Lone Starr Starkiller, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.
As tempting as it is to write this review with Star Wars puns, I may as well give into temptation and go all out. I knew the dark side was strong in this one when I first realized I couldn’t navigate the menus using a mouse, a harbinger that this will be a shoddy a console port. To navigate the menus bracket and arrow keys use you must! You do have the option to hook up a 360 controller, but seeing how this is supposed to be for the PC, not the 360 I decided to play with the keyboard and mouse despite the fact I had a bad feeling about the control scheme.
The game opens up with Vader’s drop ship landing on Kashyyk looking to kill one of the few remaning Jedi after the famed order “66” from episode III. Once there, you wipe out this Jedi, take his son in and raise him as your own dark apprentice and dub him “Starkiller”. Once you’ve reached maturity, Vader sends you out on your first mission to hunt down an old Jedi general in hopes of testing his mettle before he and Vader attempt to kill the Emperor.
Before you set out on your first mission, you’ve given a tutorial on how to use your force grab, and force push. It’s pretty straight forward stuff until you attempt to throw what you’ve picked up in front of you. I struggled from start to finish (even the 3 bonus levels) trying to figure out how to throw stuff in front of me. What ended up happening was the object that I would want to throw forward, would jot up and to the left 80% of the time, and the other time, out and to the right. There are some boss battles that go by much faster in this game if you simply throw objects at them, so what I eventually ended up doing was putting my back to them, and throwing the object behind me. I think you can execute special saber combos, but how you do so with just a keyboard and mouse is an impossibility. The two I could execute was a jump attack and a jump slam attack, I’m positive there are other special attacks but I just didn’t care to try them out. To close out on how bad the controls are, you’re given my all time favorite thing to do in games “Quick time events”. I’ve hated these events since their inception. I know the God of War games have them (and lets be honest, Force Unleashed is a watered down GoW) but with this game, they happen far too often. One bonus is, if you screw up you don’t lose health or die automatically, giving you an infinite number of chances to get the button combination right. When you do execute all the button mashing correctly.
Speaking of enemies, you’ll be fighting iconic Star Wars characters and monsters (Such as Vader and Ranncor) along with the *muffled voice* “Gamorrian Gaurd”. The AI is horrendous and it’s insanely easy to take them down. The only difference I noticed in the difficulty setting is how much damage is dealt to you per hit, and how much health you regain after each kill. Boss battles can be difficult at times, but once you’ve memorized their pattern, it’s a sinch. What I hate most about the boss battles, is that your camera is locked into one posistion while the fight is taking place. It doesn’t hinder the controls that much, but being forced into a specific camera angel when you’ve been able to look around for a good while just seems off. While on the topic of boss battles, there were some times, I would have to re-load my game as I constantly came across a bug where the boss would “freeze” in place not allowing me to hit him, thus halting the games progress. I know it sounds like I have nothing good to say about this game, but that isn’t the case. I just thought I’d get all the bad stuff out of the way first before I head onto the good.
The Light Side
Visually speaking the characters and textures look amazing. Provided they’ll be recycled a lot throughout the game, but it’s not a bad thing as you’ll be visiting some locations at least twice. Level design seems to be familiar to another Aspyr game I played called, Dreamkiller. The same gripes I have there apply to this game. The levels are insanely small and cramped, and you’ll catch your breath down a hall way or sorts to enter giant box to kill more baddies. On occasion it’s mixed up a bit where you have to avoid something such as dodging a giant laser beam in a tube in the death star, or watching out for falling guillotines to make your way from point A to point B. You’ll have a quest arrow telling you exactly where to go, but there isn’t much room for exploration, even though there are “force holocrons” you can find that can unlock new costumes, give you bonuses to your skills and give you temporary buffs such as invincibility.
You do have the option to customize your character a bit. You level up as you kill baddies and collect “force points” from the aforementioned holocron cubes. These points can be spent to increase the effectiveness of your saber attacks and force spells. If it sounds familiar it should, it’s another gameplay element borrowed from God of War. It’s not terrible, and it gives players a bit of customization. But near the end of the game it seems rather pointless, as every skill set you have will be maxed out, defeating the purpose to craft a character to your liking.
The music and sound effects are in par with anything that comes out of ILM. The clashing of the light sabers, the zing of the blaster fire are all there as well with the wails of R2 units being damaged. Needless to say everything sound wise is in place. Musically speaking, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything Star Wars related that isn’t oozing with the genius that is John Williams. So your eyes and ears will be in good company as you cut down rebels, jawas, storm troopers, and even AT units thanks to the great job done by the graphics, sound and music engineers.
The bonus content is rather nice, but it’s not without its flaws. The three missions that tell a different story arch where Starkiller kills Vader, and takes his place are rather short. You get to venture to Hoth, Tattooine and the Jedi temple. The levels are very narrow physically but they vary in the sense there’s some simple puzzles solving along the way.