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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The Force Unleashed.jpg
Developer(s)LucasArts (PS3, X360)
Aspyr (PC, Mac OS X)
Krome Studios (PS2, PSP, Wii)
n-Space (NDS)
Universomo (J2ME, N-Gage, iOS)
Publisher(s)LucasArts
THQ Wireless (iOS, J2ME, N-Gage)
Director(s)Haden Blackman
Producer(s)Isa Anne Stamos
Amanda Rubright (PC)[1]
Programmer(s)Cedrick Collomb
Ken Cobb (PC)
Artist(s)Matt Omernick
Rhett Bennatt (PC)
Writer(s)
  • Haden Blackman
  • Shawn Pitman
  • John Stafford
  • Cameron Suey
Composer(s)Mark Griskey
SeriesStar Wars: The Force Unleashed
Platform(s)
Release
September 16, 2008
    • NA: September 16, 2008
    • AU: September 17, 2008
    • EU: September 19, 2008
    Microsoft Windows
    • NA: November 6, 2009
    • AU: December 16, 2009
    • EU: December 17, 2009
    Mac OS X
    • NA: February 23, 2010
Genre(s)Action-adventure, hack and slash
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer[a]

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is an action-adventure game developed by LucasArts and part of The Force Unleashed multimedia project. It was initially developed for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360 consoles and on iOS, second-generation N-Gage, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, and Java-equipped mobile phone handhelds.[2] 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.[3] An Ultimate Sith Edition of the game, containing both new and previously released downloadable content, was released in November 2009,[4] and later ported to the macOS and Microsoft Windows.

The project bridges the first two Star Wars trilogies, acting as an origin story for both the united Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Civil War depicted in the original trilogy. The game introduces a new protagonist named "Starkiller", a powerful Force user trained as Darth Vader's secret apprentice, who is tasked with hunting down Jedi survivors of the Great Jedi Purge while trying to keep his existence a secret. However, after he is tasked with planting the seeds of what would become the Rebel Alliance, which Vader plans to take advantage of to overthrow the Emperor, Starkiller begins to question his own morality and to slowly redeem himself. Following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, the game became part of the non-canonical Star Wars Expanded Universe (also known as Star Wars Legends), and an alternative origin for the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Civil War was given in other pieces of Star Wars media.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed received generally mixed to positive reviews from critics, with praise for its story, voice acting, physics, art and soundtrack, but criticism for its linear gameplay and technical issues. 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 had sold over seven million copies, and was the fastest-selling Star Wars video game of its time.[5] A sequel, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, was released in October 2010.[6]

Gameplay[edit]

The Force Unleashed is a third-person action game in which the player's character's weapons are the Force and a lightsaber.[7] Developers treated the main character's lightsaber like another Force power, and wanted to ensure "something visceral and cool" happened with each button-push.[7] The game has a combo system for stringing lightsaber attacks and for combining lightsaber attacks with Force powers.[7] Experience points earned by killing enemies and finding artifacts can be used to increase Starkiller's powers and traits.[8] The gameplay is intended to be easy to learn; the development team included "horrible" gamers to help ensure the game's accessibility.[9] Players can casually run and gun through the game, but the game rewards those who take a stealthy, more tactical approach.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[10]

Version differences[edit]

The Force Unleashed has different features across platforms. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, powered by the Ronin engine, utilize high-definition graphics and advanced dynamic destruction effects. These versions also support downloadable content in the form of two expansions that expand upon the game's plot.[citation needed] The Nintendo versions use motion controls to implement Starkiller's attacks, with the Wii version using the Wii Remote to execute lightsaber attacks and the Nunchuk to wield Force powers,[12] while the Nintendo DS version utilizes the touchscreen to execute attacks, where single actions can be executed by tapping a certain region of the screen (with each region corresponding to a particular action, such as jumping or Force pushing), while more advanced attacks can be performed by dragging the stylus across neighboring regions of the screen.[13]

The PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable versions are identical in content to the Wii version, which is different than the PS3 and Xbox 360 version due to these three systems lacking their horsepower. Since these versions do not support or use downloadable content, they exclusively intersperse certain levels with three of the five Jedi trials that Starkiller completes at the Jedi temple in Coruscant to further hone his abilities, which are all included in a DLC pack for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.[14] The PSP version also exclusively features five additional "historical" bonus levels that re-enact pivotal scenes and duels throughout the Star Wars saga,[15] as well as special scenarios that can be played with as different Star Wars characters who have the same abilities in the standard single-player mode. The Nintendo DS version utilizes 3-D graphics like all other major versions, but lacks voice acting.

The Wii and handheld versions support multiplayer. Two players duel against each other as famous Jedi and Sith in the Star Wars saga in the Wii version,[12] while the handheld versions utilize wireless multiplayer for a four-player battle mode.[16][15]

Plot[edit]

The game begins shortly after Revenge of the Sith, during the highest point of the Galactic Empire's rule. After Imperial spies track down a Jedi survivor of the Great Purge named Kento Marek on the planet Kashyyyk, Darth Vader personally leads the search for him while overseeing the Imperial invasion of the planet. During the first level, players control Vader as he fights his way through Wookiees to reach Marek, eventually finding and defeating him.[17][18] Before Vader can murder him, Marek's son Galen grabs his lightsaber with the Force. Realizing the boy's strong connection to the Force, Vader finishes off Marek and takes Galen with him, raising him to become his apprentice, unbeknownst to the Emperor.

Years later, after Galen (given the alias "Starkiller" by Vader) reaches adulthood and completes his training, he is sent by his master to eliminate a select group of Jedi survivors across the galaxy as a final test to prepare him for Vader's ultimate goal: assassinating the Emperor so that Vader and Starkiller could rule the galaxy together. Starkiller travels between missions aboard his personal ship, the Rogue Shadow, developing a close relationship with his crew: lightsaber training droid PROXY (who is programmed to regularly attack him) and Imperial pilot Juno Eclipse.[19] Starkiller's targets include Rahm Kota, a Clone Wars veteran and leader of a small militia, who attacks a TIE fighter shipyard above Nar Shaadda to lure out Vader;[b] Kazdan Paratus, who became insane after years of isolation on Raxus Prime;[c] and Shaak Ti, who is hiding out on Felucia. Before she dies, Shaak Ti warns Starkiller that he will eventually be betrayed. Once all the Jedi have been killed, Vader brings Starkiller before the Emperor, only to swiftly impale him and hurl him through a window into space to prove his loyalty to his master. Unbeknownst to the Emperor, Vader has Starkiller rescued and resuscitated, believing his apprentice still has his uses.

Vader sends Starkiller to foster a rebellion among the Empire's enemies, as part of his master plan to destabilize the Empire and create the proper conditions to depose the Emperor. Although Vader orders him to cut his ties to his past, Starkiller rescues Juno, who was arrested and branded a traitor to the Empire, and escapes with her and PROXY. Looking for allies to aid his mission, Starkiller approaches Kota on Cloud City, who survived their previous encounter, but was blinded and reduced to alcoholism, and rescues him from Imperial forces and an Emperor's Shadow Guard. The group then travels to Kashyyyk to rescue Princess Leia Organa, who was arrested by the Empire, but Starkiller temporarily abandons his quest to visit his old home, where he meets his father's spirit and discovers his true identity.[d] After liberating the enslaved Wookiees and killing Captain Ozzik Sturn, Starkiller earns Leia's gratitude, who agrees to join the rebellion. Afterward, learning Leia's adoptive father, Senator Bail Organa, went missing on Felucia, Starkiller goes to find him, discovering Organa was captured by Shaak Ti's former apprentice Maris Brood, who, like the other inhabitants, succumbed to the Dark Side after her master's death. After defeating Brood and her pet Bull Rancor, Starkiller spares her life and convinces Organa to join the rebellion.

To convince more senators to do the same, Vader suggests that Starkiller attack a Star Destroyer facility on Raxus Prime to show that the Empire is vulnerable. Juno learns Starkiller is still working for Vader and chastises him, but agrees to keep silent. During his mission, Starkiller is attacked by PROXY, who attempts to fulfill his programming by killing him, but Starkiller defeats him, destroys the facility, and pulls a Star Destroyer out of the sky using the Force .[e] Following this, Organa meets with fellow senators Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis on Corellia to formally organize a rebellion, only for Vader to come and arrest them and Kota. After overpowering Starkiller, Vader explains that he was merely a tool to lure out and destroy the Empire's enemies, and that his plans to overthrow the Emperor never included him.

Surviving thanks to PROXY sacrificing himself to distract Vader, Starkiller vows to rescue the senators and Kota, and uses the Force to ascertain their location: the Death Star. After sharing a goodbye kiss with Juno, Starkiller battles his way through the station to reach the Emperor's throne room. Vader confronts him on the way there, but Starkiller defeats him and faces the Emperor, who tries to goad him into finishing off his former master so Starkiller can take his place. While the Emperor is distracted, Kota steals the Emperor's lightsaber and tries to attack him from behind, but is subdued with Force lightning. At this point, the player must choose between saving Kota (Light Side) or killing Vader (Dark Side).

  • If the player chooses the Light Side, Starkiller defeats the Emperor, but spares him at Kota's urging. The Emperor unleashes more Force lightning, but Starkiller absorbs it, sacrificing himself to allow Kota and the senators escape on the Rogue Shadow. Later, the Emperor and Vader look over Starkiller's corpse, concerned that he has become a martyr to inspire the newly formed Rebel Alliance. On Kashyyyk, the senators decide to proceed with the rebellion and Leia chooses Starkiller's family crest as their 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 of the game, as confirmed by its novelization and sequel.[20]
  • If the player chooses the Dark Side, Starkiller finishes off Vader and is congratulated by the Emperor, who commands him to kill Kota to sever his ties to the Jedi and become a Sith Lord. Instead, Starkiller attacks the Emperor, who blocks the attack and crushes him with the Rogue Shadow, severely injuring Starkiller and killing Juno, Kota, and the senators. Starkiller later awakens to find his broken body being grafted with armor so that he could continue serving the Emperor, though he assures Starkiller that he, like Vader, will be replaced once he finds a new, more promising apprentice.

Downloadable content[edit]

Three downloadable content (DLC) levels for the game were released. The first one is set during the events of the main story and explores more of Starkiller's background,[21] while the second and third ones expand upon the non-canonical Dark Side of the game, taking place in their own alternate timeline.[22][23]

In the Coruscant level, Starkiller, at some point before traveling to Kashyyyk, decides to visit the abandoned Jedi Temple to learn more about his identity and connection to the Force. After fighting his way past the Imperial security forces, he reaches the old Council Chambers, where Kento Marek's spirit appears before him and tells him that he needs to pass the Jedi trials of mind, body, and spirit. Upon doing so, Starkiller is faced with a mysterious Sith warrior, revealed to be a dark reflection of himself created by his own fear. Following his defeat, Starkiller finds a holocron left by Marek, who reveals himself as his father and tells him it's not too late to return to the light side. Having finally received the closure he sought, Starkiller returns to the Rogue Shadow to resume his current mission.

The Tatooine and Hoth levels are set during alternate depictions of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, respectively, and present Starkiller as the Emperor's trusted assassin, referred to as "Lord Starkiller". In the Tatooine mission, called A Fragile Hope, he is tasked with retrieving the Death Star plans stolen by the Rebel Alliance, which have been tracked to Tatooine. He decides to visit Jabba the Hutt, who has knowledge on the plans' whereabouts, revealing they are in the possession of two droids at Mos Eisley. However, when Starkiller refuses to work for him, Jabba tries to have him be eaten by his rancor. Killing the beast, Starkiller escapes from Jabba's palace after massacring his men, including Boba Fett. At Mos Eisley, Starkiller kills Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi after a duel that allows the droids to board the Millennium Falcon, though Starkiller manages to place a tracking device on the ship before it takes off. In the Hoth mission, called Wrath of the Empire, Starkiller partakes in the Battle of Hoth, where the Empire attacks the weakened Rebel Alliance's base on Hoth to crush it once and for all. During the battle, Starkiller infiltrates the base with special orders to capture Luke Skywalker, who began training as a Jedi. He eventually finds and defeats Skywalker in the base's hangar, severing his right hand. When the Falcon tries to take off, Starkiller seizes the ship with the Force while goading Skywalker to give into the Dark Side to rescue his friends. Skywalker attacks Starkiller with Force lightning, causing him to let go of the ship and congratulate Skywalker for embracing the Dark Side, planning to make him his apprentice the same way Vader did to him.

Cast and characters[edit]

  • Sam Witwer as Galen Marek/Starkiller — The forbidden child of a Jedi, Starkiller was adopted by his father's killer, Darth Vader, who, aware of his strong connection to the Force, raised him to be his secret apprentice. Once his training is complete, Starkiller is dispatched by his master to kill several prominent Jedi who survived the Great Jedi Purge.[24][25] Although initially acting as a villain, Starkiller is "really just [a] damaged kid."[26] Developers decided not to give Starkiller a name in the game, but the novelization reveals his real name as "Galen Marek".[27][28] Although Starkiller starts as Vader's apprentice, a focus of the game is to allow the character to evolve into "something more heroic, something greater."[25] Audio director David Collins saw a resemblance between Starkiller concept art and his friend, Witwer; Collins asked for Witwer's headshot and an audition reel, and a few weeks later Witwer sat for a 45-minute audition.[29] Witwer secured the role by demonstrating to developers his deep understanding of the character;[30] in portraying Starkiller, Witwer brought many new ideas about the character and imbued him with a sense of humanity.[26] Developers tried not to make Starkiller so evil that players would have difficulty connecting to him, aiming to strike a balance between loyalty to his master and his growing sense of disillusionment with the Empire.[26] The character's name is an homage to "Anakin Starkiller," the original name of the character that eventually became Luke Skywalker.[31][32]
  • Matt Sloan as Darth Vader — A powerful Dark Lord of the Sith, high-ranking enforcer of the Empire, and Starkiller's master, who discovers Starkiller as a child and trains him.[25] In training Starkiller by having him hunt the few remaining Jedi survivors, Vader intends to prepare him to overthrow the Emperor, although there are "twists and turns" in this scheme.[25] The events depicted in The Force Unleashed are pivotal to Darth Vader's history and development, depicting him as being largely responsible for the events leading to the Galactic Civil War, depicted in the original Star Wars trilogy.[33]
  • Nathalie Cox as Juno Eclipse — Rogue Shadow’s pilot and Starkiller's love interest.[34][35] Eclipse was not originally part of the game; early concepts had the apprentice as an older character who develops a connection with a young Princess Leia.[36] Star Wars creator George Lucas, uncomfortable with this idea, encouraged the developers to create a love interest.[36] The apprentice, who has had limited interaction with women when the game begins, does not at first know how to act around her.[36] Her introduction early in the game allows the relationship with Starkiller to develop, and her inclusion helps "recapture that rich ensemble feel of the original Star Wars".[36] According to Sean Williams, who wrote the novelization, the romantic storyline is the key to The Force Unleashed.[33] The name "Juno Eclipse" was originally proposed as a name for the character eventually called "Asajj Ventress" — it was ultimately rejected as insufficiently villainous.[36] The Force Unleashed project lead Haden Blackman brought the name back for the mythic quality of the name "Juno" and the duality suggested by an "eclipse."[36] Cox, in addition to strongly resembling the character's concept art, had "integrity and poise" appropriate to Juno Eclipse that helped the actor secure the role.[30]
  • Cully Fredricksen as General Rahm Kota — A Jedi Master and Clone Wars veteran who provides Starkiller with additional insight into the Force and helps connect him to his Jedi heritage.[35] Developers realized early that Starkiller would require insight into the Force from someone other than Darth Vader; after rejecting the idea of this coming from the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn or some version of Darth Plagueis, they decided to fill this role with one of Starkiller's Jedi opponents.[36] The character was conceived as a "tough-as-nails" contrast to the more traditional image of a Jedi represented by Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.[36] Senior concept artist Amy Beth Christianson drew upon samurai influences for Kota's appearance.[26][36] The character changed little after being conceived; Fredricksen's own traits made the character tougher.[36] Fredricksen was the first actor cast for the project.[30]
  • Adrienne Wilkinson as Maris Brood — A Zabrak survivor of the Jedi Purge and Shaak Ti's apprentice.[36] After her master's death at Starkiller's hands, Brood falls to the dark side and uses Felucia's inhabitants to wage war on the Imperial forces trying to occupy the planet. The character was originally conceived as a pirate captain, and Christianson's early art included Brood's distinctive lightsaber tonfas.[36] Wilkinson brought strength to her performance, leading to an expansion of the role with more dialogue.[36]
  • David W. Collins as PROXY — Starkiller's droid sidekick, designed to constantly test his lightsaber and Force abilities, as well as deliver important messages through holographic projection.[25] Collins said PROXY has C-3PO's innocence but also is "really dangerous."[25] The companion trade paperback describes the conflict between PROXY's primary programming to kill Starkiller and its self-imposed desire to help him;[37] PROXY is eager to please Starkiller, but does not know how dangerous it can be or that there is a conflict between its programming and Starkiller's wishes.[26] Trying to avoid having PROXY's dialogue become too reminiscent of either C-3PO or the villainous HK-47 of Knights of the Old Republic, developers focused on PROXY's friendly naïvety.[26]
  • Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa — The Emmy Award-winning Smits voices the character he played in the Star Wars prequels: a Galactic Senator from Alderaan and Princess Leia's adoptive father who becomes a founding member of the Rebel Alliance.[38]

Other performances include Tom Kane as Kento Marek and Captain Ozzik Sturn, Larry Drake as Kazdan Paratus, Susan Eisenberg as Shaak Ti, and Catherine Taber as Princess Leia Organa. In addition to voicing Starkiller, Witwer also provided the voice of Emperor Palpatine.[39] R2-D2 also makes an appearance in the game alongside Leia. The game's downloadable content features David W. Collins as Jabba the Hutt, Dee Bradley Baker as Boba Fett, Rob Rackstraw as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Lloyd Floyd as Luke Skywalker.

Development[edit]

Concept[edit]

The first visualization of "the Force unleashed" was in this concept art by Greg Knight, which shows a stormtrooper being "Force-pushed".[40]

Game planning began in summer 2004.[41] Initially, about six developers started with a "clean slate" to conceptualize a new Star Wars game; the small group of engineers, artists, and designers spent more than a year brainstorming ideas for what might make a good game.[42] Over 100 initial concepts were whittled down to 20 to 25 that included making the game the third entry in the Knights of the Old Republic series or having the protagonist be a Wookiee "superhero", Darth Maul, a bounty hunter, a smuggler, a mercenary, or the last member of the Skywalker family.[9][43][44][45] The decision to focus on the largely unexplored period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope helped energize the design team.[42] Consumer feedback helped the developers narrow in on seven concepts, and elements from those seven went into The Force Unleashed's overall concept.[9]

Production was greatly aided by concept art, which was intended to visually bridge the two Star Wars trilogies, convey the impression of a "lived-in" universe, show how the galaxy changes under Imperial rule, and to seem familiar yet new.[26][41] An off-hand comment about the Force in the game being powerful enough "to pull a Star Destroyer out of the sky" inspired an image by senior concept artist Amy Beth Christenson that became an important part of the developers' idea pitches and evolved into a major moment in the game.[26] These illustrations also inspired the creation of dozens of simple, three-dimensional animations.[41] Eventually, a one-minute previsualization video highlighting the idea of "kicking someone's ass with the Force" helped convince the designers that The Force Unleashed would be "a great game";[41][46] George Lucas, upon seeing the one-minute video, told the designers to "go make that game".[46] Once the concept was solidified, the development team grew from ten to twenty people.[47] The idea of "reimagining" the Force as "amped up" in The Force Unleashed aligned with LucasArts' overall goal of harnessing the power of the latest video game consoles to "dramatically" change gaming, specifically through the use of simulation-based gameplay.[42]

Story[edit]

In April 2005, after several months of planning, the LucasArts team received Lucas' encouragement to create a game centered on Darth Vader's secret apprentice in the largely unexplored period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, drawing the two trilogies together.[24][43][44][48] LucasArts spent six months developing the story.[9] Lucas spent hours discussing with the developers the relationship between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine and provided feedback on what Vader would want out of and how he would motivate an apprentice.[49][50] Lucas Licensing reviewed many game details to ensure they fit into canon.[51] Focus group feedback indicated that, while hunting down Jedi at Vader's order would be fun, the character should be redeemed, in keeping with a major Star Wars motif.[9] Although the game introduces new characters, developers felt the presence of characters already part of Star Wars would help anchor the game within the official continuity.[26] Before the game's release, Lucasfilm claimed it would "unveil new revelations about the Star Wars galaxy" with a "redemption" motif.[24][52] The story progresses through a combination of scripted events, in-game cinematics, cutscenes, and dialogue.[49]

Technology[edit]

A Euphoria-coded soldier grasps a Havok-coded crate before both are flung through a Digital Molecular Matter-coded display.[53]

During pre-production, about 30 people were on the project team.[47] LucasArts spent several years developing the tools and technology to create The Force Unleashed.[54] Prototyping, level construction, marketing, and public relations took about a year.[9] Until late 2006, the production team was ascertaining "how many polygons, lights, [and] characters" next-generation platforms supported;[47] a year of full production began in early 2007.[9] A series of quickly-produced "play blast" videos helped the developers focus on mechanics, the user interface, and finishing moves.[26] Development of the Xbox 360 version came first; PlayStation 3 development started when the production team had enough development kits.[43] Making the game run on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was "a monumental task".[49]

The game is based on LucasArts' proprietary "Ronin" game engine but also integrates third-party technology: Havok for rigid body physics, Pixelux Entertainment's "Digital Molecular Matter" (DMM) for dynamically destructible objects, and NaturalMotion's Euphoria for realistic non-player character artificial intelligence.[43] LucasArts' programmers had to overcome technical hurdles to get Havok-, DMM- and Euphoria-coded components to interact.[17] Developers also had to strike a balance between realistic and entertaining physics.[17] LucasArts initially opted not to release a personal computer version of The Force Unleashed, stating that doing the game well would be too processor-intensive for typical PCs[24] and that scaling down the game's procedural physics for the PC platform would "fundamentally" change The Force Unleashed's gameplay.[55] However, LucasArts later announced Windows and Mac versions of the game, developed in conjunction with Aspyr Media, for release in Fall 2009.[56]

Lacking Havok, Euphoria, and DMM, Krome's Wii version relies on the company's in-house physics engine.[57] Some character animations may be ragdoll while others are preset; in developing the game, Krome tried to blur the distinction between the two.[57] The lighting system in the Wii version is more advanced than that in the PS2 version, which Krome also built; the PS2 includes more graphic details than their PSP version.[57]

ILM collaboration and cast performance[edit]

The Force Unleashed is intended to make players think they are "actually, finally, in a Star Wars movie".[58] It is the first game on which LucasArts and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) collaborated since they both relocated to the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco, California.[52] This collaboration allowed the companies to co-develop tools to make film-quality effects.[59] LucasArts worked with ILM's Zeno tool framework and helped ILM build its Zed game editor.[60] Lucas said having the two companies working together in the same building was "a great collaboration".[61]

It took Senior Manager of Voice and Audio Darragh O'Farrell four months to cast The Force Unleashed.[62] ILM's face- and motion-capture "CloneCam" technology recorded actors' voice and physical performances.[54][63] This led to a change in LucasArts' casting process: for the first time, actors needed to match characters' age and gender.[63] Actors performed their lines together, rather than in isolation, to better get the sense of their characters interacting with each other.[54] Consequently, the script's dialogue was reduced while reliance on characters' expressions — captured through the CloneCam — increased.[63] CloneCam technology had previously been used in producing the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.[63]

Music[edit]

LucasArts music supervisor Jesse Harlin said the music matches the game's motif of redemption and goal of bridging the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope:

We had to make sure that the game's score started off rooted within the Prequel Trilogy feel of ethnic percussion and sweeping themes that spoke to the nobility and grandeur of the old Jedi Order. As the game progresses, however, the Empire gains more control, the Jedi are hunted, and the ordered control of the Prequels gives way to the more romantic temperament of the Original Trilogy.[64]

The game's soundtrack includes material composed by John Williams for the films in addition to material created specifically for The Force Unleashed. Jesse Harlin composed the game's main theme, while Mark Griskey composed the score. Griskey made use of several motifs from the film scores as well as Harlin's main theme.[64][65] The 90-minute soundtrack was recorded by the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and mixed at Skywalker Sound in Lucas Valley in September and October 2007.[64] During gameplay, a proprietary engine combines "musical elements according to the pace, plot, and environment of the game at any given moment", resulting in a unique musical experience.[65] A promotional soundtrack album was made available online through Tracksounds.com in 2008.[65]

Track listing
No.TitleLength
1."The Force Unleashed" (Jesse Harlin)1:19
2."General Kota and the Control Room Duel"3:44
3."Infiltrating the Junk Temple"2:54
4."Drexl's Raiders"2:51
5."Approaching Felucia"3:28
6."The Sarlacc Unleashed"3:20
7."Maris and the Bull Rancor"2:11
8."PROXY and the Skyhook"2:37
9."Redemption"2:19
10."Juno Eclipse and Finale"1:12
11."Ton'yy Rho's Uglehop" (Bonus Track, Jesse Harlin)1:13
Total length:25:08

Expansion[edit]

Two weeks after the game's release, LucasArts announced development on two downloadable expansion packs for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game.[66] The first expansion added "skins" that allow the player's character to appear as Star Wars figures other than Starkiller, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jinn, Jango Fett, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker, Darth Maul, Darth Sion, Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Kit Fisto and Ki-Adi-Mundi.[66] The skins chosen to be part of the expansion were based in part on fans' feedback.[14] The second expansion pack added a new mission that expands on Starkiller's background.[21] Although a moment in the game's main story was considered as a "jumping off point" for the expansion, LucasArts decided instead to make the new mission instantly accessible to players.[14] The mission's location — the Jedi Temple on Coruscant — appears in the Wii, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable versions of The Force Unleashed, but was cut during planning from the PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms.[14]

The Tatooine Downloadable Content, released August 27, 2009, is the first of two expansions that occur in an "Infinities" storyline, an alternate history in which Starkiller kills Vader and becomes Palpatine's assassin.[22][23] The second Infinities expansion, which takes place on Hoth, was originally only available as part of the Ultimate Sith Edition, which also includes all previous downloadable content.[22] However, the Hoth expansion was later made available for download on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.[67]

Reception[edit]

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;[103] as of July 2009, it had sold six million copies.[22] The Force Unleashed was both the fastest-selling Star Wars game and LucasArts' fastest-selling game.[104] The Force Unleashed won a Writers Guild of America award for Best Video Game Writing.[105]

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC[edit]

The Force Unleashed received mixed to fairly positive reviews. Electronic Gaming Monthly said the game is "ambitious--yet dissatisfying";[101] however, GameSpot said the game "gets more right than it does wrong".[78] 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.[76]

GameSpot called the game's story "more intimate and more powerful" than the Star Wars franchise's prequel trilogy;[78] 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.[89] GamePro and GameSpot praised the game's art and physics, and GamePro also commended Starkiller's "cool powers".[106][107] IGN praised the game's voice acting, particularly Witwer's performance as Starkiller.[84] 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".[38][65] Time called The Force Unleashed the seventh best video game of 2008.[108] The game received GameSpot's 2008 award for Best Use of a Creative License and was nominated for Best Voice Acting.[102][109] Gaming Target selected the game as one of their "40 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2008".[110]

Conversely, Entertainment Weekly called The Force Unleashed the second-worst game of 2008 and GameTrailers called it the most disappointing game that year;[111][112] it was also a nominee for GameSpot's Most Disappointing Game recognition.[113] 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".[101] gamesTM suggested that allowing players to take a hack-and-slash approach means many "will never view the title's full potential".[101] IGN and X-Play criticized some boss battles and enemies' behavior;[89][114] GamePro also faulted "disappointing" boss battles and the game's "uneven" combat.[106] 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;[106] X-Play commented that despite a good level-up system, Starkiller and his enemies are "pretty much on even ground most of the time".[89] 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.[78][89][107][115] 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.[115] Wired.com and GameSpot further criticized the load times and abrupt gameplay-cinematic transitions.[78][107][115] GameSpot also faulted "loose" targeting and some visual and audio glitches.[78][107] 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.[114] GameTrailers and IGN were disappointed with the lack of variety within and between levels.[84][116] 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".[89] GameSpot cited the port's lack of visual options and poor framerate as evidence the PC edition had been rushed.[76]

IGN described the Jedi Academy expansion as "pretty decent".[117] GameSpot said LucasArts seems to have acknowledged some of the game's criticisms in developing the Tatooine expansion,[23] but IGN called the level's boss fights "a joke" in light of the player's high Force powers.[118] 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.[118]

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;[119] it was the ninth most-played Xbox Live title throughout all of 2008.[120] 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.[121][122] 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.[123] 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.[124][125]

Other platforms[edit]

Nintendo Power praised the story and the number of lightsaber combos but criticized the game's easiness and hack-and-slash gameplay.[126] It also praised the Wii version for its story and Force powers, but criticized the game's lightsaber controls and linear gameplay.[126] GameSpot noticed visual glitches and problematic audio compression that detracted from the Wii version's "mature and exciting" story, adding that the reduced number of Force-manipulable objects helps mitigate the targeting problems experienced on other platforms.[79] Referring to the Wii remote and nunchuck controls, GameSpot also speculated that The Force Unleashed is "possibly the most waggle-heavy" Wii game.[79] Zero Punctuation criticized the Wii version's graphics and compared lightsaber combat to "trying to follow an aerobics routine with both your arms tied to different windmills".[127] The ability to upgrade Starkiller's abilities in the PS2 version, according to IGN, is not as "robust" as it should be, and the game's targeting system is sometimes frustrating.[128] IGN said the PS2's real-time cutscene rendering made Starkiller seem emotionless, and that pre-rendered cutscenes would have been better.[83] GameSpot found the DS version's plot interesting but the storytelling itself "lackluster".[75] While the DS version is easy, with Starkiller killing enemies "like a hot knife through butter", GameSpot said the player's sense of power is not matched by a sense of freedom.[75] GameSpot called the PSP version's camera "unwieldy", but added that smaller and less cluttered environments make the targeting system less frustrating than on other platforms.[15] The Wii version was a nominee for multiple Wii-specific awards from IGN in its 2008 video game awards, including Best Story and Best Voice Acting.[129][130]

In the week of its release, the Wii version was the sixth bestselling game in Australia and was second to Wii Fit among games for that platform.[123] The PS2 version was the eighth bestseller in Australia, and both the PS2 and PSP versions were the top sellers on their respective platforms.[123] The DS version was eighth most sold among DS games in Australia.[123] In the United States, the Wii version sold 223,000 copies in September 2008, making it the ninth best-selling game that month.[124][125] In the United States, the PlayStation 2 version was the 14th best-selling game in September 2008, selling over 100,000 copies.[131]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wii and handheld versions only.
  2. ^ In the Wii, PS2, and PSP versions, after this battle, Vader sends Starkiller to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant for additional training. After fighting past Imperial forces, Starkiller endures the Jedi Trial of Skill by battling and defeating a simulation of the ancient Sith Lord, Darth Desolous.
  3. ^ In the Wii, PS2, and PSP versions, after this battle, Vader sends Starkiller back to the Jedi Temple. After fighting past Imperial forces, Starkiller endures the Jedi Trial of Insight by battling a simulation of the ancient Sith Lord, Darth Phobos. Phobos senses Starkiller's attraction to Juno Eclipse and fear of her death and exploits it by taking Juno's form, but Starkiller defeats her anyway.
  4. ^ In the Wii, PS2, and PSP versions, Starkiller meets and rescues Kota on Nar Shaddaa, then before going to Kashyyyk, returns to the Jedi Temple and endures the Jedi Trial of the Flesh by battling a simulation of his father, Kento Marek. It is here that Starkiller meets his father and discovers his true identity, replacing the sequence of him visiting his old home.
  5. ^ In the Wii, PS2, and PSP versions, the battle against PROXY is replaced with a battle against an Emperor's Shadow Guard. After this, Starkiller travels to Cloud City to rescue Garm Bel Iblis, who was kidnapped by the criminal Chop'aa Notimo and his enforcer, Kleef.

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External links[edit]