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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

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Star Wars

STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED
(LucasArts; Xbox 360, PS 3; Teen)

The latest game from Team Lucas lets Star Wars fans scratch an itch nearly as old as Yoda, one that finally answers the question ”What’s it like to wield the Force and break open a can of whup-ass on everything in your path?” The opening level of TFU — essentially a crash-course on how to kick butt with Force powers — puts you in the shiny boots of Darth Vader as he hunts down one of the last remaining Jedi, who’s taken refuge on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. It’s a terrific introduction, made all the more so by impressive visuals, cutting-edge game physics, and one seriously ticked off Sith lord. Using his ”force grip” and ”force repulse” abilities, Vader can toss around Wookiees like rag dolls, hurl them down chasms, and pelt them with debris. If you’re interested in carnage a bit more hands-on, Vader can also carve up victims with his lightsaber. (Let’s face it, Chewie’s pals don’t stand a chance.)

Unfortunately, those good times don’t last. Once you’re done with the first level, TFU pulls a cruel bait and switch, first by making you take control of a much less compelling protagonist — a seemingly unremarkable ”secret apprentice” whom Vader takes under his wing — and then by subsequent levels plagued by numerous glitches and sloppy game design. Exhibit A: the potentially showstopping moment in which you’re supposed to use the Force to pull down a gigantic spaceship from the sky. You’ll feel frustration, rather than awe, in what should have been one of the game’s signature moments because it’s never made clear what is expected of you (which, I believe, involves twirling the two thumb sticks on your controller). Except for a nifty game-ending plot twist (that neatly ties together the events in Episodes III and IV), The Force Unleashed vexes far more times than it impresses.

WHAT WE LIKED:
? Playing as Darth Vader (if only for one level)
? Using Force-propelled projectiles to crush unlucky Stormtroopers, Wookiees, Jawas, and droids
? An ending that cleverly weaves the secret apprentice into Star Wars canon

WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE:
? Sloppy controls and game design
? Plot holes large enough to fly the Millennium Falcon through

GRADE: C