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    Preview - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
    Friday, 22 August 2008
    Star Wars games have been very much a hit and miss affair of late. But with a new title in the franchise comes a New Hope. We look at the latest Star Wars spin off where the force is well and truly unleashed.

    Games based on licenses are usually rushed jobs in order to fit in with the movie or DVD release of the said franchise. However there is certainly a good amount of sense in letting a game have a usual development cycle and releasing it as and when it is ready. Star Wars Force Unleashed is one such example. It could have been rushed out to hit this summer to tie in with Star Wars Clone Wars but instead it will hit worldwide in mid-September.

    The demo of this game recently hit on Playstation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace and gives gamers the chance to let rip. Players take the role of Starkiller (interestingly the original name of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film) fresh from his advertising orientated cameo in Soul Calibur IV, who is also the secret apprentice of Sith Lord Darth Vader. The game takes place between Episodes III and IV and follows the story of Starkiller as he aides Darth Vader in eradicating all the remaining Jedi, whilst remaining unknown to the tyrannic Emperor.

    The game is a third person action game, a genre explored before by Lucasarts but very rarely one they have succeeded in. Force Unleashed seems about to change all of that. First lets discuss what really matters to everyone; the lightsaber play. Force Unleashed takes a style that has become typical to the genre since God of War was released. With a simple move set that can be used by the more casual gamer and still be enjoyable on the easier difficulty settings as well as having enough depth to create a wealth of combos for the more seasoned gamer. Each of the lightsaber moves can also be used in combination with a mixture of jumps and force powers. In the demo only Push, Grip and Lightning are made available, however the trailer at the end of the 15 minutes of gameplay reveal many more powers. One that is certain about this Starkiller is a Sith at the peak of his use of the Force and whoever is stupid enough to stand in your way is in for a beating. Both Lightsaber and Force mechanics work well alone and in tandem and there is immense satisfaction to be had in the use of both.

    The demo level takes place on board an Imperial Shipyard. This environment provides a surprising wealth of locations and ways in which to use the Force mechanics. There is little better experience than flinging around Stormtroopers or even better realising the Force Push can be charged and send hangar doors flying open rather than just the edging it open with a quick press. The demo ends with a great boss battle (that we won't wreck for you) which helps show the depth of the combat system as well as reveals some Quick Time Events thrown in for good measure. As long as the game keeps up this variety of play and does not rely on the same environmental gimmicks but instead throws up new ones, it will prove to an entertaining action adventure romp. Finally lets give the graphics a quick mention, they look as really good with the bigger areas in the ship yard looking fantastic, this game will not disappoint when it comes to looks.

    Star Wars Force Unleashed is released 16th September in North America, 17th September in Asia and the Pacific with Europe seeing the game hit its shore on 19th September. Be sure to check back for our full review of the game upon its release.

    Daft's Opinion:

    I was looking forward to this and I was disappointed. For starters the character model of Starkiller is pretty dire compared to his appearance in Soul Calibur IV. Yes, it is a pretty minor gripe and is only really noticeable in the opening cutscene of the demo but it's a bit strange that Namco have a better looking character model considering he is the central character in Unleashed.

    Next up, the controls. Altogether they are solid and accessible but I felt slightly disjointed with the Force. Aiming objects with force grip tends to rely fairly heavily on auto-targeting, which itself isn't great, meaning throwing things isn't always as useful as you want it to be.

    Finally, the fighting. Why exactly a sith, who throws TIE fighters about like matchsticks and can levitate in mid-air while charging up a force push with the view of quite literally wiping the floor with a squad of stormtroopers, is unable to move while blocking is beyond me. Similarly when swinging your lightsaber you are pretty much rooted to the spot which, in my humble opinion, leads to some stuttered fighting. Also the sudden occurrence of a quick time event, and I'm usually a fan of these, when facing off against the AT-ST wasn't particularly welcome since it's appearance seemed slightly random, but that could just be my unfamiliarity with the game.

    However, some of these issues are probably symptomatic of the fact that this is a demo. Force powers get leveled up, hopefully improving their effect and efficiency. The level on offer was relatively barren, especially when held up against the other levels seen in Unleashed, but the interactivity shown in it was promising. The demo never manages to reach a high, it seems to stutter along. With all this in mind I still think The Force Unleashed has a lot of promise – I'm just hoping the demo is only hinting at what we can expect from the full game.

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