The Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Switch Port is Weak With the Force

2022-04-21 08:34:40 By : Mr. GANG Li

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed came out during a time where ports of a game could be radically different on each platform. And it is probably the most egregious example of that dead trend, as the PSP, DS, PS2, Wii, and HD versions (the ones on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC) were all unique and had their own feature sets, which was a deliberate decision . The random Nintendo Switch iteration had a lot of choices to pull from and picked the Wii version to translate. Even though it makes sense to continue its Nintendo lineage, it’s a baffling port of a game that wasn’t good to begin with.

The Force Unleashed’s visuals are the first thing that sticks out. Environments and characters are smoother because of their higher resolution and the game runs phenomenally well — which is to be expected of a game built on hardware that was dated by 2006 — but it is incredibly simplistic. Some characters have blocky hands and the animation is stiff and clunky and it’s just generally unpleasant to look at.

The archaic visuals are even more damning when taken into a broader context. Star Wars has a particular look and atmosphere and most of the levels here do not evoke that. Alien planets are barren and often thoughtless narrow corridors or desolate open areas. It’s a big reason why the HD versions of the game are simply superior because, even though their technology is also over a decade and a half old, those renditions had bigger levels with more going on.

The HD versions also had three robust physics engines that helped make them feel more lively: Havok, which simulated general physics; Euphoria, which made humans react more naturally to the Force powers; and DMM ( Digital Molecular Matter) , which made objects like wood, metal, glass, or plant life react realistically to movement and impact. Those three systems combined to make more dynamic worlds that are still remarkable today. Seeing trees crumple after a meaty Force blast or watching a Stormtrooper desperately cling to a box as he is being flung through the air are small touches of realism that game’s don’t often do even now.

The Switch port doesn’t have that deep of an underlying physics system. Many objects don’t react to the player’s destruction and the few that do are unexceptional as they crumble in scripted ways. This is most notable during the parts where large doors obstruct the way forward. In the HD versions, players have to organically use the Force push to blow the door open and watch as it bends realistically in a way that responds to the distance, force, and angle of the attack. In the Switch version, it is a canned quick-time event. Losing The Force Unleashed’s complicated physics simulations is brutal since it was one of the few things that remains impressive despite the huge leap in technology since. 

Without it, The Force Unleashed’s combat is even more dull than ever before. Hacking away is incredibly mashy and repetitive and has no room for nuance or complexity. Blocking is almost entirely optional, as are combos since nothing requires that players change up what they are doing. Boss fights don’t solve this either, as mindlessly hammering on the attack button will almost always lead to victory. Carving through everyone should make players feel strong, but it’s a paradox. Slashing away at goons is not empowering because of how many lightsaber slashes it takes to fell a single enemy. And they only die easily because of their stupidly and fecklessness, not the legendarily deadly power of a lightsaber.

But the issues with the combat go deeper than thoughtless attack strings and stupid enemies. The camera is unwieldy and awkwardly snaps around, which might be because of its Wii roots. Locking on would theoretically fix that, but it doesn’t since it bafflingly only locks the camera to the enemy and doesn’t guide the player’s attacks toward that foe. It’s useless. 

And while still easy, some big enemies have deceptively large attacks that cheaply throw the player around. The dodge doesn’t help since it frustratingly missing important invulnerability frames and has poor animation canceling, making it an unresponsive defensive tool. Attacks are similarly rough and sluggish as they generally have too many recovery frames and also suffer from a lack of animation canceling.  The HD versions also had lousy combat that lacked finesse, but the Switch version is still worse, given the dumber enemies and worse camera.

The game’s narrative may be one of the few aspects that has withstood the sands of time somewhat well. The idea of exploring the relationship between Darth Vader and his secret apprentice is still a compelling hook since it offers a whole new look at a classic villain. Following Starkiller, said apprentice, works because his arc is decently realized through solid performances and a character-driven story that’s easy to follow. And since it is based on the Wii version, it even has different scenes that add more backstory to the events, resulting in a slightly deeper tale when compared to the HD versions. The stilted animation and less expressive characters do hold it back and the story is not as elegant as ones told in more contemporary games (like, say, Jedi Fallen Order), but it’s still entertaining since its narrative seemingly had more care put into it when compared to other games from around that time. 

However, that lone bright spot doesn’t excuse all of the weaknesses in this bewildering rerelease. Out of all the ways to bring The Force Unleashed into the modern era, Aspyr Media weirdly only chose to port one of the more antiquated versions to just a single platform without doing much in the way of improving it.  It doesn’t even have content from any of the other iterations nor does it come bundled with the HD version or the maligned sequel that didn’t grace any Nintendo platforms, both of which the Switch could likely handle well. At $20, it isn’t too horribly overpriced, but it seems like the low price point was designed to justify such a straightforward and unexciting conversion. 

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed deserves more than that. It was always overrated and was never truly a good game, but it was memorable within the Star Wars game pantheon because of its killer premise. There’s an admirable core here that deserves to be improved or remade, especially since it died so unceremoniously with its rushed sequel that ended up being LucasArts’ final internally developed game . A remake, reboot, or even a modest enhancement could finally realize the potential that the series has had since its inception. Aspyr, the team behind this port, is capable of doing more since it is developing a full Knights of the Old Republic remake. And not only is it a shame that The Force Unleashed isn’t receiving a similar treatment, it’s even worse when all it’s getting is a bizarre port that mainly just points out its worst qualities.