Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Review – PSP

13 min read
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by Nick de Bruyne
[Second Opinion by Daniel de Bruyne]

I want to kick this review off by saying that my experience reviewing The Force Unleashed on PSP has been quite an interesting one. This is mostly down to two major factors. Firstly, I began playing the PSP version just a short while after I had started playing through the Xbox 360 version and secondly, I was able to play through the majority of the game whilst being away on vacation.

These two factors have allowed me to not only compare the game to it’s next-gen big brothers, but to also determine whether or not the game actually works on a mobile platform. In order to ensure that I haven’t been tainted by the console version, I have also included a second opinion by my brother, Daniel de Bruyne [Yes, there are more of us]. He is perfect for the job due to the fact that he has never really been big into console gaming, but is a handheld aficionado through and through, so look for his impressions after my review.

The next-gen versions boast amazing graphics, dynamic materials, the euphoria engine and incredible physics as well. The PSP is obviously incapable of keeping up with features such as these and has to make do with a lot less.

So what happens when you strip them away and try to cram the experience onto a small handheld system? Has The Force Unleashed on PSP managed an “Epic Win” or are we in for nothing but some serious intergalactic disappointment?

Find out, after the jump.

A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

To give some quick insight into the story, you play Starkiller, the secret apprentice of Darth Vader. Your job primarily consists of tracking down and killing any Jedi Knight’s that were fortunate enough to escape the Emperor’s death squads. The plot thickens, romances bloom and some twists surprise you in what can be described as a genuinely interesting and epic story that is sure to blow the pants off Star Wars fanatics and even impress some “Trekkies”.

What you may be interested to hear is that the story isn’t actually precisely the same as the console version, it’s quite possibly better. While the console versions’ story was already fantastic in my books, the tone of the PSP version is significantly darker. Not only that but it actually goes into more detail by offering more missions and settings than it’s big brothers but I’ll get back to that later.

Feel the Power

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The Force Unleashed is essentially a 3rd Person Action game that brings forward a twist to the gameplay by empowering your character with a hefty amount of force powers as your primary means of kicking the asses of on anyone stupid enough to get in your way.

The controls are fantastic and come incredibly close to giving you the same freedom that you will experience on the console versions. This is complimented by a near-perfect automatic camera that only misses the ability of centering your view at will. You do have the ability to lock the camera onto major targets whenever you want, which makes some of the boss battles more controlled, but enough about that, let’s talk about the fun stuff.

The force powers give you the ability to do some pretty nifty things. You can pick up enemies and toss them at each other, throw your lightsaber, push enemies away at great speeds, shock them with lightning, move faster, jump higher, boost your damage… the list goes on. This game has light RPG “stat” elements, which allow you to upgrade your force powers and combos as well as customise your lightsaber and select unlocked costumes, giving a nice feeling of progression and pacing to the game.

On the whole the game delivers on it’s promise of unleashing the force. With so many different ways to dispatch your enemies, you may find yourself neglecting your lightsaber for lengthy periods of time because you are having so much fun with nothing but your powers.

A word of warning though, this game does lean on quicktime event’s and button mashing sequences quite heavily and some boss battle can become incredibly tiresome to the point that your fingers won’t want to function anymore. So don’t forget to do your stretches before you begin.

Around the Galaxy in Eighty Days

Another interesting twist is that while the game essentially plays out the same as the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, the levels are actually completely different. While most missions will have the same objectives on the same planets as the console version, they are laid out completely different and only reflect the original levels on rare occasions. The upside to this is that for anyone who has already played the console version, a refreshingly different game awaits them should they choose to buy the PSP version as well.

While you will have to visit some areas more than once, the levels will branch off differently each time, easing up the pain of having to backtrack through a level. What did blow my mind is that the PSP version actually has more settings that it’s big brothers as well as more enemies and bosses too, giving any console owners another decent reason to play through the handheld version as well.

This comes as a bonus because while the Xbox 360 version took me around nine hours to complete, the PSP version clocked in at somewhere in the ten to twelve hour mark, not including any other modes. The game also comes with a “Force Unleashed” mode, which comes in the form of historic battles from the movies such as Luke escaping from the Sarlacc pit or Obi-Wan and Anakin taking on Count Duku in Episode 3 as well as a mode called “Order 66” which pits you against waves of enemies. There is a Force Duel mode as well that let’s you try and make your way through battles with all the major characters (and more!).

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With all the character models available or unlockable and the scenarios carefully recreated to match the original scenes, it is a wonderful addition for fans as well as a lengthy addition to the game. I was unable to test the multiplayer but I am able to tell you that it allows four players to duke it out in both deathmatch and take-and-hold scenarios. Unfortunately, there is no game-sharing option meaning that all players will require a copy of the game. Once the game is complete you are also given an option to restart the game, complete with all your powers and unlocked items.

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Oh, So Pretty

The visuals do have a few issues here and there, although I find myself wanting to be forgiving due to the games handheld nature. Ignore some clipping and a few oddities and you are left with a beautiful PSP game. While I wouldn’t say that it looks better than God of War: Chains of Olympus, it comes very close with it’s epic scale, great animations and vibrant force effects.

Something worth mentioning are the physics. Rooms are filled with monitors, pipes, barrels and all sorts of goodies to rip off of the walls and toss at your foes. The physics are astounding considering the PSP’s limited processing power, giving you a satisfying feeling as your force powers send a couple of storm troopers and crates ricocheting off of the walls and indeed, each other.

Can You Hear The Power?

Being a Star Wars title, I almost feel like I don’t have to bother explaining how good the sound is. Lightsabers hum, Starships drone, Lasers whiz by, bass kicks in when your force powers are in effect and all while the memorable Star Wars themes blast forth in full force . The voice acting is also magnificent, with the actors doing a fantastic job of conveying emotion and setting the tone for many a cutscene. I definitely recommend some decent earphones for this game, you will not regret it.

concept1The Force In Your Pocket [That’s what she said…]

When it comes to mobility, I can be extremely judgmental. I firmly believe that a handheld game should be designed from the start to be easy and fun while you are on the go. In this regard I feel like Star Wars has failed in one way, but succeeded in another. It fails because it isn’t the type of game that you can whip out for a few minutes whilst waiting for the dentist. The way it succeeds is that this game actually delivers something incredibly close to a full-blown console experience, no matter where you are.

The disappointments of rain, wind and cold weather happily sank away as I realised that I could hop onto a couch and dive straight back into the epic battle between good and evil right there on my little PSP. So while the short bursts of fun were left to my Nintendo DS, the PSP definitely eased the pain of being away from my precious home console that little bit more. A sure-fire bonus for geeks like me, but make sure you have electricity or spare batteries handy because this bad boy took me over four recharges to complete, at the very least. Also be prepared for loading times in excess of a minute or more.

When All Is Said And Done

Krome Studios, who developed the port, have really impressed me with their efforts and given me full reason to hope that they will be given a full budget and a next-gen title to work on soon.

At the end of the day, The Force Unleashed was an impressive experience even when compressed onto the small PSP. It’s fun and it’s incredibly entertaining and a game that I can easily recommend for anyone looking for a mobile “can” of fully functional force-filled “whoop-ass”.

Scoring:

Gameplay: 8/10 [Fantastic controls and varied force powers can’t go wrong]
Presentation: 8.5/10 [Beautiful graphics, marred by some clipping issues]
Sound: 8.5/10 [ It’s Star Wars!]
Value: 8/10 [ A fairly lengthy story, multiplayer and the “Force unleashed” modes give you a fair amount to do]

Overall: 8.5/10 [ The Force is strong with this one ]

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Second Opinion: Daniel de Bruyne

From the word “go”, The Force Unleashed is what I would call a “quencher”. A quencher is anything that satisfies a craving for something, right? When you are craving a good RTS (Real Time Strategy), you are either going to dig deep into your game drawer for an old favourite, or your going to hit the streets and go buy something that fits the bill, fills the void, quenches the thirst.

Being a fan of Star Wars and being slightly more experienced with handheld consoles, I decided to try it out on PSP, and I must say that I am impressed.

The Force Unleashed puts you straight into the fight as none other than the ruthless and infamous galactic bad-boy, Darth Vader, who during his mission to destroy a wanted Jedi Knight, discovers that the Jedi knight has a son which he takes under his wing as a new apprentice, and is the character you will become and must develop throughout the game. What’s that you say? “Not another Light Saber fest!” Well, this should interest you, because this game is focused fantastically on using the force.

Don’t worry, you can still enjoy tantalizing light saber battles, but why waste time swinging your light saber at a storm trooper when you can use the force to choke him or pick him up and thrash him into whatever you like, killing him long before you even get close enough to swing a light saber at him? The game makes sure that there are plenty of loose items lying around so that you can use just about anything as a projectile to lob at your enemies or use to just plain break stuff and giggle about it.

Besides for an awesome Star Wars setting, good story line, great cut scenes and the ever satisfying flailing of storm troopers and a host of other enemies all over the place to keep you entertained, you can look forward to hectic one-on-one fights with Jedi Knights and other boss characters that will call on all your gaming finger-mojo and button bashing skills to fight at top speed and pull off combo activated finishing moves similar to God of War.

In my opinion this is not only a quencher for the Star Wars fans in need of sustenance, but also for anyone that likes a game with satisfying fights with hack and slash elements leaving you feeling like you can open a can of whoop-ass on just about everything.

Last Updated: September 26, 2008

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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