by Chris Scott
previewed on PS3
A Long Time Ago
Star Wars games are a mixed bag. There are the great ones, like Tie Fighter and Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and then there are the mediocre ones like Masters of Teras Kasi. Regardless of quality though, each new game bearing the Star Wars brand is sure to sell like lemonade on a hot day. It is nice to see that developer LucasArts not only has the ever loyal Star Wars fans excited about this new game, The Force Unleashed, but also non Star Wars gamers.
The Force Unleashed will take place a short time after the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and will directly involve the secret apprentice of Darth Vader. Lord Vader has begun to train this would-be Sith in the mysterious ways of the Force, especially the Dark Side. The player will play as the apprentice and will hunt down and eliminate the remaining Jedi in the universe on Lord Vader’s orders. This will take the Star Wars series in a dark, yet interesting new direction.
Invoking the Master
The production team did not want to just create another addition in the vast library of Star Wars games but rather create the next official chapter in Star Wars universe. To accomplish this feat the designers had to work closely with Star Wars creator, George Lucas. Say what you will about George Lucas’s directing ability but the man is a gifted storyteller. The fact that he was closely involved with the story aspects of The Force Unleashed is a very good sign that at least that part of this game will be top notch.
Of course Lucas isn’t just a great storyteller, he is also an innovator in the area of special effects and The Force Unleashed is actually being developed using the same tool set that the premier special effects house, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), used for the films. LucasArts collaboration with ILM resulted in the adoption of a few new technologies which are going to feature heavily in the game.
Digital Molecular Matter will simulate realistic properties of real world objects, all the way down to the molecular level. Meaning that pushing a Jedi into the side of a building will result in the most realistic effects to both the building and Jedi. The other technology is the physics engine, “Euphoria”. Its purpose is to allow characters and objects to effectively react to their natural surroundings. Say you slice through a support beam, making the platform above crumble down on your enemy. Your enemy will realistically attempt to save himself, either by trying to dodge the falling platform or by trying to shield himself from the impact. If both these technologies deliver on their potential, The Force Unleashed could prove to have some of the most realistic AI and level effects in any game to date.
Welcome to the Dark Side
Of course all this cool tech in the world won’t mean anything unless LucasArts can deliver on the gameplay front. Fortunately things are looking promising and it seems the team is really taking The Force Unleashed to heart. The game is designed for you to really take advantage of the Force powers and let loose. The team is promising very satisfying payoffs for using the Force in creative ways. Being as previous Star Wars games handicapped your use of the Force, this un-cuffed approach is like a Star Wars fanboy’s wet dream.
Of course using the Force does make you a little tired and eventually you may tax yourself out of Force “power”. If this happens you always have a Sith’s best friend, your lightsaber. Lightsaber combat has rarely been done effectively in games but it seems LucasArts at least has the basics down and the speed and power of your attacks will coincide with the speed of your button presses. You can unleash a flurry of attacks with some quick button presses or put some power behind your thrust by slowing it down a bit.
Despite being originally scheduled for release in just over a month LucasArts has decided to delay the release and fine tune some pieces of the game. They rescheduled the release date to the end of the summer. However between the involvement of ILM and George Lucas to the new innovative technologies that are the talk of the gaming community there are a lot of things going for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I’ll be impatiently waiting for the release of what could be one of the best Star Wars games in this galaxy in a long, long time.