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The Force unrealised
on 21 September 2008
At first, it's impossible not to like this game. The hype has been overwhelming and the prospect of playing as Darth Vadar before stepping into the shoes of his secret apprentice is a thrilling thing for even a half-baked star wars fan. The intro is great- the rousing John William's score, the scrolling text, and then a pre-rendered, high definition intro. Good times.
However, even a few minutes into the game, the initial thrill begins to wane as the limitations of this new release start to unravel. Sand box this ain't. From the off you can move ten feet to you left and ten feet to your right and it is immediately clear that the only direction you are meant to (and allowed to) go is straight forward. This rapidly establishes itself as the overriding rule of the game, and it is not much of an exaggeration to say the environments are almost as restrictive as the old crash Bandicoot games. Remember them? Replace Crash with Sith and you're not in a galaxy far, far away from this. No sense of a leap forward in gaming technology here, then.
So on you plough, blasting things out of the way with force push, swinging your light-saber wantonly, rolling past huge wookies and bumbling stormtroopers. There's no doubt that using your force powers to hurl adversaries out of your path and over cliffs is great fun. This is strongest and best aspect of the game, so starting with Vadar at the height of his powers is a master-stroke.
Eventually, after a surprisingly short introduction level, you find your way to an expanded area, which, were this two generations ago, you would assume were designed to facilitate a generic end of level boss. You know the type of boss I mean- from Playstation one/two games. The type of boss that attacks you with repetitive moves, the aim being to learn this repetition and exploit the weak spots. Imagine my surprise, then, when exactly this type of boss strolls into my field of vision and battle ensues. His techniques are learnt, he is overcome, we proceed to the next level. And repeat. And repeat. And Repeat. In fact, by level five it is quite clear how bereft of ideas this game is. The core purpose of every stage (save for a very few token gesture later levels at Cloud City and other venues) is to stroll down a narrow predetermined route, dispatching poorly matched hordes, before arriving at end of level boss venue and duking it out. Plus, the levels are disappointingly short throughout and, as the game progresses, less and less interesting. Awards for game play and level design will not be on the shelves of Lucas Arts this year.
What you can say for the game, at least, is that it looks incredible. The graphics are first rate and the sense of being part of a larger struggle never leaves you. Look over a cliff, there's a huge star destroyer hovering forwards. Looks out a window and there's a brace of tie fighters deep in a dogfight. Magic. And no matter how limited the game play there's an impossible joy when bumping into familiar characters and (superficially) exploring familiar worlds. This is star wars- and its clear no expense has been spared.
But at its root that is the beginning and end of the problem. This game suffers precisely the same ills as episodes 1-3. Fantastic to look at but very, very, oh so very little underneath. How George Lucas can keep making this same mistake over and over again fills me with as much disbelief as it does rage. But that's a different subject altogether.
Bottom line is, if you like Star Wars, You'll be thrilled with the eye candy this game has to offer. But once you've finished it, the day after you bought it, it will go back into your draw and never bother GTA4 again.
7 out of 10 at best.