Recent games played — quick reviews

swforcefracture

The Force Unleashed had been my most anticipated game of the year, but sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations. At least it has an appropriate title, for in this game the Force is indeed unleashed, and unleashed big time — so much that it’s actually ridiculous. Take all the power of all the Jedi in all the Star Wars movies, add it all together, and you get an idea of what you can do here. So Yoda can lift an X-wing out of the swamp? He’s an amateur. YOU can rip a freakin’ star destroyer out of the sky, and barely break a sweat doing it! Tie fighters? Swat them away like flies. You can throw around so much lightning the Emperor would be envious. Your Force powers are so strong, you can pretty much get through the game without using your lightsaber at all. And you’re just an apprentice? What happens when you’re actually a Sith master, I wonder?

The story is rather lackluster and muddled. There’s no role-playing aspect to it, no moral choices to be made, no different paths to take (except for one minor choice near the end). You’re stuck playing the character the game gives you, doing the things the games wants you to do, sitting through the boring cut scenes trying to figure out what’s going on. You’re forced into this double/triple agent kind of arrangement, never knowing for sure if deep down inside you’re really evil or not. And the characters are flat and unimpressive, especially the main character, who is just some average-looking human guy with no unique presence at all. I feel the designers could have put in a little effort here, to give us someone more interesting, a character as compelling as Darth Maul for instance. The Jedi you have to fight are similarly unimpressive — no wisdom to impart, no witty dialogue, no evidence of their vastly greater experience with the Force, but simply opponents, just there to be killed.

The Force powers are fun, but altogether unbelievable and not consistent with everything else we know about the Star Wars universe. The graphics are good, but nothing spectacular. The voice-acting is poor. The combat system is adequate; the basics are easy enough to learn, but all the extra “combos” involve overly complex sequences of button-pushing, making them just about useless. Of course that hardly matters, because you can get through the game just by blasting those Force powers constantly.

There have been previous Star Wars games that were better than this one. Better in terms of role-playing, in terms of story, and in terms of having a more balanced and reasonable approach to the Force. I don’t know, maybe I’m strange, but I feel that games should get better as the years go by. There’s still not a Star Wars game better than Jedi Outcast, and hell, that was released six years ago. The Knights of the Old Republic games also put this one to shame.

Fracture is also disappointing in several ways. There’s a superficial veneer of science fiction, but it’s used as nothing more than a cheap background. Basically this game is a shooter largely modeled on (read: ripped off from) Halo. In fact, much of the game feels almost exactly like Halo, but without Halo’s sense of story and drama. There’s an added twist with the ground deformation technology: you are able to use the ground around you, raising it or lowering it to suit your needs (for cover, or to reach a ledge, or whatever). That’s kinda cool, but not really interesting enough to save the game from mediocrity.
It’s a satisfying, if unoriginal, combat experience, but that’s all this game has going for it. Maybe my standards are just too high, but I think there should be something more than that.

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