Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Next-Gen Preview - 31/08/2007

Let’s face it, good Star Wars games on consoles have been few and far between. The best of the bunch being Battlefront 2, the Rogue Squadron and (some of the) Starfighter series and does anybody remember Jedi Power Battles on the PS1? Recently, as far as actually feeling like you are a Jedi, we’ve had the dismal Revenge of the Sith movie tie in.

The closest we have gotten to ‘feeling the force flowing through us’ has been the hero options in Battlefront 2. No, the Jedi experience has unfortunately been restrained to the PC with the likes of the great Knights of the Old Republic (which also appeared on the Xbox) and the Jedi Knight series.

Surely, with all the extra power in the Next Gen consoles we should finally get a game that rivals KOTOR, and even beats it? Well all I can say is it’s shaping up very nicely indeed.

First let’s get all the technical jargon out of the way. With this new instalment in the Star Wars saga, LucasArts has teamed up with Industrial Light & Magic, Pixelux Entertainment and NaturalMotion. The result of this co-operation is that Force Unleashed will sport the Digital Molecular Matter system (DMM), an extremely enhanced and detailed physics engine created by Pixelux, as well as the Euphoria system, a realistic Bio-Mechanical A.I engine produced by NaturalMotion.

I’m sure this is all gibberish to most of you out there so let me explain. With the DMM engine every piece of scenery in every single level will behave realistically. Wood splinters as it would in real life (this was displayed in a tech demo), metal bends as it would when something hits it hard and all the trees sway in the wind as they would in real life. All this provides realism to the game giving it a more next generation feel than most other titles around. Expect truly destructible scenery where everything you see can be destroyed/broken/uprooted and used to your advantage. Sound good? Thought so.

Now for the Euphoria engine. Euphoria is basically a new A.I system. It adds realism to all the Non Playable Characters (NPCs). Meaning, if you fling a Storm Trooper using force push at a plank of wood, over a huge drop, he will attempt to grab hold of it and save himself. Subsequently if you throw another one in the same direction but he falls short of the plank he will attempt to grab on to the first one’s legs (this was also shown in a tech demo). Basically with Euphoria, A.I pre-scripted movements are a thing of the past. Now what does this mean for the gameplay? Basically you could redo a level fifty times and not once will the A.I behave in the same way or even appear in the same places. They will also be intelligent when in battle and take cover/charge/fire when the best opportunity presents itself. This will make far more challenging enemies and will rank up the replay value as a level will never play the same way twice.

With these two new engines in the game we can expect an experience truly worthy of the next-gen tag and the most ‘realistic’ and faithful Star Wars game to date. Well enough about the technical side of the game, lets go on to the story.

At the time of writing the plot is still shrouded in mystery as not much has been revealed about it, but what is known is that the game is set between Episodes III and IV (Revenge of the Sith & A New Hope) and you play as Darth Vader’s apprentice. The task the Sith Lord has assigned you is to aid him in cleansing the galaxy of all Jedi. The twist? The only person who knows you exist is Darth Vader himself which leads to him ordering you to leave no witnesses meaning that everyone is your enemy, Jedi, the Alliance To Restore The Republic (Rebel Alliance) and Imperial Forces alike.

From the go you have all the Force powers you’d expect of a Sith apprentice including Force lightning, choke, push and pull. Throughout the game you will upgrade your powers from adept to legendary levels, RPG style, so that you become stronger in wielding the force as well as your Lightsaber (strong enough to bring a Star Destroyer crashing to earth as seen in the game trailer). The game will have many alternate endings, decided by what choices the player makes along the way, and it is said the game focuses a lot on ‘redemption’.

It has also been said that by the end of the game you will have a much deeper understanding of Lord Vader and how the events in the game affect his behaviour in the original trilogy as the game delves deep into his character and psyche. Also mentioned is how Vader now realises that Lord Sidious tricked him into turning to the Darkside but believes that he cannot go back. The only thing to do is to get rid of Lord Sidious. How? With the help of his apprentice of course! Devout fans of the Saga might link this to Vader’s attempt to win Luke over in the Empire Strikes Back saying that they could defeat Sidious together and rule the Galaxy. You can see how Lucas is tying the story of the game with the movies which should provide a great experience for all fans of the Star Wars universe.

As far as which movie characters will make an appearance in the game, many are expected but few have been confirmed. Being Darth Vader’s apprentice centres the story around the Sith Lord and so you can definitely expect an appearance by old helmet head. There will also be levels set on the Wookie’s home planet of Kashyyk, so you can probably expect an appearance by Chewbacca. Also confirmed for an appearance is the Jedi Shaak Ti as your main Jedi enemy (a confirmed game boss is her in control of a couple of Rancors – the beast owned by Jabba the Hutt that Luke kills in Episode VI ).

Further characters to possibly appear in the game are the likes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Leia Organa and Jabba The Hutt.

Locations that will appear will be the aforementioned Wookie home planet of Kashyyk, Felucia which is the flower laden planet where the Jedi Ayala Secura is killed in Episode III (for you fans of the saga), and other highly possible planets being Tatooine (Ankain Skywalker’s home planet), Yavin 4 (the planet that housed the rebel alliance base in A New Hope), Coruscant (the bustling planet where the senate and Jedi temple were located) , Bespin (the cloud city from Episode V), Alderaan (senator Bail Organa - Leia’s adopted father’s - home planet) and a few others. Although unconfirmed, some of these planets have been used in tech demos, trailers and concept art images and so will probably appear in the finished game.

So, with all the innovations, the next-gen hardware and new game engines as well as the great Star Wars universe and story line to build on, this game should be absolutely amazing, giving console gamers their first great Jedi, or should I say Sith, adventure and hopefully will challenge KOTOR for the crown of best ever Star Wars game.

‘The force will be with us’ in spring 2008 on PS3 and Xbox 360, with versions for PS2, PSP and the DS also planned.

Keep to TGSN for the full review once the game is out.

- Alex Goodenough



PS3 - 360 - Multi