Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, DS - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
Let's get this straight right now. If you're not a Star Wars fan, don't buy The Force Unleashed. This is not the game you're looking for. Move along. If you buy it because you sort of like Star Wars and you fancy a solid action game, you're only going to end up bitching about the shoddy AI and uninspired level design or get frustrated with some of the shockingly irritating action sequences on offer. If, however, you are a Star Wars fan then you'll find yourself glossing over some of these points for one simple reason: this isn't just the best Star Wars action game since Jedi Knight II, it's a great Star Wars experience, full stop.
We covered a lot of the basics in the preview, but to sum up, you play Darth Vader's secret apprentice as he carries on his master's evil work of mopping up the remnants of the Jedi following the events of Revenge of the Sith. The apprentice, it appears, is unusually strong in the ways of the force, and this is what brings meaning to the title. We've seen games where force powers are a part of the action, but here they're the central focus. Using different combinations of the face buttons, bumpers and triggers on the 360 pad, the apprentice can grip and hurl objects or people around, blast barriers apart with huge waves of force energy, electrocute foes with force lightning and generally pull off the sort of high-leaping, laser-deflecting, lightsabre-throwing antics we saw in the prequel movies.
The Force Unleashed is all about taking these powers, learning how to use them then letting them rip. Because Lucasarts has chosen to cater down for the widest possible audience a little hack and slash action with your lightsabre still goes a long way, but the real excitement comes when you play smarter, exploring how your powers can be wielded to wreck the people and environment around you.
And the game positively encourages you to do exactly that. As Vader's secret apprentice you're a kind of loose cannon; your one responsibility is to your master, and when he says 'leave no witnesses' that makes everyone and everything fair game. Whether pre-alliance rebel forces, scavenging Rodians and Jawas or stormtroopers and Imperials of all shapes and sizes, Darth has basically handed you a license to slaughter and destroy. Vader's no bean counter. If his plans require the wrecking of an imperial shipyard or the elimination of multiple tie fighters, so be it. Every environment becomes your plaything.