Sep 17, 2008

The Force Unleashed - Early Impressions

Due to the lackluster launch day reviews, I decided to rent Star Wars: The Force Unleashed from Blockbuster instead of buying it outright. Per the reviewers, the game is about 8-9 hours long, so I'll probably get a dozen hours out of it (I like to smell the flowers and explore all the nooks and crannies).

For new games that I'm not sure I'll like, I'm beginning to think that Blockbuster might be a great solution. If you keep the game more than a week past the due date, Blockbuster charges your credit card as if you'd purchased the title. You then have up to a month to return the game for a refund, minus a $1.25 restocking fee.

Anyway, this was supposed to be a commentary about the game. If you liked the demo, I think you'll also like the game. At this point, I think my opinion matches that of the press - a solid 7.5. The game is fun, but imperfect.

I'm working on the second of nine total missions, and enjoying my dark side rampage quite a bit. The backstory and characters are very engaging, and I'm interested to see how the plot develops. The action is very hack-and-slash, and there is a risk here for boredom through repetition. Many of the reviewers toted the play as a button masher, and one could easily progress through the majority of the game with only the Jump and Lightsaber Attack buttons. I believe that that would be missing the designers' point though. The creative execution of the variety of attack options, powers, combos, and flourishes serves to keep the battering of numerous, similar enemies a fresh pursuit.

Sure, mini-bosses aside, in the Tie Fighter Factory level, you're going to be fighting hordes of only a few types of rebel guards and Stormtroopers. I'm approaching the game like a Sith apprentice would, though. This one gets slashed twice, Force-shocked, and then hurled into a bunker full of buddies (Sith bowling - strike!). The next gets Force-grabbed, battered off the walls and ceiling, and finally impaled by my thrown saber. The last one, to his horror, is stunned by an airborne Force blast and tossed from the catwalk like a discarded doll, into the path of an oncoming Tie Fighter - boom! It's like a ballet, and you're choreographing a masterpiece of sci-fi bad guy destruction.

Sure, the targeting is a little wonky, and the controls and camera slightly imprecise. The tech is also pushing the 360 a little hard - the framerate dips and there is frequent horizontal tearing. Yes, the boss fights can be a little trial-and-error and your path sometimes unclear. In the end though, the story is catchy, the visual and audio effects stellar, and the thrill of guiding a dark jedi through his violent journey is engaging. It's not approaching perfect, but it's fun.

I didn't want to set the controller down at bedtime last night, I wanted to play hooky from work this morning to play some more, and I'm looking forward to swinging a saber around tonight. 'Nuff said.

The Xbox: Fight the Future RRoD

Well, I've received a refurbished 360 back from Microsoft. Not *my* 360, mind you, but a 360 nonetheless.

This one seems to run a heck of a lot hotter than my old one (if my memory serves me). The rear fans are exhausting a blast that feels like output of a hair drier. I'm worried this one is going to red-ring again in a week. Even worse, the optical drive seems twice as loud as the one in my old machine. I know Microsoft had used several different vendors for their drives - this was from the crappy one.

So, yes Mr. Gates got my console back within an admirable 2-week window, but I'm not completely happy. Unfortunately, I think I got an older, inferior build of the Elite console back in exchange. Bleh.