I've already had my fair share of experience with this particular title, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I've played through the story both on the Xbox 360 and Wii, and I've even dabbled with the PS3 version of the game, so I'm pretty well-acclimated with the title by now. However, this is my first time trying the Ultimate Sith Edition reworking, and it's definitely my first experience with the game on a PC. It's a shame, then, that I found this port to be lacking. It doesn't make great use of the available hardware, and it doesn't allow you to adjust simple options in the display, like resolution or anti-aliasing. My current hardware exceeds the recommended specs, but there wasn't a way to optimize my settings to make use of the extra power. Also, the game has some issues in general, mostly dealing with frame rate hiccups that occur over time, which once again can't be fixed or adjusted due to the limitations in the game options. It's definitely a console port in that they didn't bother to adjust anything for PC players and kept every option as it was on the home console versions.
Thankfully, these issues don't completely render the game inept. It's still one of the best Star Wars-related video games to date, offering a prequel tale that takes place just a few years behind "A New Hope" and allowing players to step into the shoes of Darth Vader's secret apprentice. Known as Starkiller (an old-school reference for longtime Star Wars fans), you'll take on a series of missions for the Dark Lord that span the length of the galaxy. You'll check out locations such as the original Death Star, Kashyyyk and other familiar names over the course of eight hours. This particular release comes with three additional levels — Hoth, the Jedi Academy and Tatooine, which are all familiar to fans of the franchise — that aren't found in the core game, but two of the levels are available as part of the downloadable content for the console games.
Story-wise, these three stages remain separate from the main game, so you can access them as stand-alone missions whenever you choose. Because of this, not all of your unlocked powers or upgrades will carry over when you do these levels; instead, you'll get a default setup that's pretty powered-up. Tatooine and Hoth both take place after the events of the game and directly relate to story lines of both "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back," so a powered-up Starkiller isn't really unexpected. The Jedi Academy level is a little different, tasking you with taking on a test to prove your mettle.
All three stages do a great job of rendering their own unique environments. It would have been nice if they were a little more integrated into the overall game, instead of existing as these "what if" scenarios outside of the campaign. I also found the encounters to be a little bland in the Hoth and Tatooine stages. Tatooine covers some familiar ground, like Jabba's Palace and Mos Eisley, but the boss encounters are too easy to really pack a punch. Hoth, on the other hand, features a challenging boss fight but a lame-duck level design, where you just navigate cavern after cavern, battling Wampas and troopers. None of these three stages feels as well-designed as anything you'll find in the main game, and they seem to exist as a quick attempt to appeal to the nostalgic Star Wars fan.
Control-wise, the mouse and keyboard setup works surprisingly well here, and that's saying something since a lot of third-person action titles tend to screw up the controls on a PC. With that said, playing with a control pad is still the best option. Since this is a port of a console game that hasn't been optimized much for the PC, I don't think it's a stretch to think that's the way the game was intended to be played. You get proof of this right from the outset in that you can't navigate the opening menu with a mouse.
Visually, The Force Unleashed looks solid, and while I was expecting a little more on the visual side considering the superior quality you can get from a decent PC rig, the fact that the game doesn't allow you to change many options keeps it a little hamstrung when compared to other PC ports of console titles. Take a look at the stuff that Capcom has published in the past few years for the PC, and you'll see that there are some outstanding visual options that really push how good their games can look. It certainly puts this titleto shame.
Finally, you're also pretty limited in the sound options, but not nearly as much as the video options. Output sounded normal to me, and aside from a small cutout during dialogue of one particular cut scene, I never ran into any major audio problems. The game sounds as great as it did on the console versions, with some excellent voice acting and a great use of the traditional John Williams soundtrack. Lots of little sound effects are still present, like glass shattering and lightsaber dueling noises; all of these little details come together to bring to life the idea of playing in the Star Wars universe.
If you haven't had a chance to check out The Force Unleashed until now, then you'll also be in for a treat when it comes to the story. The tale is one of the better "Extended Universe" tales out there, and while the game may not be entirely canon for die-hard fans, it's certainly more compelling than anything the prequel films had to offer. Starkiller is a pretty nuanced character who has a great arc over time, and it's certainly cool to see the interactions he has with various characters from the main trilogy. The cut scenes are handled extremely well, and I'm glad that they're making a sequel to this one.
I will gripe a little bit about the gameplay, though, and this is a carryover from my complaints of the original console title. Aiming can be a little off when you're using Force powers. This is less of a problem in boss fights, since those are typically one-on-one affairs, but you can't be nearly as precise with your Force powers when facing large groups. Also, the game can be a little cheap, providing a long, drawn-out animation that leaves you helpless when you're knocked to the ground, and while the physics engine is impressive, it's not without the occasional hiccup or issue. There are a couple of other sequences that I have trouble with control-wise, including the impressive one you see in the trailer that involves you Force-gripping a Star Destroyer to bring it crashing down on the planet's surface. It would have been nice to see some of these well-documented issues handled with this re-release of the original game, but the gameplay remains the same.
Along with the three additional stages, you'll also get a number of skins that were included as DLC with the console release, but I didn't notice anything new. If you're planning on picking up Star Wars: The Force Unleashed — Ultimate Sith Edition, keep in mind that the only brand-spanking-new addition is the inclusion of the Hoth level, and that alone isn't worth spending $40. If you haven't played the game before and you've been waiting for a PC release, then it's probably going to be worth checking out, but keep in mind that you're not really gaining much over the console release with this port. It's a shame that the title couldn't have been better optimized. It really seems like a missed opportunity.
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