Star Wars The Force Unleashed, A Ten Year Reunion
Star Wars The Force Unleashed, the second to last game to ever be made from the now defunct Lucasarts, is the result of someone making the pitch, “what if we made a game with absolutely ridiculous force power creeps the likes of which have never seen before, not even when Luke created a black hole to swallow a fleet in that one book? And also it has Vader, but not as the main character because people would enjoy that too much?” Thus The Force Unleashed was born, a game that follows Galen Marek, Starkiller, and apprentice to Darth Vader on an epic journey to kill absolutely everything in sight. There is a plot there and not a bad one either about the formation of the Rebellion against the Empire, Lord Vader’s daddy issues with Poppa Palpy, and the ways of the Force. However, nobody picked up a game called The Force Unleashed for philosophy lessons, they want to pull freaking Star Destroyers from the sky, throw crowds of Stormtroopers around like paper, and bullseye a Tie cockpit with an explosive barrel for kicks.
At it’s core, The Force Unleashed is actually a pretty average action adventure game. Inspired heavily from God of War, you’ll find a very similar gameplay loop. Chain together combos with your weapon, collect orbs, increase abilities, insert small platforming puzzles throughout, giant boss battles with QTE finishers, slap on a Star Wars skin, and you’re there. The great thing about this though, is that despite that all being very true, the game actually manages to eclipse being a simply ripoff, for one very simple reason. The force powers.
With a title like that and with seemingly generic gameplay, they knew they had better deliver and oh boy did they ever. Throwing everything Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Sam Jackson ever told us about the force, TFU allowed us to use the Force like the galaxy’s biggest hammer and allowed everything to be a nail. A significant amount of the environment is destructible, either partially like blowing the bark off a large tree, or completely like collapsing a small house. You can really show off the backlash as you throw around force pushes with the power of buses, send your lightsaber sailing across the battlefield like a bullet, throw down storms of lightning that resemble raves more than dangerous electrical fields, and all other kinds of glorious mayhem beyond Palpatine’s wildest dreams.
Such powers are nothing without an enemy to test them out on and TFU does not falter here either. Starkiller is a secret weapon of the Emperor and Vader intends to use him to conquer the Empire. Stormtroopers are just as much a target as the Jedi and fledgling Rebels you are sent to kill. Beyond mere humans, are robots such as the gigantic Purge Trooper, Rancors, and of course the vehicular might of the Empire, predominantly the AT-ST (the two-legged types). All are ready to be electrocuted, have everything in rooms thrown at them including other Stormtoopers, and be picked up and slammed back into the ground.
On top of the fodder, there’s the bosses. This is the real test of skill: throwing your might against another force user. Fortunately, not even including the DLC, there’s plenty to go around. A couple Jedi, but more interestingly Vader (shockingly you DON’T kill Darth Vader prior to A New Hope, who could have guessed) and then Palpatine himself. All are great fights that play to different strengths and feature badass finishing QTE finishers that show off your force brutality in ways that a controller can’t possibly imagine.
In the base game you explore a variety of areas including a Tie making factory, Kashyyk, Bespin, Felucia, and with a finale on the Death Star itself. The DLC, which takes place in a “what if” universe, not to be confused with the “what if ” universe already represented by the main game, that is basically, “what if Starkiller showed up in the Original Trilogy to kill everything there too? Oh and the Jedi Temple as well, because why not?” It’s just as glorious as it sounds. You get the areas of Hoth and Tattooine to explore and more bosses to kill, including Ben Kenobi who you get to kill twice. Vader may not have been able to imagine a Ghost Kenobi, let alone beating him, but Starkiller has no such lack of faith and kills the old wizard twice. What more could you want?
The Force Unleashed is an important milestone, not just in Star Wars gaming, but gaming in general. Not only was it the last great Star Wars game made (Kinect Star Wars wasn’t just great, it was life-changing), it was to be the last great game from Lucasarts, forever. The sequel The Force Unleashed II suffered from studio rushing it out and was short, lacking in variety like it’s predecessor with a story that ended way too soon, despite combat that was refined and could have made for a better sequel if given a chance. This was Lucasart’s last true swansong before closure, and while it wasn’t their best by far, you’d be hard pressed to find a Star Wars game that’s simply more fun or as joyful to simply play. In today’s state of Star Wars gaming being as it is, fans have to make due with older titles to fill that urge, and none can fill it quite as well as The Force Unleashed.