It’s becoming quite clear that LucasArts is not planning on TFU (The Force Unleashed) to be just another Star Wars game. With action figure and novel tie-ins, the company is planning on making the IP a whole other Star Wars property that plays a big part in the beloved saga. Recently, we were invited to a LucasArts press event that showcased a number of games, one of them being TFU. To start off, TFU’s project lead, Hayden Blackman came out to reiterate the core themes of the game, such as presenting the Force in a distinctly powerful way that enables the player to kick plenty of ass. Darth Vader’s secret and still nameless apprentice was discussed, as well as the theme of redemption in the Star Wars saga, so although you may start off as a servant of the Sith, things may not always stay that way.
Our demonstration for the Xbox 360 version of the game began with one of the developers going through an imperial hangar in search of a Jedi, and killing off every storm trooper to clear away any witnesses. The reason for this is that you are on missions for Vader alone, and he doesn’t want the Emperor to know what he’s up to. The player made use of the many crates lying around the hangar by hurling them at the troopers, which they vainly tried to hold onto with their Euphoria empowered minds. The robust combo system was also evident from the fighting, and we were told that there will be two dozen different combos, many which involve combining lightsaber attacks with the Force (An example being infusing the saber with Force lighting, and then wailing on your enemy.)
Next the player proceeded to send out a Force shockwave to bend open a large set of blast doors using the game’s Digital Molecular Matter technology, which also enabled the doors to be bent closed again to cut off any pursuing enemies. We were then on a platform in a very large chasm with TIE fighters flying above, which the player was able to take out by bending some steel beams into their path, and also by hurling storm troopers at them. Destroying enough TIE’s by human projectiles will also earn you an achievement on the 360 version.
The next level we were shown was the planet of Felucia, which briefly appeared in the Episode 3 film. The apprentice was also sporting a new outfit, and LucasArts mentioned that every level will unlock new threads for your dark Jedi. Digital Molecular Matter has also been used to give some very organic looking behavior to the enormous mushrooms and fungi covering the planet that reacts realistically to any physical contact.
Traversing through the remnants of a battlefield from the Clone Wars, the player was confronted by a hulking rancor. Instead of merely slashing at the beast, the player electrocuted nearby Felucian soldiers and flung them like grenades at the beast. This little innovation made it clear that the designers want to encourage the player to be as creative as possible with the Force powers. Eventually the player jumped up on the rancor’s head for an elaborate finishing move by sinking the lightsaber in, then vaulting to the ground and unleashing a thunder storm of Force lighting before throwing the saber into the rancor’s eye. The amount of power available to the player in the game seems to be quite over the top, but the developers stated that the Force is presented differently in the novels, comics and movies of the Star Wars universe, and the same goes for their game.
The last level we were shown took place on the garbage planet of Raxus Prime, and with tons of junk laying around it made for a Force user’s paradise. The player then took on some Rodian scavengers who were equipped with tractor beam gauntlets that functioned similar to Force telekinesis. Here we were shown what LucasArts calls the “payoff cam”, which follows an enemy’s body hurdling through the air after you have dealt a powerful blow, clearly meant to show off the Euphoria engine in action. Unfortunately the payoff cam seemed to have a bit of work left, as it was pretty shaky and collided with several objects in the environment.
The end of the level brought us to a boss fight with Kasdar, a mentally unstable Jedi that’s short a few Midi-chlorians. This was clear from his reconstruction of the Jedi Council chambers and members from heaps of trash. While battling Kasdar, we were shown that the other Jedi you face will have the same kind of incredible Force power that the user possesses, which was evident in the flurry of moves and hailstorms of Force lighting he pulled out. Shortly later Kasdar fled from the arena, but the fight wasn’t over yet as a giant junk titan emerged, made from heaps of trash sewn together with the Force. But as we braced ourselves for the epic fight to unfold, our demo came to a close.
Overall, we came away fairly impressed with the gameplay presented in TFU, although the bugs we saw occurring, such as animation glitches and collision detection, show the game still has a little fine tuning left. Since we still haven’t gotten any hands on time with the game, it remains to be seen how LucasArts is going to make all of these moves easy to pull off control wise. We were happy to see just how insane the Force powers are shaping up in the game, as having them represented subtly wouldn’t make for very fun gameplay. We asked about multiplayer modes, but the developers are still keeping tight lipped on what’s in store. One sure thing is that LucasArts is dead serious about doing the Star Wars License justice and giving gamers control of the Force like never before.