Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Switch Review — Forced Back to Life

The Force Unleashed on Switch is a good port of a rather dreary game by today's standards.

Deciding to port an old game always comes with risks. Sure, it may have been popular in its heyday, but time, and games with more polish, make it difficult to see them in same warm light. Such is the case with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on Nintendo Switch, a (mostly) 1:1 port of the 2008 original.

Its flaws are much harder to overlook in light of Jedi: Fallen Order, among other games. While the story remains just as intriguing and surprisingly integral to the Star Wars canon today — even if it isn't in Disney's eyes — everything outside the narrative is dated and difficult to force your way through.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Switch Review — Forced Back to Life

A long time ago in a timeline that seems far, far removed from the current state of Star Wars, there was no plan for one Star Wars release each year in any medium – no Obi-Wan Kenobi, no Mandalorian, and certainly no third trilogy. At best, you could hope for a few good books, though those were split between the Republic Era and following characters never referenced in the films, such as Prince Xizor of the Black Sun. Notably absent (for the most part) was much from the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

Enter The Force Unleashed, a tale of the Rebel Alliance conceived long before Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One, and Jedi: Fallen Order that follows an orphaned child and his training to become Darth Vader’s secret apprentice.

The Force Unleashed makes itself just relevant enough to keep your interest throughout, adding plot threads and cameos to make this experience feel like an integral part of the Star Wars canon with an apprentice who was never supposed to exist, all without committing too much and potentially messing up any future developments. Of course, LucasFilm came back with a Force Unleashed sequel that did that anyway, but prior, The Force Unleashed was an exciting bridge between the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy.

And it still is, though with a few caveats. There’s essentially no narrative outside a few cutscenes, and while you shouldn’t expect much from a decade-old experimental game, the story is still comparatively shallow by today’s standards. A full remake would be ideal, but if you go in with the right expectations, then The Force Unleashed is still actually quite good, if a bit muddled at times.

Starkiller, aka Galen Malek, has a complicated relationship with his master, made more difficult by Vader’s frequent attempts to murder him. Eventually, Starkiller turns rogue and starts aiding the burgeoning Rebel Alliance in small, but significant ways – freeing Wookie slaves, sabotaging imperial infrastructure, and similar tasks.

What’s even better is the narrativeThe Force Unleashed doesn’t tell. Seeing Starkiller meet with Princess Leia to organize Rebel activity is a strong mix of fan service and interesting storytelling, but more than that, it’s a glimpse at the broader political situation between the trilogies that, before this point, you pretty much had to guess at.

Again, everything Starkiller does is calculated to be easily excised should it wind up conflicting with other plot points in the expanded universe. It’s practical, but it also adds a tangible sense of subversion to your missions.

That’s good, since the missions themselves don’t have much to offer and are easily The Force Unleashed’s weakest aspect.

During the tutorial, you blast through Kashyyyk as Darth Vader, putting your enemies (and allies, if you aren’t careful with your aim) to the saber and using the Force to destroy everything around you. As Starkiller, you... blast through medical facilities and starships, putting your enemies and allies to the saber and using the Force to destroy everything around you.

There’s absolutely no variation in stage design or objectives in the entirety of The Force Unleashed. You get an impressive array of fun Force powers to use, from lightning strikes to stylish lightsaber throws, but not much reason to use them.

The enemy AI is rather dull. Stormtroopers, Wookies, and droids alike are all pretty happy to stand there until you murder them. Some get a bit more aggressive when they hop into blaster turrets, but you can block the entire barrage of shots with your saber anyway, turning it into a chore more than anything else.

So what you’re left with is a stable of overpowered abilities and not much reason to use them. Enemy numbers are few, so you don’t even get the Warriors-like satisfaction of launching a thousand foes into the air with one slash.

Boss encounters are similarly underwhelming, made worse by some odd camera choices. The tutorial fight, for example, switches to a fixed side-scrolling view, making it difficult to keep track of you and your foe as they move between the foreground and background. Add an over reliance on quick-time events, and the moment-to-moment action quickly becomes tedious and frustrating.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Switch Review — The Bottom Line

 

Pros

  • The story is still good, even over a decade later.
  • Force powers are fun to use.

Cons

  • And also slightly pointless thanks to the poor enemy AI.
  • Bland stage design.
  • Repetitive action.
  • Needlessly frustrating boss fights.

Some games are just best left as fond memories, and that's true of The Force Unleashed on Switch. If you're interested in the story, you can watch cinematic clips on YouTube or just read a synopsis. It's hard to beat the $19.99 price tag, but there's also so much more on the Switch you could get for that price or less. 

[Note: Aspyr provided the copy of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed used for this review.]

Our Rating
6
The Force Unleashed on Switch is a good port of a rather dreary game by today's standards.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Contributor

Josh Broadwell started gaming in the early '90s. But it wasn't until 2017 he started writing about them, after finishing two history degrees and deciding a career in academia just wasn't the best way forward. You'll usually find him playing RPGs, strategy games, or platformers, but he's up for almost anything that seems interesting.

Published Apr. 22nd 2022

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