As per usual practice, I must say that I won’t be reviewing The Force Unleashed. There are already a lot of people doing that. These are just my thoughts, and it is not meant to be balanced. Anyway…

Iwas greatly looking forward to The Force Unleashed. The screenshots, all the magazine articles, it gave it a great bad-ass epic feel. I was most excited about the use of the Euphoria and Digital Molecular Matter middleware engines (for animation and physics respectively). In theory, the two engines would help to provide an immersive and realistic feel to the environment.

However, The Force Unleashed comes out feeling like a sloppy piece of garbage. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by GTA IV (which also uses Euphoria for its procedural animation), but here’s how I feel. Force Unleashed doesn’t have the same feeling of being solidly planted in the game world. With Niko Bellic, every step you took felt real. Every time your foot raised up, it would be planted firmly on the ground before you started to take another step. In Force Unleashed, all of the movement feels slippery. Jumping is too twitchy. The movement does not feel as though every step you take has a consequence. I also didn’t get to see much implementation of DMM, or Euphoria that matter. I think maybe the glass and some very low detail trees (the breaking points were clearly five points in a pentagon) whose breakage resulted in the decapitation of the entire trunk. I didn’t really ever see anybody struggling to regain balance once I threw them into the air. It appeared that the game treated the actor as a ragdoll once I threw them.Engines aside, the simple premise of the game is flawed. I played on medium difficulty but found it incredibly frustrating. Starkiller, the protagonist/anti-hero, is supposed to be damn nearly done with his Sith training. The guy’s powerful enough to pluck a Star Destroyer from the sky and drag it crashing down into the planet’s surface. Why then do I not feel like an ultimate badass? There are all sorts of enemies that just don’t make sense.For example, those goddamned purge troopers. Those overgrown stormtroopers are absurdly hard to defeat. Lightsaber slashing doesn’t do much, if any damage. Getting in close will quickly result in you getting your ass handed to you: the green giant will pick you up and promptly crush you. His rockets do a crazy amount of damage and knock you off your feet, leaving you vulnerable to an endless cycle that ends in death by rocket buffet. The only way I can really consistently take them down is to use Force Lightning on them. Either that or find some big rock to hurl at them. The damnedest thing is that it’s hard to aim, and I’ll get to that later.

Then there are other enemies who are invulnerable to your Force powers. Talk about a cheap way to ratchet up the difficulty. I am aware that there are devices and species in the Star Wars universe thatareimmune to any form of the Force, but c’mon now. Besides these enemies there are the ones that are just so damned good at sword fighting. Somehow, this powerful Sith can’t even land a blow on some poor tribal bastard. Are you kidding me? Years of Darth Vader breathing down my neck, a robot named Proxy who tries constantly to take my life at the most inopportune times (he would argue that they are actually the most advantageous moments); the angst of being the slave to the man who killed my father, all of the power of the Dark Side. All of this, and I can’t land a blow on some skinny blue monster? Let’s get serious.

Blaster bolts are as common as flies. They’re always going to be shooting. And so you would think that LucasArts could work on the deflection animation. It’s a terribly cheap cop out. All Starkiller does is swing his lightsaber around in a circular motion.

Now let’s get to the Force powers. They’re pretty cool. But more often than not, they won’t work the way I expect. Force Push seems to just pass through certain people. If I send out a wave of Force energy, you would think that it would affect anything in its path. That’s certainly not the case. It has to be precisely aimed.

The same goes for Force Grip. Aside from the fact that enemies you pick up will start spinning around in the air and generally looking like a bunch of jackasses, you’re going to be spending a lot of time trying to pick stuff up to hurl at people. Unfortunately, you’re at the mercy of the aiming system. The stupidest thing is that Starkiller has to be facing the object he wants to pick up. If he doesn’t have line of sight to it, he can’t pick it up. I guess that can kind of make sense, but really, for a master Sith, that’s pretty lame. Not only that, but the whole aiming system is out of whack. I’m not even going to bother describing it. Basically, it’s an exercise in frustration.

Speaking of frustration, that is precisely what LucasArts thinks makes a game challenging. They throw enemies at you that you can’t touch with the Force, they shoot things at you that knock you off your feet, and they make enemies so damn untouchable. That’s what makes it challenging: not being able to kill the enemies because they’re artificially buffed up. It’s not creative in the least.

Starkiller is supposed to be a walking ass-kicking machine. It doesn’t really feel that way most of the time. The only time I have fun with the game is when it’s against smaller enemies like stormtroopers.

In the end, I think that if the Force did exist, I’d discover my Dark Side powers after playing this fucking game. The entire game is an exercise in frustration, with your sanity at the behest of the finicky aiming system. As usual, there is great potential in this game, but it was squandered by poor and very rudimentary game design. I sure hope the Indiana Jones game is going to be better than this.