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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

As the developers show us a later level, with the apprentice hunting one of the last of the Jedi as he attacks an imperial shipyard, there's even more evidence of this. The team made it one of their design tenets that no buttons would have to be pressed or keys discovered to open a door. Instead, you can blast them open with your force push or use your powers to hurl great chunks of machinery at the barrier, denting it, bending it and finally hammering it open. As the apprentice tosses would-be rebels and interfering stormtroopers around with abandon, glass is shattered, metal twisted and volatile crates explode. You almost feel sorry for them as they're scattered like nine-pins by a bowling ball. At one point, a poor imperial thoughtlessly grabs a friend as he's levitated from the surface of a catwalk. It doesn't help; both are doomed as they're hurled into the chasm below. Apparently, even the developers can't predict what these guys will do in any given situation, and that's part of what makes The Force Unleashed so exciting. No two players will go through a level doing exactly the same thing, and while the game has been designed so that the least skilled casual gamer can make it through using just a light sabre if they wish, the more imagination you put into using your force powers, the more you'll get out.

One of the key things here is that the basic tools - the force push, force grip, force lightning, the light sabre - can be combined in a whole range of cool organic ways. Grab a foe with force grip, then use the push to send him cannoning into a tree. Or why not electrify your trust blade with lightning, then use it to cause additional damage. Towards the end of the demonstration we saw a battle with an evil looking rancor, but as force push, the light sabre and lightning were combined, you couldn't help feeling a hint of pity for the poor dumb beast.

All this stuff is great, but what promises to make Star Wars: The Force Unleashed special is the cinematic style and epic sweep of its storytelling. The LucasArts games studio and the LucasFilm film studios are working far closer in tandem these days, and you can see this in the new facial capture and performance capture systems used in the game. Set in the dark years between Episodes III and IV, The Force Unleashed is a dark, dramatic tale, and the cut-scenes and dialogue seem perfectly capable of pushing that story forward. I can't and won't tell you all I saw and experienced of the game, but it speaks volumes that LucasArts doesn't see this as just another game. The Force Unleashed is an event, and it's going to be supported by its own line of graphic novels, tabletop role-playing games and toys.

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