Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that much of the gameplay revolves around combat, but there's no blood or gore, and you're fighting primarily against alien creatures or faceless stormtroopers. However, the fighting is relentless, thus garnering the "T" rating and our age recommendation of 12. The game raises interesting moral issues as you must decide whether you are an evil Sith or a good Jedi. Since you are required to play part of your time in the game as an evil Sith, kid-fans of the Star Wars movies may have trouble with the mandatory killing of many of the good characters they have come to love, including Wookies.
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What's it about?
STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED takes place in between Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. You play as a lightsaber-wielding apprentice to Darth Vader, but as you unravel more of the story, key players, and locations, you might choose to become a noble Jedi Knight instead of an evil Sith. The game begins on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, as seen in Episode III but also takes players to the junk planet of Raxus, the floral world of Felucia, a TIE Fighter construction facility, and more. Players will meet and interact with new characters designed for the game as well as familiar faces from the films (in fact, you get to play as the Sith Lord Vader during part of the game).
Along with its stunning widescreen, high-definition graphics on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the game excels in how you use your learned Force powers. Specifically, the developers at LucasArts did an extraordinarily good job in making players feel powerful thanks to superhuman abilities, including the ability to push around huge objects without touching them or damage things by emitting lightning blasts through your fingertips. Players can also combine these rewarding powers for a dramatic effect, such as using a Force grip on someone's neck, lifting them in the air and then zapping them silly before tossing them into a nearby tree. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game play exactly the same, but the Nintendo Wii version lets you swing around the wireless and motion-sensing Wii Remote and nunchuk to pull off the lightsaber moves and force effects.
Is it any good?
One of the key problems with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, however, is its linearity; players are on a pretty tight leash as they navigate these indoor and outdoor levels and can't veer too far away from your path. How amazing would it be to have some open-ended levels, such as a Grand Theft Auto sandbox game, where you're left to explore your surroundings. This drawback can also hurt the game's replayability. Other issues are the lack of a multiplayer mode and a PC version of the game, plus the third-person camera can sometimes obscure your view instead of providing a cinematic perspective of the action.
If Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was rated by special effects alone, the sci-fi adventure would garner unanimous praise by video game reviewers. But as with some criticisms of the iconic feature films, not everyone will find substance underneath the style. But it sure is a fun ride and one that Star Wars fanatics will revel in as they appreciate its gorgeous graphics and impressive physics effects while turning a blind eye to the game's shortcomings. Visually speaking, the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are much better (in high-definition) than the PS2, Wii, and handheld versions of the game. An iPhone version is also available at the Apple App Store.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how you can be good or evil in this game. How did you decide which to become? This game is not unlike many of the Star Wars movies: big on production but light on story. Are we more forgiving of a Star Wars adventure in this regard than other video games based on movie franchises? Or do video games really need depth? Also, what did you think of this game's linear path? Would you have prefered a more open-ended experience?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.