This weekend, I got the new Star Wars: The Force Unleashed game for the Wii for my birthday. Gotta say, this is a pretty cool game that for me lives up to the summer’s worth of hype that led up to it.
The basic story premise is this: Between the third and forth Star Wars movies — Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope — Darth Vader finds a child who is strong in the Force, makes him a secret apprentice, and trains him as an adult to be a powerful spy/assassin. This character, Starkiller, is able to wield the Force with an intensity that we’ve never seen before in the movies, and you basically spend the game kicking the crap out of everything that moves. Very simple. Very satisfying. Like how it felt to play the first 3D “Doom” game … but moreso.
I can’t speak for how this games plays on the 360 or PS3 or any of the other consoles, but on the Wii, this is a really fun game to play, because of the controllers. You use both the remote and the nunchuk to execute a wide variety of attack and movement actions that are mostly intuitive. Need to swing your light saber? Then just swing the remote. Want to use the Force to push everything and everybody in front of you out of the way? Then just thrust forward with both the remote and the nunchuk in a shoving motion. Hold down a button on both the remote and the nunchuk, thrust your hands toward the floor, and you’ll create a shockwave that pushes away everybody in your immediate vicinity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say that after a weekend of playing this, my shoulders were actually a bit sore from exhaustion — in a good way. It’s nice to see that Wii Sports isn’t the only game for this console that’s capable of giving me some much-needed exercise.
As for the “plot” of the game, I’m guessing there are some people out there who will get bored. Because so far, it seems to be a very linear, first-person, one level after another, beat the Big Boss dynamic. The most decision making you do is deciding what exactly to spend your Force points on — boosts for your current Force powers or new powers that you don’t have yet … and modifications to your light saber. Beyond this, there is no “tree” of plot choices, and the environment doesn’t really let you wander off the basic path. And as I say, for some, that will make the game boring. But at this point, I kind of like the simplicity of it. Just drop me into a level, and tell me whose/what’s ass to kick next — Rebel soldiers, Empire soldiers, and droids alike. Maybe in the next version of the game, they’ll combine this cool first-person combat system with the open-ended architecture of something like “Knights of the Old Republic” on the Xbox. But for now, I think this game lives up to its own premise just fine.
On a side note, as I was playing, I kept looking at the main character (Starkiller) and thinking that he reminded me of an actor who I couldn’t quite place. (By the way, it’s a huge testament to the game’s graphics that I could even think this.) Anyway, I put it out of my mind, and at one point yesterday, an hour after playing Force Unleashed, I decided to watch last Thursday’s episode of Smallville, in which we’re introduced to a character named Davis (who we’ve already been told by the writers will go on to become Doomsday). The character is played by actor Sam Witwer, who also played “Crashdown” a few seasons ago on Battlestar Galactica, as well as a recurring character in the first season of Dexter. Anyway, long story less long, the actor who voices “Starkiller” and gives him his likeness is Sam Witwer. And while I’d love to say I figured this out as soon as I saw him on Smallville, I didn’t actually make the connection until some friends of mine told me this morning. Because I’m 41 and my brain is apparently drying up a little more each day.
On another side note, my father-in-law happens to be a big fan of the “Star Wars” series of books. He recently read the fiction adaptation of the video game, and said it was a pretty good book. It apparently feeds nicely into A New Hope, and retcons some of the details you see in that movie, including the title itself.
Now if you’ll please excuse me, I have to go throw some Stormtroopers around …