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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

If you love Star Wars, or want a decent iPhone game, don't buy The Force Unleashed.

Alex Selth
3 min read

The Force Unleashed is the latest video game based on George Lucas' popular Star Wars franchise of movies, books and video games, and was released around the same time as its brethren on the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Nintendo DS, N-Gage and mobile phone in a calculated assault on Star Wars fans' pockets. In it, you pilot Darth Vader's secret apprentice, the powerful force wielder known only as Starkiller.


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

The Good

Doesn't actually cause your iPhone to crash, most of the time. Has a lightsaber.

The Bad

Antiquated graphics. Almost no control over the game. None of the praised Force Unleash story. Uneven and inconsistent difficulty. No different from the Java version. Simply not fun. The power-save screen fade kicks in during the game. Criminally short.

The Bottom Line

If you love Star Wars, or want a decent iPhone game, don't buy The Force Unleashed.

Gameplay revolves around having the player draw a variety of shapes and lines on the iPhone screen to activate the various force powers that Starkiller uses. Unfortunately, this is all the control the game allows you. Starkiller's movements are pre-programmed, and only kick in when all the enemies have been cleared. There are no puzzles, and the brutal boss battles can only be completed by a single approach, with the game supplying ample resources to complete it by this method.

With the limited choice of controls the game deigns to give you, you're only limited to using one power rather than the six or so force powers you may have at any one time, which in most cases is not the power you wish you could use. We also found that against ranged enemies, it was often faster to simply deflect their laser blasts back at them by drawing a line to an indicated corner of the screen than use one of your vaunted force powers.

The Force Unleashed is pretty stable — for an iPhone game. We didn't experience any crashes during our time with the game, but there are a multitude of smaller loads spread throughout the app. Why this is, is not entirely apparent, as alongside the simplistic gameplay lies some of the worst graphics the iPhone is capable of producing. We aren't just talking low-end iPhone or iPod Touch graphics here — this game would not look out of place on many of the older Java-capable phones we have lying in the detritus of our office. This game looks bad, and there is no escaping it. At times, Starkiller's lightsaber resembles a lightning strike more closely than a sword beam, with the elegant weapon sometimes disappearing entirely as the single pixel-width weapon turns on its side.

The matte backdrops and non-moving objects in cutscenes are impressive in their water-coloured beauty, but there is no movement, or indication of life, either through visuals or ambient sound, and they clash so horrifically with the character's graphics that they're tainted by association.

Reviews for the other versions of The Force Unleashed received praise due to the superb storytelling and almost human-like characters. That isn't the case with the iPhone version. It seems as if THQ decided that the story was secondary to the action of Star Wars, with no voice acting, a cut-down narrative and the personality of the characters stripped away in an attempt to minimise the game's size.

Is it worth it?
What's important to realise is that this is not a true iPhone game — it's a Java game through and through, down to the "enable sounds" question when first starting the game. You wouldn't pay eight dollars for a Java game, and it's unlikely that you'll find similar value in this purchase. The Force Unleashed is a reasonably cheap purchase, but unless you're planning on collecting The Force Unleashed on every platform, you can find much better use for your money.