Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has been available on consoles for a while now, but LucasArts and Aspyr have teamed up to bring a special edition to Windows and Mac OS X subtitled as the “Ultimate Sith Edition.” Unfortunately, the Mac version was delayed until recently. I have had it for a while, and now that I have played through it, I can give you a full-fledged review.

MacWorld reviewed the game as well, and I was a little worried about the game going in. After playing it, I found their review to be overly critical. There are some flaws, and some can be frustrating, but this is far from the train wreck that Chris made it out to be.

Gameplay

Controls

Unlike Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, this is a full-out action game. The attacks are one-for-one with your input. If you click the left mouse button, you swing your light saber. When you press “Q,” you conjure forth lighting from your finger tips. It certainly feels more fast-paced, but you lose a lot of granular control that you got with the pseudo turn-based system from KotOR.

Instead of selecting your targets by clicking on them, you have to be facing them. This is the one area where the keyboard and mouse controls really falls short. It is somewhat clumsy to change your target in a crowded room, but there is a solution. If you prefer, you can play the entire game with an Xbox 360 controller. The only other issue I’ve really found with the controls is that using the track pad doesn’t quite give the same sort of input as the game is expecting. You can’t just drag upwards once, and then rest your finger there. You have to constantly be dragging in one direction.

Customization

In order to upgrade your character, you are awarded “Force Spheres” when you level up. You then use these spheres on different aspects of your character’s abilities. If you prefer to focus on light saber melees, you can focus on upgrading your light saber skills. If you prefer to take out your foes with force lightening, then by all means upgrade your force abilities.

In each level, there are hidden “Holocrons.” Sith Holocrons will provide you will replenished health, and the like. Interestingly, Jedi Holocrons provide you with both “Force Points” (for leveling up) and light saber crystals. If you want to alter how your laser sword will appear and function, you’ll need to go hunting for Holocrons.

Your character will appear in new duds in every new level, but you can change how you look if you so choose. You can swap between any of your outfits from previous levels, but that’s not all. You can also skin yourself as characters from other Star Wars games and movies. If you are dying to play as Obi-Wan, Luke, or Darth Maul, the world is your oyster.

Audiovisual

Graphics

For the most part, this is a very pretty game. The models look very good, and the environments are all very distinct looking. Action games often fall into the trap of repetitive scenery, but each area has a very unique variation on the theme of the planet you’re on currently.

Sadly, all of this beauty comes at a cost. My year-old MacBook Pro is on the low end of supported hardware. They recommend at least a 2.6 Ghz quad-core processor, and a video card with 512 MB of VRAM. There isn’t much you can do if your hardware is lacking. You can, however, turn down the resolution, and that worked well for me. After taking it down a notch, I was able to get it to run without any problem. The only time I really noticed dropped frames was in one area about half-way through the game where there happened to be a lot of enemies on screen in a large setting. I found that the choppiness was very much overstated by MacWorld’s review. Compared to the choppy mess that was the KotOR games, this was surprisingly smooth for me. Is it perfect? No, but it was certainly serviceable.

Sound

I was somewhat torn on the sound in this title. There was a very pleasant score. In fact, there is a wonderfully cheesy moment towards the end that implements a well known song from the movies. However, I find that the music and sound effects can sometimes drown out the voice acting. I ended up going into the game settings, and turning the soundtrack down.

As far as the quality of the voice acting goes, there is some good and some bad. There are some deliveries that sound realistic and soulful. Unfortunately, there are a handful of performances that seem quite contrived. All in all, I’ll go out on a limb and say that there was more good than bad in this department.

Story

This game is set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and you get to play as Darth Vader’s secret apprentice. Lord Vader demands that you go on a series of missions on different worlds to hunt the few remaining Jedi. Slowly, it is revealed that perhaps your relationship with Vader is not what it seems. Eventually, you end up fighting the Galactic Empire, and helping the Rebel Alliance get off the ground. Interestingly, there are two endings available: Lightside and Darkside. The Lightside is the canonical ending, but there is extra content for the Darkside ending.

The high water mark for stories in a Star Wars game is Knights of the Old Republic. I think most people can agree on that point. There are times in this where it rivals the quality of the Old Republic, but it just isn’t nearly as fleshed out. However, it has the benefit of being set during the era of the movies. We get to see characters that we know and love. That is a great feeling, but it just wasn’t as immersive as Bioware’s epic. The game could have used more down time — breathing room, if you will. This is a point in which I am in complete agreement with the MacWorld review. I’m just not as attached to these new characters as I am those of KotOR. I don’t feel personally involved.

Ultimate Sith Edition Bonuses

This special edition brings with it multiple new aspects. The previously mention custom costumes were previously only available via DLC on the original release. Also, there are new Databank entries as well. Those are great, but the bread and butter of this release is the three new levels. Two of these were previously released as DLC, but the third was released first in this edition of the game. These add-ons take the Darkside ending, and run with it.

These levels will take you to the Jedi Temple, the Death Star, Tatooine, and Hoth. The first of these levels is set during the events of the original game content. The second takes place during A New Hope, and you’re saddled with taking on Obi-Wan Kenobi. Lastly, the third level puts you up against Luke Skywalker himself during the events of the Empire Strikes Back. If you get a kick from interacting with beloved characters, you’ll love these levels.

Summary

In sum, this game has shining moments of greatness. Being an all-powerful Sith is incredibly fun. The controls can be a bit frustrating at times, and you’ll need fairly high-end hardware to run it, but it is worth it if you’re interested in Star Wars at all. My only real warning is that you check to make sure that your hardware is supported.

Image Credit: LucasArts