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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a LucasArts video game and part of the The Force Unleashed project. It was initially developed for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360 consoles and on the iOS, second-generation N-Gage, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, and Java-equipped mobile phone handhelds.

The game was released in North America on September 16, 2008, in Australia and Southeast Asia on September 17, and in Europe on September 19. LucasArts released downloadable content for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. An Ultimate Sith Edition of the game, containing new and all previously released expanded content, was released in November 2009, which also came out on Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.

The project bridges the two Star Wars trilogies and introduces a new protagonist, "Starkiller", as Darth Vader's secret apprentice. Reviews offered mixed response, praising The Force Unleashed for its compelling story, robust physics, impressive art and soundtrack, but also citing frustrating gameplay. Despite mixed reviews, the game was a bestseller in the United States and Australia, with over one million copies sold its debut month. As of February 2010 the game has sold over seven million copies, and it is the fastest-selling Star Wars video game. A sequel, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, was released October 2010.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Plot

Set in between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Darth Vader is sent by Emperor Palpatine to destroy a Jedi who survived Palpatine's Jedi purge and is hiding on the Wookiee homeworld, Kashyyyk. The Force Unleashed begins with the player controlling Darth Vader as he searches Kashyyyk for the Jedi. After defeating the Jedi in battle, Vader discovers a child who is strong in the Force and raises him to become his apprentice, unknown to the Emperor for several years. When the apprentice (known in the game as "Starkiller", and whom the player now controls) reaches adulthood, Vader sends him to kill the remaining Jedi as training for his ultimate goal: assassinating the Emperor so Vader and Starkiller can rule the galaxy together.

However, the Emperor discovers Starkiller's existence and forces Vader to kill the apprentice; Vader hurls Starkiller into space, but secretly dispatches droids to retrieve and revive him. Vader sends his apprentice to foster a rebellion among those who resist the Empire, distracting the Emperor so Vader can make his move. Breaking into various Imperial facilities, Starkiller rescues Rogue Shadow pilot Juno Eclipse, Jedi Master Rahm Kota, Princess Leia Organa, and Senator Bail Organa. In the process, Starkiller learns from Kota about the Jedi way, ultimately sparing Jedi apprentice Maris Brood. Starkiller travels between missions aboard the Rogue Shadow, whose crew develops a close relationship.

Senators Organa, Mon Mothma, and Garm Bel Iblis meet to plan a rebellion against the Empire, but are interrupted when Darth Vader arrests them and Kota. Vader attacks Starkiller and reveals that Starkiller was never meant to overthrow the Emperor; from the beginning, he was the Emperor's tool to expose his enemies, and that Vader's plans to overthrow the Emperor did not include Starkiller. Surviving Vader's attack, Starkiller uses the Force to ascertain the senators' and Kota's location: the Death Star. Inside the station, Starkiller duels Darth Vader. Kota attempts to fight the Emperor, but is wounded by the Emperor's Force lightning.

At this point, the player chooses to either seek revenge on Vader or save Kota from Emperor Palpatine:

If the player attacks and kills Vader, the Emperor offers to let Starkiller take Vader's place as his apprentice if Starkiller proves himself by killing Kota. Starkiller instead attacks the Emperor, who crushes Starkiller with the Rogue Shadow and kills Kota and all his allies. The story ends with Starkiller's broken body being grafted with armor, turning him into a Sith Stalker so he can serve as the Emperor's assassin until Palpatine finds a new apprentice. The game ends with Palpatine assuring Starkiller that he, like Vader, will be cast aside when he finds a new apprentice. The Infinities expansion content builds on this ending.

If the player attacks and defeats Emperor Palpatine, Kota prevents Starkiller from killing Palpatine in hatred. Starkiller dies while absorbing the Emperor's renewed attack, but Kota and the senators escape. The Emperor and Vader look over Starkiller's corpse, concerned that he has become a martyr to inspire the newly formed Rebel Alliance. Senator Organa and the others agree to proceed with their rebellion and Leia decides to use Starkiller's family crest as the Rebellion's symbol. Outside, Juno talks to Kota, who tells her that among Starkiller's dark thoughts, Juno herself was one bright spot that he held onto right until his death. This is the canonical ending.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Gameplay

The Force Unleashed is a third-person action game in which the player's character's weapons are the Force and a lightsaber. Developers treated the main character's lightsaber like another Force power, and wanted to ensure "something visceral and cool" happened with each button-push. The game has a combo system for stringing lightsaber attacks and for combining lightsaber attacks with Force powers. Experience points earned by killing enemies and finding artifacts can be used to increase Starkiller's powers and traits. The gameplay is intended to be easy to learn; the development team included "horrible" gamers to help ensure the game's accessibility. Players can casually run and gun through the game, but the game rewards those who take a stealthy, more tactical approach. The game includes enemies that are easy to overcome; game difficulty arises from presenting these enemies in large numbers that can wear down the player's character. Additionally, enemies learn from the player's character's attacks; using the same attack on different characters can sometimes lead to the player's character doing less damage. The enemies, which number over 50, have various strengths and weaknesses; developers faced the difficulty of effectively placing them throughout the game's varied environments.

1.738 million unit sales of The Force Unleashed across all platforms made it the third best-selling game globally in the third quarter of 2008; as of July 2009, it had sold six million copies. The Force Unleashed was both the fastest-selling Star Wars game and LucasArts' fastest-selling game. The Force Unleashed won a Writers Guild of America award for Best Video Game Writing.

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC

The Force Unleashed received mixed to fairly positive reviews. Electronic Gaming Monthly said the game is "ambitious--yet dissatisfying"; however, GameSpot said the game "gets more right than it does wrong". GameSpot said the PC port of the game retained all of the game's strengths and weaknesses, but that the port failed to take advantage of the PC platform.

GameSpot called the game's story "more intimate and more powerful" than the Star Wars franchise's prequel trilogy; X-Play identified the game's story as one of the game's "few bright spots" and said the game's visuals successfully convey Star Wars' "classic used universe" feel. GamePro and GameSpot praised the game's art and physics, and GamePro also commended Starkiller's "cool powers". IGN praised the game's voice acting, particularly Witwer's performance as Starkiller. The Washington Times identified Mark Griskey's soundtrack as "another star" of the game, and Tracksounds called it "the most entertaining Star Wars score since Return of the Jedi". Time called The Force Unleashed the seventh best video game of 2008. The game received GameSpot's 2008 award for Best Use of a Creative License and was nominated for Best Voice Acting. Gaming Target selected the game as one of their "40 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2008".

Conversely, Entertainment Weekly called The Force Unleashed the second worst game of 2008 and GameTrailers called it the most disappointing game that year; it was also a nominee for GameSpot's Most Disappointing Game recognition. Official Xbox Magazine cited the game's linear gameplay and lack of multiplayer as reasons the game falls short of being "an all-engrossing Star Wars experience". gamesTM suggested that allowing players to take a hack-and-slash approach means many "will never view the title's full potential". IGN and X-Play criticized some boss battles and enemies' behavior; GamePro also faulted "disappointing" boss battles and the game's "uneven" combat. Rather than feeling more powerful as the game progresses, GamePro felt that increases in Starkiller's powers were dampened by increasingly difficult enemy abilities and positions; X-Play commented that despite a good level-up system, Starkiller and his enemies are "pretty much on even ground most of the time". Wired.com, X-Play, and GameSpot criticized the game's third-person camera and the sequence that requires the player to make Starkiller pull a Star Destroyer out of the sky. Wired.com speculated that LucasArts could have recognized the frustration of the Star Destroyer sequence and removed it, but left it in because they hyped the sequence before the game's release. Wired.com and GameSpot further criticized the load times and abrupt gameplay-cinematic transitions. GameSpot also faulted "loose" targeting and some visual and audio glitches. IGN, which also identified problems with targeting, speculated that DMM's processor intensiveness limited its use throughout the game, detracting from players' ability to feel immersed. GameTrailers and IGN were disappointed with the lack of variety within and between levels. X-Play, pointing to "Default Text" as the bonus objective description in the Xbox 360 version's final mission and other glitches, said it seems the developers one day "just stopped working on the game". GameSpot cited the port's lack of visual options and poor framerate as evidence the PC edition had been rushed.

IGN described the Jedi Academy expansion as "pretty decent". GameSpot said LucasArts seems to have acknowledged some of the game's criticisms in developing the Tatooine expansion, but IGN called the level's boss fights "a joke" in light of the player's high Force powers. IGN found the level design in The Ultimate Sith Edition's Hoth scenario uninteresting, and called the boss fight against Luke Skywalker tough but "not nearly as fun" as it could have been.

The demo was the fourth most-played Xbox Live game during the week of August 25, trailing Grand Theft Auto IV, Halo 3, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; it was the ninth most-played Xbox Live title throughout all of 2008. The week it was released, The Force Unleashed was the sixth most-played game on Xbox Live, and it rose to fifth the following week. In its first week on sale in Australia, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of The Force Unleashed were the top and second-best sellers, respectively. In the United States, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version sold 325,000 and 610,000 copies, respectively, in September 2008; that month, the Xbox 360 version was the best-selling game and the PlayStation 3 version was the fifth best-selling game for their respective consoles.

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