Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Joystiq hands-on: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Wii)

Zack Stern

For good and bad -- or should I say light and dark -- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for Wii is clearly a Wii game. Side-by-side with the PS3 and 360 versions, the Wii graphics disappoint, and the complexity and frequency of enemies feels scaled back. But the Wii motion controls are regularly interesting, mapping many of the game's controls into gestures. The simplest ones feel great, like punching the Nunchuk forward to do the Force-push.

After recently playing late-development versions of all four game editions--360/PS3, Wii, DS, and PS2/PSP--I think the Wii game holds up as well as any of them. I had fun throwing enemies, shooting them with lightning, and hitting them with the lightsaber. And while the Wii holds its own, I'm mildly concerned that the final game could be repetitious, just cutting down waves of attackers. Hopefully the many different attacks, and Wii-specific two-player duel mode, will keep the game interesting.

Gallery: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Wii) | 23 Photos

The Wii controls are the same between the duel mode and single-player game. The analog stick steers movement, Remote flicks swing the lightsaber, buttons activate some of the Force powers, and gestures embellish on those special attacks. There's a lot of depth to the controls, and while I never quite felt synced up with the lightsaber--a flick up didn't always swing up as it was supposed to--the variety was impressive.

"In a Wii-only trick, I could even levitate certain gun turrets, walking and auto-firing at enemies while I sliced at them with the lightsaber."

Other attacks turned my physicality into on-screen destruction. A button-combination and downward thrust with both hands unleashed a shock-wave bubble around me, shaking away wookies. I grabbed other enemies in the air with the left trigger, and then impaled them with a thrown lightsaber through a flick-and-A combination. In a Wii-only trick, I could even levitate certain gun turrets, walking and auto-firing at enemies while I sliced at them with the lightsaber.

I enjoyed the physicality of these controls. In some cases, such as the simple Force-push gesture, I liked them more than the buttons-only consoles. (The PS3 has no motion controls in the game.) And I liked the timed gesture prompts in certain boss fights, where I twisted a controller to match the command to advance a cut-scene, God of War-style. But I'll have to play the finished games before I can decide if the rest of the gestures are as easy as tapping button combinations.

I eased my way into the game's visuals. Essentially, the textures looked good enough, but almost every edge ended in ugly, stair-stepping jaggies. Wii-only gamers will likely be satisfied, but multi-console players will make a big compromise with this version.

click to embiggen
Otherwise, most of the game matches the 360/PS3 version. The stories follow the same paths, and the levels are set in the same areas--the Wii even gets a few extra stages. Specific areas vary slightly, with fewer background objects on the Wii. But most of the puzzles are even the same.
LucasArts has been (over)hyping the physics and behavior engines on the 360/PS3, but I didn't miss them in my Wii session. The physics felt realistic enough when I tossed crates at groups of enemies or blew open locked doors.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed should be an authentic Wii game, even though it's also being released on all platforms besides PC. While I'm not yet sure if the physicality is an improvement over the 360/PS3 version, the Wii gestures kept me engaged and entertained. Whenever the game began to feel monotonous from the rushing, feeble enemies, I switched to a new, impressive power. Hopefully that variety will carry through the finished version, due September 16.

Check out our newly-unleashd Star Wars: The Force Unleashed hands-on impressions for Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2/PSP.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr