Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on April 18, 2015

force-unleashedStar Wars: The Force Unleashed is yet another game from that Star Wars bundle. It was decent enough to finish, mostly because I thought the cutscenes were pretty well done. But not actually good. Fortunately, it’s also pretty short. ~15 hours total.

This game was 100% made for the console, and not a lot of effort was put into porting it to the PC. Starting the game actually brings up an options screen that includes the graphics and key config options. Once inside the game, you can’t see your key binding options. And the on-screen help will tell you to hit E to use a force power no matter what key you bound it to. So that’s dumb. And forces me to use the dumb WASD controls that everyone (including Abed on Community) seems to think is a good idea, when ESDF is clearly superior (it’s where your left hand is supposed to be on the keyboard, and there’s the little bump to tell you your fingers are in the right place!). The mouse is useless in the UI, Also when you bring up the actual game, there’s a good 15 seconds of unskippable company logos. It’s actually a pretty cool animation for the LucasArts one, but I really only needed to see that once. And the options lets you change the volume for music, sound effects, and voice. It started pretty loud, so I cut all three by half. Then I discovered none of those changes the volume for the cutscenes, so when I selected “play” I got a deafeningly loud rendition of the main Star Wars theme.

But on the plus side, it looks a hell of a lot better than the much older games I’ve been playing recently. Again an artifact of the console port, it doesn’t support windowed mode at all (without using a 3rd party program), but at least it does 1920×1080 so I can alt-tab out without having to switch resolutions. My attention span is too short to even focus on an action video game for very long. But of course when I alt-tab back, my left hand is on the wrong key, so I always hold down E to run forward, but end up force pushing.

It reminds me a bit of the Arkham Asylum games, what with a lot of focus on combat animations, somewhat at the expense of gameplay. You hit attack a couple of times, and you’re locked in a fairly lengthy animation. And the gameplay is kinda nothing. You run around clicking attack when you’re near the bad guys, sometimes hitting other buttons to do combos. It’s pretty easy to kill stuff. The only real challenge is figuring out what they want you to do to advance to the next area. There’s usually a highlighted thing, sometimes that means you need to use force lift to move it around, sometimes you need to use force lift to fling something at it, sometimes you use force lightning to electrocute it. Which ultimately feels kind of dumb. The map only occasionally gives you an indication of the general direction you need to head. But sometimes that’s “2:00 relative to how you’re facing” in a multi-level area, so that’s no help at all. There’s no north on the map, and sometimes you run into a symmetrical room twirling around doing combat animations for 4 minutes, you can frequently forget which door you came in, and then go back the way you came and be confused why there aren’t any enemies anywhere. And the combat animations cause you to step every time you swing your lightsaber, so when fighting an enemy near a ledge, you quite frequently walk right off the edge.

The boss fights take you out of a traditional first person view, and switch to a fixed camera. This is annoying as hell, because it’s 3D at about a 30 degree overhead view, and aiming at someone from a distance, particularly when it’s not a straight east/west or north/south angle, it’s a pain. I sent quite a few force lightning attacks off into the ether, wasting force energy. The worst though is that when you get down to defeating a boss, it switches out of combat into a cutscene-like animation, and to successfully complete the finishing move, you have to quickly respond to a series of buttons to press (this is why my own keymapping is impossible, it flashes “E” on the screen, and you have about a second to hit your force push button… so basically if that’s not E, you’re going to screw it up all the time by not reacting in time). I’m sure the animations are all cool and stuff, but you can’t really enjoy them, because you’re focusing on the bottom of the screen for the next button to hit. I’d much rather a short series of buttons to press show up at the beginning of the finishing move, and if you get them right, the animation plays out and you can watch it comfortably.

Crashdown from Battlestar Galactica (who I guess is the vampire guy on the American Being Human? I watched the pilot of that, and for some reason I didn’t remember that fact) voices/mo-caps the protagonist. Your character has a lot of costume changes for some reason. Jimmy Smits shows up to voice Bail Organa, even though none of the other movie characters get their actors to do their voices. Wonder Woman from the Justice League cartoons voices one of the Jedi you’re sent to kill.

When you first meet your sexy blonde British-accented pilot, she makes some comment about what your job is, and you go “you don’t need to know what I do, you just fly me where I need to go,” like you’re all secret agent need-to-know-basis guy. Then one brief tutorial later, you get your mission briefing right in front of her, naming your target and everything. That’s just poor writing. Also, your pilot wears basically the same uniform as Imperial officers, the monochrome hat, jacket, pants, with the patch of blue and red squares that I think indicates rank. Except her jacket doesn’t reach in front, to make room for what I guess is relatively tasteful cleavage by video game standards. But why not just give her the regular uniform? And then if the story progresses to where she feels more comfortable around you, she can take the jacket off later? Wouldn’t that make more sense for the imperial uniforms, actually be a way to show a character’s attitude towards someone evolving, and you’d still get to show your CG cleavage?

The version with the bundle had 3 add-on missions. I played the first one, which takes place during the Empire’s raid on Hoth, but you end up converting Luke to the dark side, which I found kinda lame. It was light on story, so I didn’t bother with the others.


One Response

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  1. joseph jeong said, on April 21, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    If movement controls are fixed to WASD and can’t be changed to ESDF, that’s a deal breaker for me and I won’t ever play the game. You have much more patience than me.

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