Force Unleashed Demo Impressions - 27/08/2008

The Force Unleashed has a lot to make up for given the near dreadful quality of almost all Star Wars console games that have come before it (Lego Star Wars being one of the exceptions). With the demo bursting onto Xbox Live and PSN all fans have a chance to experience a small part of its world but will it deliver?

The demo rakes in at 20-30 minutes, depending how long you take getting through each section. The opening cutscene is sufficiently cinematic and will get players into the mood. In it The Apprentice is knighted as a Sith by Lord Vader and sent on his first mission to deal with Jedi General Kota at a Tie-Fighter facility that he and his troops have overrun. With the pretence of remaining undiscovered the player is let loose to destroy everyone around him, even the Imperial troops. Graphically the game is quite impressive but possibly not the best it could be. However the staple of the game, the force powers, are extremely fun to manipulate and also very powerful (extra power having been unlocked for the demo). It is extremely satisfying destroying the corridors of the factory and leaving a mass of destruction in your wake.

Your powers range from force grab, which will let you pick up and hurl scenery and enemies, force push, which can break down doors to allow access and push enemies out of the way, and force lightning (enough said). The game's physics are impressive as metal distorts realistically when the force is applied. Also, the AI seems to be as intuitive as was said. Every time you force lift one off the floor they immediately look for a hold to stop themselves. There were only really two types of enemy in the demo, imperial Storm Troopers and Rebel Guards, which was slightly disappointing as it brings visions to mind of trouncing through level after level killing the same enemies over and over in the final game.

The force powers are awesome, though a little overpowered for the enemies in the demo!

Of course the force powers aren’t all, what's a Sith Lord without his trusted Lightsaber. The Apprentice wields his weapon in an unorthodox way, gripping the hilt in a way that the sabre is behind him rather that the usual upward facing. Using this style the player will be able to perform numerous combos on his opponents. These sabre combos can be interspersed with force powers to add variety and power. For example throwing an enemy into the air with force grab and then jumping after them using a Lightsaber combo to finish them off. Or one of my personal favourites, using force lightning to charge your Lightsaber and then attacking and destroying your opponent.

At the end of your playthrough you will come across the "boss character" for the demo, and no it isn’t a Jedi so don’t get excited. It’s an AT-ST, for those that don’t know, one of the two legged machines that Chewbacca commandeers on Endor in Return of The Jedi. Although conventional attacks seem to do some damage to this enemy, if you walk up to it a button prompt will lead you to a bemani mini game. This will put buttons on the screen that you must press at the right time and watch the apprentice turn the AT-ST into scrap metal, all too easy. This fight is anti-climatic as it just seems too easy to destroy this huge machine that dwarfs your character, and anything anti-climatic has no place in Star Wars…

Hurling enemies around has never felt so realistic!

Other things that need attention are the collision detection. Mostly it's fine, however there were times when I could just walk straight through a door, I mean I know I'm an all powerful Sith, but come on! Although this may seem a trivial issue it ruins the flow of the game and the player becomes less immersed as a result, which overall ruins the complete experience of the game.

Despite these problems, and the fact that the game seems a bit unbalanced as you are too powerful (I assume that’s just for the demo), dare I say, Force Unleashed is shaping up to be the best Star Wars console game ever made (lets hope this doesn’t come back to haunt me!), as long as they iron out all the kinks before release.

- Alex Goodenough