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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition

Every Christmas, I usually wind up getting at least one or two "double gifts." You know, when two people wind up giving you the exact same thing. This year, though, I wound up with a rare triple, all of them being The Force Unleashed. My brother and brother-in-law both gave me a copy for our new Wii, and my parents gave me the Ultimate Sith Edition for the PC. After doing some limited research and after a little bit of thought, I returned the two Wii copies and kept the PC edition.

At the time, I thought I was making the right decision because the PC edition contained three extra levels the Wii wouldn't have. Now that I've played through the original story and the extra levels, I realize that I probably made a mistake.

So let's break it down. Story first. The story of The Force Unleashed is set in the "missing years" between the two trilogies. It turns out that Darth Vader has taken an apprentice a little early, keeping him secret from the Emperor. He sends out his apprentice to mop up some Jedi stragglers who somehow survived Order 66. But then everything goes downhill as the Emperor learns of the apprentice's existence. Now Darth Vader sends out his apprentice on a new mission, one that will ... well, I'm not sure how to explain it without giving away some massive spoilers.

Anyway, in terms of story, the game was okay, I guess. It did raise my eyebrows once or twice when I realized what the implications of the story would be for the larger Star Wars story. As for the story of the extra levels, one is a tacked-on something or other about the apprentice raiding the ruins of the Jedi temple on Coruscant to learn more about his father. The other two promised to be more interesting: a retelling of two episodes from the original trilogy with a slight counterfactual twist. What would have happened if the Dark Side ending of the game was canonical? What if the Apprentice was the one on Tatooine and Hoth in Episodes IV and V?

As intriguing as "A Fragile Hope" and "Wrath of the Empire" (the names of said expansions) were on paper, the stories of both were so-so. They were what they were and that's about it. So in terms of story, the Ultimate Sith Edition fell kind of flat.

On to gameplay, and this is where the game really suffered. Part of it was issues with my computer. I had thought that my rig could handle the game and, for the most part, it did. But there were sections of the game where the framerate crawled along painfully, especially in wide-open spaces or areas where there was a lot of background activity. So, for example, Darth Vader raiding the Wookie village on Kashyyyk was particularly slow. I also experienced a few glitches with my sound card that struck at inopportune times.

But I still noticed graphical and sound glitches throughout the game that I'm pretty sure weren't the fault of my computer. There were a few times where the dialogue volume dropped so much that the music and ambient noises overwhelmed them. This happened so often I finally had to turn on subtitles just so I could know what was being said.

There were also weird graphics issues every now and then as well. For example, when I was playing the Hoth level in the final boss battle, the Apprentice's armor disappeared on one arm. Or, to put it more specifically, his arm disappeared but his glove did not, so it looked like he was wearing some sort of stealth suit. It was funny, but kind of annoying.

Weird glitches aside, I was a bit frustrated with gameplay overall because this was obviously a console import, and a bad one at that. It seemed pretty clear to me that the developers didn't put a lot of effort translating the game from the other consoles to PC. There were times I was struck by how lazy some of the changes were, especially when there wasn't a lot of explanation for what I was supposed to be doing. For example, when you're in a boss battle with another Force user, the game will prompt you how to counter certain moves. For the most part, what the game prompted me to do made sense. But there was one, some sort of spinning wheel that had something to do with Force lightning, that I couldn't figure out for the life of me and the game never helped.

But what really soured me on this game was what should have been the coolest sequence: ripping a Star Destroyer out of orbit.

I don't consider this to be a spoiler since they hinted at this part of the game in the original trailers. I was looking forward to this sequence when I first started playing but when I was in the middle of it, I was so angry I almost stopped playing the game entirely.

Simply put, this was ridiculously overcomplicated. You have to deal with a flight of TIE Fighters. Then you have to maneuver the Star Destroyer into a very specific position before you can pull the thing down.

On paper, it sounds like an easy task, but even on the "apprentice" difficulty (the easiest; yes, I know, I'm a wimp), it took me over an hour to do this. First of all, there's all sorts of garbage floating through the area that theoretically could have been used to take down the TIEs, but proved almost impossible to utilize in that way. Targeting the TIEs themselves proved to be ridiculously tricky because you had to be able to face just the right way to catch them or hit them, something that was difficult to pull off because of the way the camera locked itself for the sequence. While you deal with the TIEs, the Star Destroyer moves out of alignment, meaning you have to struggle to get it back into the correct position, by which time the next wave would catch up to you.

I suffered through multiple attempts before I finally managed to rip the stupid ship down, but by the time I was done, I was so angry and frustrated, I shut off the game and didn't come back to it for two days. I doubt that's what a game developer would want. Shouldn't I have been jazzed and ready for more after doing something like that?

Besides, there's a problem of logic with this sequence. Why do I have to carefully position the Star Destroyer first? It's not like I'm trying to guide it in for a soft landing. I want the thing to crash and crash hard. So why not just have me pull the sucker down any which way?

Okay, now that I've got that off my chest...

The upshot is that in the end, I was foolish to trade in the Wii versions. The extra levels didn't add that much to the overall gaming experience. The weird issues I had with the game on my PC probably wouldn't have been present on the Wii. And with the Wii, I would have had the option of lightsaber duels.

I guess my final opinion, for anyone who stuck around long enough to read it, is that if you're facing a similar choice as I did, go for the Wii and skip the PC version. Just not worth it.

1 comment:

Richard said...

the Wii version is shite. Where this game really shines is on PS3 or the 360. where the Wii version suffers is the crappy graphics and the less than stellar control scheme. The other console's schemes seemed more fluid.