" I would know to reply, "It's a trick question because he says he did it in less than 12 parsecs, but a parsec is a unit of measurement not a unit of time. That still indirectly references how fast his ship is however, because the route where the Kessel Run would take only 12 parsecs to complete would pass near a black hole, whose gravitational pull would pull in all but the fastest ships." Yeah.
So when I first heard around a year or two ago that this was touted as a true canonical followup to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, I was very excited to play it and see how the story unfolds. I am also a huge gamer though, so I was hoping for a revolutionary game to go along with what was supposed to be a revolutionary story. This was back in the time of hype for Bioshock, Portal, GTA IV (before it was delayed) and so on, so a boy could dream about how good his games would be and the result wouldn't be so far off the mark in many cases. When I saw those videos of Euphoria and DMM, with the way that wood splintered when R2D2 was thrown at it, I was amazed. Then I saw videos of it all working in-game, with the Apprentice shattering glass that looked lifelike and metal bent just like one would expect. It was a Star Wars fan's dreams come true. Every fantasy anyone ever had about using the force in real life was about to be realized through this game that crossed my, and many others' two great loves: Star Wars and video games.
Then I played the demo.
I should have seen this coming in all of the video coverage I'd see of the game, but I was blinded by how awesome I had imagined the game to be. While at face value, yes the things Haden Blackman raved about were in the game, but just like Assassin's Creed, there wasn't much else. They showed almost everything that could be done in the game with a clever presentation which made it look as if the possibilities were endless. It was exactly like how My Cousin Vinny explains the playing card looking like a brick.
<Beginning here is a bunch of nitpicking. If you want to read about actual problems then go down to the end of this part>
The first problem starts as soon as the game is launched. The opening Lucasarts video isn't synced up to the audio. I played this video a few times too, and it didn't stop having issues. This shows such a lack of attention by the developers it is disturbing. The same problems occur with the ending montage, even the Xbox 360 'Jump In' thing was off. Then I tried to adjust the video and audio settings, as my TV usually needs the brightness turned up a bit for most games, and I wanted to turn off subtitles, so I press the button for OPTIONS.
Yes the OPTIONS screen has to LOAD! How could such a screen have ANY assets, graphical or otherwise, that require their own loading time? It's ridiculous. So I get there and there are no options besides brightness and a couple of audio settings. You can't even access the other ones until you start the game. This makes no sense, because if you want to have subtitles turned off for the first cutscene or do anything like that you can't. So I turn up the brightness (which, to make a longer story short, didn't even save and I had to adjust it again when I got into the game anyway.)
Yes, it loads both ways. This especially makes it a bitch when you accidentally press B and have to go to the menu and then back into the Options screen. So when I finally got to the opening cutscene, when Darth Vader activates his lightsaber the game hitches at the same part every time, stopping (thankfully) the video and audio, so at least everything stays synced up there. Speaking of audio, in this cutscene one really starts wishing that they didn't get Chad Vader to do a James Earl Jones impression. He starts off sounding alright, but it's easy to see through his ruse at the parts where he says "Critical Imperial shipyard" and "Kill everyone aboard, Imperials and Kota's men alike." I don't want to knock Chad, because he does an admirable job for someone trying to imitate one of the most iconic voices ever, but I don't think anyone could have done it perfectly but James himself. Another thing that rears its ugly head before the game proper even starts, the subtitles (which can't be turned off for this cutscene) are in the kind of Star Wars font that you'd download from a font website and is of the actual Star Wars logo. It's bulky and annoying to read, and when the cutscene ends and Juno Eclipse radios you, there's a wall of text with this stupid font, taking up like a third or half of the screen. Apparently nobody at Lucasarts learned how to write subtitles correctly.
<The nitpicking ends here, although this whole blog entry could be considered nitpicking>
I think one thing that everyone noticed when this demo began was when the windows are shattered on the ship, the explosive decompression that follows isn't very satisfying. Even when a bunch of crates are in front of a broken window, only a few of them will decide to fly out. Second, the Apprentice can't jump out of the window (which makes sense) but he isn't affected by the air flying out either. He just stands there, breathing (which he really shouldn't be able to do until that blast shield closes) and does nothing. Also the droids in the game don't get sliced very satisfyingly either. It's not because of the way he slices them th same way every time, but because of the disappointment that follows when the blast door is forced open and humans can't share the same fate. They just take it, with huge (and unnecessary beacause almost everybody dies in about three hits) health bars over their heads, only showing scoring from the lightsaber when the game feels like it, but never letting themselves get cut into pieces. I suppose I could understand Lucasarts' logic behind this, but not in exactly the same way that everyone else assumes. I figure that if everyone's limbs were flying off left and right, the game would end up the same way the Godfather game ended up, way overly gory compared to the movies it came from. The Godfather film probably would have been as brutal as the game, but it didn't show the violence as much, so when the game showed everything behind the scenes, it looked way over the top. I think it would have been the same with this game. No one in a Star Wars film ever chops up that many humanoids, so if a player was to see thousands of humanoids being dismembered in this video game it would look repulsive, even if there was no blood.
Another thing I have a huge problem with is waiting right at the end of the first hallway in the TIE Fighter hangar. Why would a game with technology behind the scenes so advanced resort to including 'Unlimited Force Usage' or 'Extra Damage' powerups? Why would it have any powerups? It's the year 2008, Lucasarts, we're not running away from ghosts and eating pellets, we want some kind of depth in our games--or at least give the powerup some kind of veil behind Star Wars lure. I'm sure you could have thought of something if you actually put your minds to it. I wouldn't really have a problem with this, but this game was riding on its technology and how advanced it was for a Stormtrooper to think about grabbing onto something to not get pushed off a ledge or how wood splinters like real wood. It's trying to be realistic (within the context of the subject matter at least) so it's kind of stupid that they shoehorn these powerups in there.
The lightsaber combat isn't very satisfying either. It's controlled by simple 'combos.' I know that a lot of games do this, but with the extremely visceral feeling one gets from using the Force in this game, this lightsaber swinging pales in comparison. I appreciate combining moves like infusing the lightsaber with lightning, and I understood that there are multiple combos depending on how many times the saber is swung, but how much better would it have been to have The Force Unleashed control like a faster version of Assassin's Creed? You would have to block all the blaster shots (instead of be able to get hit with like 15 shots before dying) and you could run while blocking, a feature conspicuously absent from the demo, which now forces the Apprentice to look like an idiot using the 'Force propel forward' move like a million times to get away from the AT-ST's fire. He could then press X while blocking to try to counter a blaster shot back to the guy who shot it. If he messed up a counter move it would just be a 'sloppy block' like in Assassin's Creed and he would lose health, but without actually being hit. Then when his health is gone, the next time he messes up a block he would be hit with a blaster shot and he'd die. When the apprentice was close he could do whatever combo he wanted to do, but with a more visceral feeling. It never feels like the Apprentice is paying attention to who he's slicing, like he doesn't know anybody's there. It just looks like he's flailing his saber about and people are falling down because of it. He never even impales people personally like Altair does, only when he's doing his lightsaber impale from afar.
They also missed the chance to do a few cool moves that Sith would be able to do, such as Force Choke. Perhaps this will be in the real game, but instead of L just flinging a guy straight up (which can already be done by flicking RS up) a player could hold it to choke the guy. Maybe you could feel his heartbeat with your controller like in The Godfather game or something. Jedi mind tricks would be cool too, maybe he could turn a guy (or an AT-ST) against his comrades. There are a lot of other powers that could be put to use, but I can't think of any others at the moment.
Also, and many people don't understand that this is what's happening, the targeting system for using Force Grip is relative to the Apprentice's position, and not relative to the camera's position. This means a player has to position the Apprentice exactly towards something to grab it, but most people just try to point the camera at whatever the thing is and cry when he picks up the wrong thing. This is a flaw with the game, however because if the player is pointing towards something there is no way for the game to tell the difference between two targeted things if they're vertically stacked. A camera pointing towards them would be able to though, so I don't know why they didn't implement the targeting system that way, or at least give the option to do it either way like DEAD RISING did for Frank's camera's controls (by that I mean his camera used for photography, not the game's camera). And why can't you repeatedly fling a guy into a wall, like in the target video for the game that was released with the game's announcement?
Last, and certainly not least is the weak boss battle against the AT-ST at the end of the demo. I know a lot of people speculate that this is not going to be in the real game, but whether it is or not is irrelevant. The problem still stands in that is how you have to kill an AT-ST in the game, and most likely all other bosses. The stupid 'weaken him by beating him with your lightsaber and other moves ad nauseum and then do a quicktime event' is so archaic it's laughable. God of War does it well, but in a setting where a player is under the impression that he can kill almost anything with his "Unleashed" Force powers, it's stupid to say that an AT-ST is a formidable foe. It explodes after tripping on a bunch of logs set up by Ewoks! You think it takes this much effort to destroy an AT-ST? A strong wind can blow one of those over! The stomp attack it does is stupid because it doesn't even make sense in this physics-based world the game sets up, and the 'two shot' attack is annoying, knocking the player yards back, and usually off the edge of the platform he's on. The ultimate frustration sets in when the player realizes just how useless the block move really is when the '20 blaster shots' attack can't even be escaped after a successful block because apparently it takes less time to reload than it takes for a Sith warrior to get off his ass and move out of the way. I could have thought of so many better ways to take care of an AT-ST in an Unleashed fashion it's not even funny. Not in a finisher, just right when you encounter him. In fact:
- Target his legs and take them out from under him
- Target his head and push him off the edge
- Use the Force to bend the guns so when they tried to shoot they would explode
- Use the Force to open the hatch where the Stormtroopers inside see from and pull them out, disabling it
- Use your lightsaber (which can still cut through metal like a hot knife through butter in the game) and cut his legs off
- Use your jughtsaber and cut it anywhere. It'd probably go down.
- Use Force Lightning on the power source, overloading it and probably making it explode or something.
- Jump on top of it and thrust your lightsaber into the top of its head like a Colossus
Those are just a couple of ideas I had that would be better than this generic miniboss encounter.
These are all the problems with this game I can think of at the moment, and nothing would make me happier than to be proved wrong by the final game when it's released. I will still be purchasing it and I'll probably still enjoy it for the story, but I couldn't help but vocalize the thoughts that were brewing in my head. I wanted very much to like this game, and I thought it would be just as revolutionary for gaming as Star Wars was for films. But sadly, it's more generic than almost anything out there today. Maybe someday Lucasarts will come to their senses, but I guess for now I'll just have to continue holding Star Wars Republic Commando as the only symbol of Star Wars gaming nirvana for all future games to strive for. At least it's the only one set during the Galactic Civil War that's great.
also, inb4 stfu, why are you so serious about this, etc.
If you're not interested in this topic then don't fucking read this blog, don't give me negative feedback solely because you don't like the fact that I wrote volumes on this subject. I swear if somebody writes a comment like that please refer them to this.