Along with the cartoony yet curiously compelling Clone Wars and the innovative Fracture that is hovering at the very edge of my interest, LucasArts presented one more game at E3 2008, and this one is truly going to be epic. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a game I have been secretly drooling over since it was first announced, from both a technical perspective as well as the story standpoint. Sure, die hard Star Wars fans complain about continuity, but what else is Vader going to do during the gap between movies? Kick back and eat some Hot Pockets? Sure, but that only takes like five to ten minutes.
Between the LucasArts presentation of the game and my brief hands-on, I walked away feeling confident that this could not only be one of the most exciting Star Wars video games of all time, it could very well provide moments more epic than anything we saw in the three prequel films.
One particular moment had me believing in the Star Wars franchise all over again. The story opens with Vader hunting down a surviving Jedi hiding out on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk. He finds the cowering Jedi, but as he prepares to strike him down his lightsaber flies out of his hand, into the hands of a small child. There is a moment right then...Vader looming over this small boy, defiantly holding a weapon against one of the most powerful beings in the universe...it gave me chills. Nice chills.
From then on the story revolves around this secret apprentice, whose powers can only grow. He walks into a room filled with Rebels and Imperials, and everybody dies. He's a secret, you see? You see him, you've pretty much signed your death warrant. His is, for all intents and purposes, a Force ninja.
Despite the recent spoiler-filled trailer, there will still be plenty of surprises in The Force Unleashed for fans of the Star Wars films, from returning characters from the prequels to all-new characters never seen before in the Star Wars universe. During a brief bit of game involving a fight with a massive rancor a dark-haired male character flashed by the screen, and the gentleman presenting the game quickly blurt out "Who's that!?" before telling us we'd have to play the game to find out. I have my suspicions though.
As for the gameplay itself? While I didn't get to try out the Wii version with it's lightsaber controls, I did spend a bit of time with the Xbox 360 version in which our hero (anti-hero? villain?) wanders into a fight between Rebel and Imperial forces in a Tie Fighter factory, and carnage ensued. Force powers tossed enemies about like rag dolls as they desperately tried to save themselves from my wrath. While I longed for some of the powers I had been shown during the presentation, the potential was certainly there. The only problem I really had was overconfidence - I felt like such a bad ass that I wound up dying horribly. Should probably have channeled all of that confidence into hate or something. Whoops.
The graphics are nice and clean, but of course the physics are the real star here. The Digital Molecular Matter technology really shines in conjunction with NaturalMotion's Euphoria and Havok physics. I notice a few issues, such as trees that seem to break as if they were planks of wood instead of living plants, but for the most part it does the job quite nicely.
While LucasArts' Fracture gives you control over the forces of nature, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed makes *you* the force of nature. It could very well surpass Republic Commando as my favorite Star Wars game of all time, and it's really hard to top Sev and crew.