Review: The Force Unleashed (Nintendo Switch)
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a third-person action title for the Nintendo Switch. If you’ve heard of this one before, that’s because it’s actually a 2008 game that did the rounds across almost every possible platform at the time. Now the tale of Darth Vadar’s secret apprentice is ready to unfold on the humble Switch.
This isn’t the first time The Force Unleashed has appeared on a Nintendo system, with Wii and DS versions previously available. It’s anyone’s guess as to what prompted this latest port – 14 years doesn’t seem like a particularly noteworthy anniversary. It’s also a missed opportunity to package the game with its sequel in one fell swoop to satiate fans – everyone loves a combo deal. The Switch port probably has more to do with the hybrid console’s popularity than anything else.
That greedy sentiment aside, even after 14 years, The Force Unleashed is an entertaining ride. The highlight is its standout narrative, complete with brilliant voice work. Set between Star Wars movies Episodes III and IV, this is the untold story of Vadar’s continuing quest to rid the universe of jedis. Along the way, he secretly recruits an apprentice to assist with this dark task.
The story begins with a prologue of sorts, showing us how Vadar found his very young apprentice. This gives players the chance to walk in Vadar’s shoes, which is a treat in itself and the perfect introduction to the game. Vadar is one of the most powerful warriors in the galaxy and embodies pure terror. The developers conveyed this feeling by creating a strong, almost invincible character who stalks through each scene with purpose. He doesn’t run or use stealth; he doesn’t need to. His menacing presence and glowing laser sword are enough to slash his way through any enemies foolish enough to resist.
After discovering and defeating a hidden jedi on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk, Vadar takes a surviving youngling under his wing, training him in the dark side of the force. This new recruit is kept secret, even from Vadar’s own master – you can never trust a Sith, after all – and this is how we’re introduced to the game’s main protagonist, Galen Marek, also known as Starkiller.
Starkiller moves differently to Vadar. He’s faster and more agile, which makes sense because he’s younger and less robotic. He also lacks the sheer presence of Vadar, that fear factor I mentioned earlier. Despite his dark upbringing, his humanity is evident. Without getting into spoilers for anyone who hasn’t played it before, Starkiller’s loyalties will be put to the test. He’s an interesting character and a great addition to the Star Wars lore, even if this game is no longer considered canon.
Starkiller continues Vadar’s mission to hunt down and destroy the remaining jedi. This leads him to many locations, from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to the jungle planet of Felucia. This variety is appreciated, with a range of enemies to conquer, including some interesting boss fights and satisfying lightsaber battles. Since Starkiller himself is meant to exist only in the shadows, everyone is basically his enemy, from jedis to stormtroopers.
Being a 2008 game, the graphics have dated a little. It still works well overall, with many varied and colorful planets to explore, but on a large TV screen, it’s hard not to notice that these are graphics from another decade. Things fare better in handheld mode, to the point where I was fully immersed in the environment and didn’t notice the semi-retro look nearly as much. We’re not talking about blocky 64-bit graphics, though, and overall it’s aged pretty well. A full graphical overhaul (in a combo package!) might have been a nicer treat for fans and a more justified release, although that would also result in a heftier price tag.
The story and voice work more than make up for these dated graphics. The writing is easily the best part of the game, creating the feel of a lost movie – Episode 3.5, if you will. The terrific story should satisfy any Star Wars fan, with new and old characters brought to life via excellent voice work. The music is also fantastic, which is perhaps unsurprising given the source material. Most tunes are based on the movies, however some original tracks help add to the overall experience.
The Force Unleashed is not a particularly hard game, which can be seen as a pro or a con depending on what you’re looking for. I personally enjoyed the linear gameplay for what it was; it felt like I was playing through an interactive movie. If I wanted something more open-world, well, there are many other titles to scratch that itch. As a genuinely fun and unique Star Wars experience, this hit the spot for me, but it’s worth noting that this story won’t have you playing for more than 8-10 hours, despite the presence of collectibles.
Overall, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is an old game that’s back for another round on the Switch. If you’re a Star Wars fan who hasn’t previously enjoyed this title, I can highly recommend giving it a go. The engaging story and excellent voice work help bring it to life, despite the slightly dated graphics and relatively simple gameplay.