Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Wish Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Hadn't Been Terrible

As it happens, apparently, I've been watching a Let's Play for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Protip:  Apparently the Youtube App on Vita cares not for Copyright flags) and it has reminded me about the game that I played and Platinum'd so long ago.  The Force Unleashed is one of those games that I had such, such high hopes for despite not really caring much for Star Wars, the lore involved, or having common sense.  Obviously, the game was never going to be good, but we could always hope that it wasn't going to be terrible and depending on how you look at it, it kind of wasn't.  It did some things very well and by and large, those things that it did well were the ones that mattered, but...well, it just wasn't enough.

The Force Unleashed, to me, is basically just another go at the Psi-Ops:  The Mindgate Conspiracy formula, and for anyone who's been here since the beginning, you know that I love me some friggin Psi-Ops.  It's got all the components:  a slip-shod excuse of a story that gives you amazing superpowers, the mentioned amazing superpowers and a wholly inadequate secondary method of attack that the game forces you to rely on more and more as it goes on, effectively killing its own fun by virtue of not understanding that amazing superpowers are why you are playing it.  It's an allusion that I cannot help but make anytime I talk about The Force Unleashed, because it's indelibly true in my brain and absolutely nothing's going to change that.  Because I can back it up with more words!

One of the core mechanics of The Force Unleashed is Force Grip which allows you to pick up objects, people and everything in between and hurl them and/or just manipulate them using your mind the Force.  It is unabashed fun since there's really no science to it - you don't just move things, but rather can throw things at high speeds and they flail about in mid-air until they collide painfully with a wall or another person or the bleak vacuum of space or something flammable which promptly explodes because it's awesome.  While you're holding someone up in the air with your mind the Force, they're more or less at your mercy (some enemies can regain their senses and take shots at you while they're hovering in mid-air) leaving you open to do all sorts of fun stuff like throw your lightsaber through their gut or shock them with Force Lightning.  You cannot set them on fire, however, which is unfortunate.  Now, if you'll allow me to pull a paragraph from the linked post that I assure you has nothing to do with what I just said.
"Yes, the ability to move objects, as well as people, with your mind. Also a hand gesture.  As slightly pictured above, we see Nick holding up one of the soldiers up with his mind and his hand.  (I'll stop that now.)  Of course, the main fun with this power is that you do not simply -move- people and objects, should you desire.  Oh, no no no, what you can do is pick up a soldier on one end of the room and, with a simple flick of the control stick and letting go of the TK button, and launch him at a fellow soldier on the other end of the room.  What you can do, is pick up an explosive barrel and launch it with enough force at a group of soldiers that it breaks every law of physics (as explosive barrels are wont to do) and explodes, leaving them a heap of charred ex-opposition.  What you can do, is rush into a fight and simply throw everything not bolted down at whoever or whatever you wish, destroying everything without firing a single bullet from any of the guns you (needlessly) carry."
-Regarding Telekinesis in Psi-Ops:  The Mindgate Conspiracy (Post here again)
So yes, I realize that I'm just silly and that there are actually -no real comparisons or allusions that one can draw from one game to the next- but allow me my mania, if you will.  Much like Psi-Ops, The Force Unleashed has a secondary combat option (secondary to the Force, that is) which is your lightsaber combat.  And you think "But it's a fucking lightsaber, how is that not the coolest thing ever" and it's very simple.  The reason it's not the coolest thing ever is because it's incredibly clunky and half-done.  Much like the gunplay in Psi-Ops.  The games were very clearly built around the awesome superpowers you're given from the get-go, with the tertiary combat options included for those brief moments when you don't actually have Force/Psychic energy to spam your awesome superpowers.  The lightsaber, contrary to what you've been told, does not cut through everything (I'm imagining a re-imagined The Force Unleashed with REVENGEANCE-style cutting and oh god, my pants) and in fact doesn't cut a whole lot of things!  Also a good grip of the enemies have a lightsaber or equivalent meaning you don't just automatically win because you can theoretically cut them in half like it's no big deal.  Compare that to the amount of enemies that you can reliably send flying at 60 mph with Force Grip for a huge chunk of damage, and you can see why it's less favorable.

So of course, during the middle of the game and through the end of it, several enemies develop resistances to your Force powers because fuck you.  Some troopers absorb your Force Lightning somehow and actually become stronger for it, some troopers just cannot be Force Gripped and so on and so forth.  So you're basically stuck stunning them with the environment and slapping them with lightsaber combos until they die and it's inordinately boring.  I understand that, as a Video Game, they have to pretend that there's a sort of thing as scaling and balance, but on the other hand, you're a fucking Sith.  For half of it.  Then a Jedi for the other half even though you're not really a Jedi until like the last level because of the way the shitty plot is structured and paced.  The point is, you're the equivalent of a force of nature in the game, so trying to throw balance and scaling at you is akin to madness without some appropriate method of doing so.  And sorry but, "Stormtroopers with cool armor" is not appropriate.

Really, all The Force Unleashed had going for it was the insane amount of fun you could have with the Force powers in the earlier levels because you weren't quite as restricted with them.  The ending levels are miles better than the latter levels of Psi-Ops, of course which helps, but at the same time it's not an effective metric to say "well, the ending levels could have been shittier".  It was an immense waste of potential and even though what we got was 'okay', that doesn't excuse the fact that you have possibly one of the most fun caste of mechanics in a game, and your end-product is marred by your insistence against using them properly.  I haven't read up on The Force Unleashed 2 much, but I've heard that it runs along the same lines while somehow having a worse story, which I don't even understand.  (Spoiler:  The Force Unleashed's story basically boils down to "EVERYONE WHO CAN MANIPULATE THE FORCE IS AN ASSHOLE")  I'll get it some day, but I have no doubt that I'll be similarly disappointed with it.

how do you make lightsabers not fun?  seriously

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