Category: Video Game Reviews


Mass Effect

Mass Effect is one of those games that comes along once in a while and ups the ante. The storyline is the best that has come out possibly ever for a video game. The gameplay is original and combines the genres of RPG and Shooter, something that was done very unsuccessfully up to that point. I was given Mass Effect as a gift, and so I did not play it right away. I was busy with Halo 3 and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2 at that point, and with school and swimming I didn’t have the time. After I did pick it up, it frustrated me to no end. The shooting was awkward for a shooter player, and the RPG elements were even harder to grasp. However, I played the last 6 hours of the game straight, finishing at 3 AM on a Monday. That is how good this storyline is.

pic

Mass Effect was developed by Bioware, a game developer that established itself with Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), the 2003 game of the year, and before Mass Effect was the best storyline from any video game ever. The player has no idea what is in store for him or her when they pick up KOTOR, except that there will be Jedi and Sith and epic battles. Mass Effect is much the same way, and is the spiritual successor to this amazing game.

Mass Effect was so all absorbing that I have played through the game a total of 5 times as different classes, alignments and sexes and still have not uncovered it all. The game is massive, encompassing literally an entire galaxy of information that not only adds flavor to the game, but sets up the sequel as well as informing on your decisions that affect the fate of the galaxy! Pretty cool huh?

Storyline: A+

This is my first A+ that I have given out. And I have a feeling that there will not be very many more that come after this, so if you are going to be reading my stuff, pay attention here if no where else. Mass Effect has the best story of any game that has ever been made. Period. If you don’t like it, tough, it’s the truth. It is not only the twists and turns in the plot that keep you on the edge of your seat, nor is it the massive amounts of information on this mythical galaxy that Bioware has created. It is the entire package. It flows logically, but with an M. Night Shyamalan twist that literally blew people’s minds.

The name of the game comes form the effect produced by the mass relays that make interstellar travel possible. These relays and even the massive Citadel were all found by the races of the galaxy, remnants of the once great Prothean Empire that msyeriously vanished from the face of the galaxy thousands of years earlier

You start out the game deciding on who your character is going to be. You can change your name, but the default is either Commander John or Jane Shepard. You cannot change the voice of the character, but meh. Shepard is a soldier in the human Alliance military, and is being tested for entry into the elite SPECTRE military unit that serves the federation of races called the Citadel Citadel Council. You are sent to the world of Eden Prime with a Specter named Nihilus and a pair of squadmates in order to retrieve an ancient Prothean beacon. The mission starts to go south when the planet is attacked by a giant squid like ship. You of course, go in covertly, trying to find out the cause of the attack and still to recover the beacon.

pic

As if a giant squid ship wasn’t bad enough, within the first 5 minutes a squadmate dies (you can’t save him) you get a new squadmate (a girl in pink armor) and the SPECTRE Nihilus is killed by another Turian named Saren, who is the main bad guy in the game, and named villain of the year for 2007. After that, you fight bionic zombies, the robot race of Geth, disarm bombs, get zapped by a mysterious beacon that scrambles your brain and somehow you save the planet, all in the first stage of the game!

pic

After a short investigation, you are promoted to SPECTRE status to replace Saren and given the task of hunting him down and bringing him to justice. You are given a crew of intergalactic team members, your own amazingly cool stealth ship, the SSV Normandy and after that the Galaxy is your oyster. You can choose to follow the main story only, or to track down and complete all of the side missions. Either way, you increasingly find out more about Saren, the ancient Protheans, the Geth, the mythical Reapers, and Saren’s ship Sovereign.

pic

The story culminates at the massive space station that is the seat of galactic government, The Citadel. An epic fleet of Geth warships and Sovereign attack the Citadel, with only the defense fleet to stop it. Here is where you hold the fate of the galaxy in the palm of your hand. You can tell the waiting Human Alliance fleet to jump in and save the defense fleet and thus the government of the Citadel Council, or you can hold back the fleet for a more opportune attack that leaves humanity with the only fleet in the galaxy and thuis the most powerful race. There are far more nuances to the story, and without giving away the big story surprise I leave you there, just trust me, this story is a real wild ride.

Gameplay: B

The gameplay for Mass Effect kind of took a backseat to the story in my opinion. The game combines the elements fo a classic RPG with a second person shooter. In the beginning, this makes the controls very awkward as you have access to special powers (similar to Force powers from KOTOR) as well as a range of weapons to choose from. A very ingenious system of overheating weapons instead of reloading allows for short controlled bursts to pretty much allow you to fire continuously.

The best part of gameplay is actually making a character. You get to choose from several things to customize your version of Shepard. You get to choose where he/she is born (Earthborn, Spacer or Colonist) as well as your psychological profile (War Hero, Sole Survivor or Ruthless) and to top that all off you have to choose your class, Soldier, Adept, Engineer, Vanguard, Sentinel or Infiltrator. All of these classes have their benefits and detractions, allowing multiple play through with different classes as well as psych profiles.

The game features a basic level up system that allows you to gain experience from solving puzzles (locks and such), defeating enemies as well as accomplishing quests. The higher level you are, the more you can upgrade your skills, armor, weapons, and abilities.

There are three different skills that you can specialize in in the game, Combat, Tech and Biotics. Biotics are very similar to Force powers in KOTOR, allowing you to manipulate the world around you by using a very specialized mass effect field to throw, paralyze and float enemies. Tech allows you to solve puzzles easier as well as lay traps for your opponents and use explosives easier. Combat makes you a hardened soldier, allowing you to give and take more punishment. On a first play through of the game, I recommend that you be a Soldier, as your other squadmates can handle the biotic and tech abilities fairly easily. However, the biotic and tech classes are trickier to use, something that I did not think made the game better.

For non-hardcore gamers, the facial construction was definitely a major appeal. You can change such things as scars, eyebrows, hair color, makeup (women only), chin, cheeks and eyes and these are only the beginning! There are literally hundreds of combinations between both the sexes allowing for a completely unique character each and every time you play, adding to replayability. It actually can get quite tedious when making a character, so if you don’t want to spend the time, the pre-sets are actually quite neat.

One of the more interesting facets of gameplay as well as story is the ability to talk to your compatriots. Depending on what you say to them, they will react differently throughout the game. Of particular interest are the three love interest characters, Ashely Williams, Kaidan Alenko and the Asari, Liara T’Soni. These characters, depending on your level of talking to each of them, will become your love interest later in the game. You get Ashley if you are male, Kaidan if you are female and you can choose Liara with either sex. And boy does this game get risque. At several points in the game (2) there are actually some “naked” scenes where the characters get down and dirty. This almost caused the game not to be released, but just created press hubbub prior to release and helped to sell the game.

There are 4 types of firearm in the game, Shotgun, Assault Rifle, Sniper Rifle and Pistol. Certain classes can only use certain weapons, where the Soldier can use them all. Of all of them, the Assault Rifle is predictably the most useful, being fairly good short and long range. The Pistol does short to medium, the sniper one shot at long range and of course the shotgun at short range. Weapons do not take ammunition as in most games, instead an ingenious overheating system allows players to fire almost continuously if they conserve their shots. Weapons and armor can also be upgraded with extra protection, ammo types and other things to make them more efficient and powerful. There are also a ridiculous amount of weapons in the game, each sporting particular advantages to ammo count before overheating, power and accuracy.

pic

You not only have armor, but also mass effect shields as well. Upgrades to your armor and character can allow you to have extra shields, something that is actually very good no matter your character class as your shields do not recharge especially quickly. You may also heal yourself as well as give yourself stimulants to help you out of tight spots, whcihi can make your character more powerful for a short time in a given area of stats.

One of the most important factors of the game is the vehicle, the Mako. This is the standard vehicle that you drop to planets with. It has six wheels, never flips over, and sports a mass effect gun and turret which allows it to be the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. The Mako also has slowly regenerating shields, allowing it to literally really be a tank and take down other vehicles twice it’s size. The Mako also features jump jets, allowing you to make insane jumps off of cliffs and mountains (you never get hurt from falling) as well as to get out of jams and dodge incoming fire.

There is literally too much to go over in this game in one review. If you are even more interested in what goes on in Mass Effect gameplay, I recommend that you check out the Mass Effect Wiki athttp://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Mass_Effect_Wiki.

Visuals/Music: B

The great thing about this game is the amount of visual candy you get. The amazing Citadel is still a cause for wonderment for me. It is in a pink nebula that literally looks like cotton candy, and combined with the sun in the background some of the art can be breathtaking. The amount of detail that went into the game is amazing,a s you can clearly see your characters individual facial features even in the middle of combat. Like in Halo Reach, the maps are enormous, literally almost planet size in some cases (not really though).

pic

The problem with the visuals is not really even the visuals. In some scenarios, the game physics literally trap you in a certain spot. Definitely no fun especially if you are in combat and cannot save. Mostly this happens when EVA on a side mission planet, but can sometimes happen in the middle of a fight. The game also often has problems processing the visual effects of the game they are so detailed, sometimes for as long as 5 minutes. This is often an irritant only, but can sometimes caus eyou to miss shots you would have otherwise hit with.

The music is the one thing with the game that I did not like. The developers tried to make it sound futuristic, with lots of synthesizer in there, but to me just was hokey. And at certain points in the game, I wished that the music were different or simply not there. You can change the music settings, but while reviewing a game, I try to take in the whole game as a person first playing would experience it, and the music is simply not a strong point in the game.

There is some good news on the audio front though, the weapon and ships sounds as well as character voices are exquisite. Although in the side missions it can be annoying to hear the same things over and over again, there is a rather large repertoire of dialogue. The sound effects also contribute immensely to the lackluster music, allowing the sounds of the Mako and gunfire to be your beat to beat face.

The absolute best part of audio was not the sound effects though. An all star cast of actors allows this game to be far more focused on dialogue. Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer voice Shepard while other all stars contribute to the rest of the cast. These include well known actress Kimberly Brooks, Raphael Sbarge (you will recognize him from KOTOR), famous actress Ali Hillis, Steven Barr, Keith David (the voice of the Arbiter in Halo and a host of other cartoons, games and movies), Seth Green (Family Guy, Austin Powers and Robot Chicken to name a few), Bill Ratner, Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi on Star Trek The Next Generation) and Peter Jessop. These all star voice actors really contribute to the whole experience of the game by literally bringing in the voices of people that players will recognize from out of the game.

Originality: A

The game’s originality literally does not entirely come from the story. Though the story is great and is incredibly original, it still is not really the most original thing about the game. The game genre is really what originality is all about. It meshed RPG and Shooter genres together in a way that no game had ever been able to do seamlessly before. It does have it’s problems, as the shooting style is very clunky at first, but the RPG and story elements more than makeup for the slow spots in the game.

pic

It also features an ability to allow players to dissect weapons, ammo and upgrades in order to produce gel that they can then shape into other upgrades, repair the Mako, or do other tech things like hack computers and open locks. Med Gel does what it sounds, but healing in this game is more of a secondary function, as the Medic class is generally no very good, a departure from other games where a medic or healer is required in pretty much every party.

The game also features a villain that is not only really evil incarnate, he doesn’t even realize it! Saren is worth talking about almost as much as Shepard in the game, as he does what he does in what he believes is in the best interest of organic life. However, mind control is an insidious tool, and Saren falls victim to the mind controlling aspect of, oh, well you will just have to find that out won’t you?

pic

Overall: A-

A total score of A- might seem a little harsh to such a great game, but trust me, like any game, it has its flaws. But on my scale an A- is what it should be, almost perfection. The game incorporates excellent story, original game-play, incredible voice actors and even combines two genres that many players and developers were too different to successfully combine!

The bottom line is that if you call yourself a gamer and have not played this game, on XBox or PC, you pretty much are missing out on one of the most amazing games oif the last decade at least. I do recommend staying away from any more spoilers of the story, as it is far mroe interesting and exciting to experience them first hand rather than get them second hand from a friend or some guy online.

This is one of my favorite games of all time. That was why I was so disappointed when so many of my friends and relatives said that mass Effect 2 was so bad. I suppose if the original is good enough, a sequel is just always not going to live up to it. However, expect a review of Mass Effect 2 to be up here soon, as an unpopular game a cheap game does make.

The reason that I am reviewing this game instead of it’s infinitely more famous predecessor is simply because I did not want to review 2 Bioware games in a row. However, this game is still excellent in that it improved on many things that the former game simply did not address or was unconcerned with. It also allowed you to interact even more with your party characters, controlling the very influences of Light and Dark upon them.

This was a game for the original XBox, so it is really hard to stress upon players who have only played a new generation system how good this game really was for it’s time. The graphics were fairly good for the amount of processing power and pixels that the designers had to work with, and the gameplay was just phenomenal. Of course, I am a big Star Wars fan, so anything featuring the epic struggle of Sith versus Jedi captures my imagination.

Storyline: B-

The storyline actually has very little to do with the original game. A few of the characters are the same, but most are different, further telling you this game was developed by another game company and it is really going to be a pretty different experience. You start out as a powerless Jedi Exile on the Peragus Mining Station. Everyone else on the station is dead except for an old female Jedi who feigned death and a scum smuggler. Oh and there are hundreds of murderous droids that want to tear you limb from limb.

As you move on to other locales, you discover your force powers as well as pieces of your past as well as what has been going on in Galactic events since the end of the first Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) game. You actually decide the ending to the last Sith War based on rumors you heard. Who was victorious and who survived also depends on answering your allies questions and decisions that you make in the game.

Your alignment will also determine the storyline, as well as which characters you receive to play within the game. A male player character will receive the Handmaiden, and a female the Disciple. A Dark player will receive the Wookie Hanharr, and a Light player Mira. It all depends on several differing factors within your in game decisions as to the flow of the story as well as which characters you can get. This makes it very cool to play through the game several times in order to get the most out of paying for the game.

As the storyline goes, you find out that the Sith were not wiped out at the end of the Sith War (no matter which story you go with) and three all powerful Sith Lords are preparing to quietly kill the Republic. You and your companions are the only ones that can stand in their way. As such, that explains all the Assassin Droids trying to kill you and all of the bounty hunters that are trying to take your head off. Yeah, the Jedi recruiter failed to mention that…

Anyway, after you have finished the main quests (there are side quests too) on each planet, the planet Malachor 5 will be your final destination. The seat of power for all 3 Sith Lords and the reason for your exile from the Jedi Order when you returned from the Mandalorian Wars. Lets just say that it’s Jedi meets Sith in pretty much the most explosive matchup since Obi-Wan defeated Anakin Skywalker.

The storyline does have a lot to offer, especially if you take the time to explore it and really let it sink in. You basically hold the fate of the galaxy in your hands, whether to go Sith or Jedi, whom to kill and whom to let live. The entire galaxy unfolds before you, and you are the one that gets to decide what is written about you in the history books, savior, or tyrant.

The problems with the storyline are pretty much what all sequels suffer from, the first one was so good no matter how good the second one is it will still be second rate. The twist n this game is not nearly as reality shattering as the previous game, but it is still pretty cool. As such, the storyline suffers from the increase in gameplay that happened with the sequel. As such, the options that you get with the storyline ar far more in depth than with the first game, which actually can envelope you more than you would think…

Gameplay: B+

If there was one thing that improved with the sequel, it was the gameplay that was improved the most. The first game had issues with the interactions, and was not nearly as in depth as you would like being an avid RPG gamer. The controls are fairly standard. There is a rotating menu screen that displays such things as equipment, journal, companions, force powers, stats and items. This is going to be where you live for most of the game, deciding who gets what and how much.

The basic outline of gameplay allows you to have up to 3 characters total, your main character and 2 companions. For some missions, you will be forced to play without companions or as one of your companions for your main character. At one point, you even have two parties going on simultaneously, one led by a trusted companion which you actually control as they accomplish their part of the mission.

There are standard healing items that heal Health, as well as the full score of stims to help you in battle. Equipment includes, shields, shoes, head gear, gloves, armor and implants. You can make these at a workbench or med station, allowing you to make things out of base chemicals and parts based on your certain skills. Weapons can include lightsabers, swords, axes, blasters, energy projectors and other things. This allows your team to be varied in terms of what they can deal with, even if they are not Jedi (the best class in the game). Armor can also be varied, some have better melee combat ratings and others provide Force power bonuses. You even get to where a version of Leia’s outfit from the Return of the Jedi if you are a female character.

As you gain experience from accomplishing tasks, you level up, and as such you are instantly healed and gain more points to put toward syour skills as well as Force powers. In this game, you start out as one of the Jedi classes (Watchmen, Guardian or Sentinel) instead of in the first game where over half of the game did not allow you to use Force powers or lightsabers. This means that you are not only more powerful throughout the game, you have way more fun with Force Lightning earlier on.

Force Powers have also improved since last game. The pantheon includes powers that you otherwise wouldn’t think of, like Force Scream or Crush (Sith Only). most powers have several tiers, allowing you to upgrade when you reach a certain level. Of course Force Lightning is my favorite, but there are several other powers that are just as powerful, such as Stasis or Throw Lightsaber. Powers allow you to affect the game extremely well, which means that a Jedi is usually the best choice for a companion, but other classes gain bonuses to other areas that make up for the lack of powers.

Speaking of Lightsabers, you get to customize your shining energy weapon like never before, picking several crystals, single or double, or short bladed as well as mechanical components that can boost the damage output of your lightsaber up to astronomical proportions. It is still the best weapon in the game, or is it? Some of the legendary Sith swords in the game can actually be upgraded to be better than a lightsaber, and many of the powerful two handed blasters and plasma projectors can have more power than even the strongest lightsaber. This allows a player to really choose their weapon well, instead of a lightsaber being the end-all be-all.

You can also turn your non-Jedi allies into Jedi if you have a high enough Charisma and enough influence over them. Unlike the first game which made it so that there were only a couple Jedi characters, you can turn Atton, Mira, Handmaiden or Disciple into Jedi. I suspect that you can turn the Wookie Hanharr into a Sith if you try hard enough, but I have not yet unlocked that portion of the game.

Improvements made to the interaction of the game make playing the game vastly more interesting than in the original KOTOR, where gameplay seemed like a chore in order to get to the storyline in some areas. Unless you have played both games, it is very hard to tell what the improvements are, but I would strongly encourage an avid gamer to try out both games, as they are truly amazing in what they did for RPG’s as well as for setting in stone hundreds of nuances of the Jedi and Sith Orders.

Visuals/Music: C

As this is an original XBox game, it is hard to give it the respect it deserves in this area. The graphics were more than fine for this era, and even are not half bad for 360 play. The cut scenes are far improved over the previous game, creating incredible starfight battles as well as incredible exploding planets and more crash scenes than you can shake a finger at. Problems actually arise because the system simply cannot handle so much going on at once, even on a 360. This slows fight scenes to a crawl in some cases, which is a serious flaw as much of the game is already waiting at load screens to go from one area to another.

The music is actually not great, nor bad. It is fairly mediocre. It does make a nice background resurgence while in battle, quickening your pulse with the beat. Other than that it has quite a lovely background for solving puzzles and quests. Often an RPG game has too much or too little music. For my taste, this was a little too much, as I often just turned it off as it wasn’t doing anything for me while I was in battle.

The audio effects are superb though. Screams, lighstaber sizzles and blaster sounds punctuate the game like never before. However, your character cannot talk as in Mass Effect, and there is not nearly as many chartacters that are voiced by famous actos, or even fairly well known voice actors. However it works for the game and actually does not hinder it that much.

Gameplay visuals are fairly much the same as the previous game, except that the addition of Force Jump and Leap to the Force Pantheon allows you to fly into battle and do some pretty cool acrobatic leaps and bounds with your lightsaber flashing.

All in all I was less than impressed with the visuals and music with this game when it was new, so it is not going to be astounding at all right now. As it is, I am going to give it a review like it would have been back in the day. It doe salright, but there was so much more that they could have done with it.

Originality: C+

This is always hard to do for a sequel game. It is very much the same game as KOTOR 1, but with a few added twists. Most of these were actually only superficial in nature, unlike the transition from Halo 1 to 2 which added a completely new feature to the game (dual wielding). However, there are enough of these small improvements that this game did not completely fail in originality.

KOTOR 1 was a tough act to follow, and Obsidian managed to pull it off enough that the game did fairly well. The storyline intertwines with KOTOR 1, but other than that it is fairly original, and even adds many elements to the Star Wars mythis that pretty much fueled teh demand and hype for the newest Old Republic game, The Old Republic, an MMORPG that I believe will get a review here soon enough.

But to get back to KOTOR II. The enemies and allies are very original, but do follow a pre-set pattern of the original game where there are definitely better characters mid game than early or late, but the ability to turn some characters into Jedi means that you can do some very clever things while preparing characters to become Jedi. Such as maxing their evade stats, which means that they are almost impossible to hit once they become Jedi.

But like with all sequels, you pretty much can’t give them better than a C for an originality score, as they are a sequel to another game.

Overall: B-

Overall the game was fine. It supplied my desire for a sequel to KOTOR, and even though it did not blow my mind as much as the original or Mass Effect, the game certainly filled out the gap between the two of them quite nicely and I am even starting to go back and replay some elements of the game, as funds are tight and replaying old game sis the only way to entertain myself. That and my XBox 360 died, so I have to replay ALL of the achievements from my 360 games and redo characters on XBox games.

Anyways, this is a very solid game, and it is fairly cheap, allowing you to pick it up used for next to nothing. And that is always a good thing in the gaming world.

This is one game that I had always wanted to try, but never got around to until I had a roommate with the game. I am a big Star Wars fan as I said before, so anything that adds exciting new characters and abilities to the canon is always exciting to me. What I learned is that all of the hype about the game was true. The physics were bone-crushingly real, the cinematics were amazing, the storyline kept me going and the gameplay was the second worst that I have ever played next to Shak Fu or the original ET game that they took several thousand copies of and buried in the desert it was so bad.

Storyline: B-

The storyline for this game is absolutely amazing. The game opens with Darth Vader landing on Kashyyk, the Wookie homeworld, searching for a lone Jedi and helping the local Imperial Forces put down a Wookie uprising. As the robotic Sith Lord, you plow your way through wookies with an array of incredible Dark Side powers as big hairy aliens fly in all directions. finally after you shatter the last of the Wookie resistance, you find your nameless Jedi hiding in a wooden house. After you literally crush him into oblivion, a young boy uses the force to take Vader’s lightsaber and try to challenge him.

Fast forward a good 13 years or so, and that young boy has become Vader’s secret apprentice, codenamed Starkiller. With the Dark Side as your ally, you destroy all rebel AND Imperial forces at a TIE Fighter shipyard above Nar Shadaa and send Jedi General Kota spiralling towards the ground. You eliminate one of the last Jedi Masters on the Junk planet. You even confront a fan favorite of Shak Ti on the planet Felucia and send her to her death in the depths of a Sarlaac’s belly (the tentacle thing from the Return of the Jedi).

You return Triumphantly to Lord Vader, bearing trophies of your victories and ready to confront the Emperor along with Vader. What you get for your trouble is a lightsaber through the chest and a permanent nap in space. But that is not the end of th game. Vader revives you, and sends you out to join the growing rebellion in order to bring the enemies of the Empire to justice. So you meet up with Leia and Bail Organa, Garm Bel Iblis, Mon Mothma and General Kota in order to hit the Empire where it hurts.

Just as the Rebellion is about to be coined, surprise! Vader shows up with an army and fleet at his command, captured the rebel leaders and throws you off a cliff. However, your faithful pilot (and lover) rescues you and takes you to the Death Star (the first one) where you crawl down the firing laser tube as they are testing it in order to reach the Emperor’s hidden sanctum.

There you wreak havoc on Vader, making him look like he does at the end of Return of the Jedi. You are then presented with a choice. You can either confront the Emperor to save your friend General Kota, or kill Darth Vader. Each choice leads to a different ending, but in the interest of spoiling the fun you will have to find out somewhere else.

The problems that I have with the story are that it interferes with the canon of the Star Wars universe. Such as that Leia had never been on the Death Star until A New Hope, why wasn’t General Kota there to instruct Luke and in the bonus ending, you kill Vader. Really minute things that just turned me off as a big Star Wars fan. However, the return to places like Felucia, Kashyyk and Nar Shadaa tickled me something fierce. You also get to see the transformation of world under Imperial rule, like the fires and strip mining happening on Felucia and Kashyyk, and the slavery of the Wookies, which tends to make you want to get behind the Rebellion anyway. It is a little disappointing that Starkiller is redeemed as a Jedi in the end, but the Star Wars Saga is about redemption, so it fits.

Gameplay: F

The actual gameplay and physics of the game were incredible. Combinations of Force powers and leaps could get you stylish kills and even for those non-technical players button mashing could still get you some really cool abilities to destroy your enemies. It was moving through the game that was hard. There was a limited Journal (a necessity in any game where you can get lost and have to solve puzzles) that only had basic instructions like “Blast Through The Hyperdrive Core” and no real idea on how to do the damn thing. I spent a good hour trying to figure out how to blow stuff up on the second planet of the game and just getting incredibly frustrated that there weren’t more directions like earlier in the game.

But by far the most frustratingly cool part of the game came on the return to the Junk Planet. A Star Destroyer and a fleet of fighters stand between you and escaping offworld.  The game is limited to 2D at this point, which is amazingly frustrating in and of itself. Then you have to destroy a dozen TIE Fighters without Force Lightning or your lightsaber. You have to pluck floating junk with your Force Powers and smash them into the fighters or try and grab the TIEs themselves.

After you have almost died defeating a wave of enemy fighters, you literally have to grab the Star Destroyer with the Force and rip it from the sky. Sounds cool right? WRONG! You have to move your joysticks in precise movements with the on screen directions, which I couldn’t figure out until my third time through this level. Oh and after about 30 seconds, the TIE fighters come back, so you have to abandon the Star Destroyer and kill all the TIEs again. Then you get back to bringing down the Destroyer. Oh, wait, more TIE’s! It took me a good 2 and a half hours to beat this one stupid part of the game, where I was literally screaming like a person possessed at the TV and scaring my roommates that I might be homicidal and left me actually physically exhausted. Oh, and I was playing the game on Easy at this point, intending to play through again on Hard, but after that I never wanted to pick up the controller again.

That level was the most ridiculous thing I have EVER played on ANY video game. My reward however was pretty sweet in what the game revealed as far as story and some cool puzzles after that level.

Now that I have finished ripping a hole in the game’s credibility, the gameplay was actually very cool. Different buttons controlled different base powers such as Force Lightning (my favorite), lightsaber hack and using the Force to crash objects into each other. Force Push can also be used to blast through doors in your way, bending the metal or shattering the wood. Nearly everything in the game is, well fair game for Force powers. You can shatter windows, sucking your enemies into space or even pick them up and fling them into their own comrades.

Combinations of the basic buttons allows you to use combo moves after you have purchased them. Such moves include using Force Lightning on your lightsaber and having an electrified killing weapon for a while. Or to where you can almost fly through the air to reach places to jump. I found that the base moves were good enough to get through the game, but bonus experience is granted for style points on kills, making your character even more powerful.

Bosses such as rancors or ATST walkers are dealt with by hitting certain buttons at certain times in order to execute powerful moves after you have whittled down their health with normal moves. One such move includes you literally crushing a walker into a ball with the Force, or slicing it in half with your lightsaber. You also fight Vader and the Emperor in much the same way, which allows pretty much anyone to execute amazing moves within the game as it is fairly easy to hit the right buttons in a row.

If it weren’t for the amazingly frustrating ways of accomplishing tasks, this game would probably have gotten an A score. Hopefully the sequel improves upon the errors of the first.

Visuals/Music: B+

The visuals in this game were stunning. They abused the full extent of the X Box 360′s power to create whole new worlds that we literally had not seen before. The landscaping was fantastic and on par with an amazing game like Mass Effect. The moves were fluid and dynamic, allowing for cool finishes within the game. There were times that I forgot that I was playing a video game during the cut scenes and not just watching a spinoff Star Wars movie.

The music is taken from the movies, so the music is of course amazing. There is one point where Starkiller is falling through the Death Star to music, avoiding girders and obstacles by twisting out of the way. That was my favorite part of the game and it sent shivers down my spine. I’m sure the video is on Youtube if you want to check it out, and be sure, it is worth it.

There is not much to say about the visuals in this game. They were fantastic, with lots of explosions lightsaber fights and really cool looking force moves to back up the incredible cut scenes that made me forget I was playing a game where I hated the gameplay.

Originality: B

The game really is original, allowing you access to parts of the Star Wars universe that were otherwise unavailable to you before. Whoever thought of using the Force to blast through doors like they did in the game was a genius. It is also one of the first games where nearly everything is destructible or able to be manipulated in some way or another. It allowed me to have guilty pleasure about electrifying Jawas and listening to their panicked cries as they died and I laughed about it. The game is meant to have you travel in a Sith’s shoes and to do things that would otherwise make someone feel a little guilty about if their character were a Jedi.

It was also cool how they almost fit the story into the official Star Wars canon. There is nothing better than a cohesive universe that fits together really well and draws you deeper and deeper into the story until you can’t tell which way is up and are slightly surprised when you can’t Force Lightning a guy that just cut you off on the freeway.

Most of the Force powers ar ereally inventive as well, such as throwing a lightsaber into a rancor to charge up a massive dose of Force Lightning and fry the thing to death. I also crowed in triumph whenever I faced an ATST walker as it was easy to kill, and got me to the cool cinematics where I could crumple it into a junk ball or slice it into half like a knife through butter.

The endings are also very original, taking the Dark Side and Lifght Side paths respectively. But still no spoilers here, play through the game to find out!

Overall: C+

Overall this is one of the better games I have ever played. Just my extreme frustration with those certain points in the game kept it form getting a B+. But to be honest, it is worth it to play through the game. The cut scenes are amazing, truly great stuff. The universe is your oyster to figure out new and demented ways to vanquish your enemies. The music gets you fired up and ready for more.

I am super excited to play the sequel, the aptly named Star Wars The Force Unleashed II. Hopefully all of the fan response allows the developer to make a far superior game. From the commercials and promotional stuff that has been coming out for it I am even more excited for this game than I was for Halo Reach, and that is really saying something coming from a bona fied Halo fan.