Mac Port: Aspyr
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5.8 (Leopard) or Mac OS X v10.6.2 (Snow Leopard), Intel Core 2 Duo (Dual-Core) 2.4GHz, 2GB RAM, 25GB + 1GB Swap File, ATI Radeon HD2600 or NVidia Geforce 8600 video card, 256MB RAM, mouse
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13” Macbook Pro, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Intel only
Availability: Out now
The problem with the Jedi is that they’re hypocrites. They kill, they’re trained to kill, they carry quite possibly the greatest hand-to-hand weapon ever imagined, but we collectively pretend they’re really pacifists who kill thousands of Stormtroopers in defense. And they say they feel kinda bad about it (when asked).
The Force Unleashed gets around this rather neatly by making you a Sith apprentice. Specifically, you’re Darth Vader’s apprentice, being trained by him to assassinate the Emperor. So “moral conflict” doesn’t enter into the training manual much.
Force Unleashed is at its best when it’s engaged in wall-to-wall mayhem, and there’s a lot of that. Sent to assassinate three Jedi as part of your graduation, you run through an amazingly rendered world, killing everyone (and I mean everyone) you come in contact with. No one is spared as you cackle with glee, using your lightsaber and Force powers to kill, kill, kill. The game has no upgrade mechanic beyond learning and improving new Force and lightsaber attacks, which feels about right—once you learn how to kill by shooting lighting from your hands, why would you want a blaster? And while there are hidden Jedi/Sith Holocrons (glowing boxes) to help you upgrade your skills, there are no health packs—you heal yourself by killing. Seriously. Any time you kill anything, you get health back based on how tough it was. Astonishing, sick, and I loved it.
Most of Force Unleashed is you vs. the world. You start the level, fight your way past what seems like thousands of enemies, throwing them against walls, off walkways, into each other, frying them with lighting, and slicing them in two, until you come to the boss fight.
Which is exactly when the game stops being fun.
Force Unleashed uses, for the most part, a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective. But when you come to fight the bosses, the camera pulls back, and you’re running around the arena (all the boss fights take place in an arena-like setting), trying to control the direction you’re facing using the WASD keys. It’s incredibly frustrating because most of your attacks take place directly in front of you—directly. If you’re off by even a little bit, you miss against an enemy more powerful than you.
This in and of itself would be frustrating, and the fact that the game is buggy as all get out doesn’t help much. There were multiple crashes (which makes the game’s long load time even less fun) as well as two separate times when I was forced to restart the game because either my character or a boss I was fighting flew off the screen and got trapped there without dying.
And now let us speak of the Star Destroyer.
In the game, you use the Force to cause a Star Destroyer to crash into a planet. Does that sound like the most badass thing you’ve ever heard of? Of course it does, especially when I tell you you’ll fight off a sortie of TIE fighters before you do it. The game features several such “cinematic kills,” usually when finishing off a boss or big enemy like a Rancor or AT-ST. Rather than just hack them down, you close in for the kill and hit the keys you’re told to hit to be given a thrilling final fight where you leap, stab, and use combo attacks to end the battle. These interactive cut scenes are thrilling and fun.
Video taken from the PC edition.
Except for the Star Destroyer, where you have to sloooooooowly drag the ship into the right position and drag it down before the next sortie of TIEs show up. You are, apparently, expected to do this four or five times, which would be absurdly frustrating in and of itself, but the sloppy port of the game from the console to the mouse-and-keyboard makes it even worse, because you drag it down by pulling the mouse down. Over and over again. And did I mention you have to hold down the right mouse button while doing this? Let go of the mouse, and you break your Force grip, and have to start over again. After my sixth try, I stopped playing as I was feeling enough rage building inside of me that I was in danger of giving into the Dark Side and throwing my Macbook Pro across the room.
Force Unleashed is such a ridiculously unbalanced game, lurching from the fun of one-against-many combat to the agony of boss battles and game glitches, which apparently were present in the first release of the game and have never been fixed. It’s a total curate’s egg, with the rotten parts creeping into everything that’s good.