Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for the PSP was developed by the small but capable studio Krome, who also oversaw the Wii and PS2, ps3 ports of the game. Before tackling the Force Unleashed project, Krome was responsible for Hellboy: The Science of Evil. The PSP version contains all of the same plot points as the next-gen console versions, but the level design is completely different on the handheld, making it a more or less unique experience.
The PSP version also contains 5 levels not originally found in the home console versions, adding to the value of the content here. True Star Wars fans will probably want to try out both versions, particularly if they have already played and enjoyed Force Unleashed on one of the next-gen consoles.
The story of Force Unleashed follows on after the events of Episode III, and sees players taking on the role of Darth Vader and one of his apprentices in the ways of the force. In addition to the standard lightsaber, your arsenal of force powers includes force push, choke, lightning, and throw, which allows you to hurl your lightsaber around with devastating results. Every time you kill a foe in the PSP game, their life energy will be “harvested” and used to strengthen your force powers. The plot has many twists and turns, and actually manages to bridge the gap between the films quite well. Completing the main story will take most gamers between 8-10 hours, which is a respectable length for a handheld action game. Additional modes like Order 66 (basically a wave-attack mode) pad out the replayability somewhat.
How about... Zap!
In many ways, calling it a handheld game doesn’t do this title -- which shares all of the content from the Wii and PS2 versions -- justice. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed doesn’t contain all of the physics and graphics wizardry touted by its bigger console brethren, but that doesn’t stop it from being a mighty impressive technical feat on the PSP in its own right. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions make use of middleware called Euphoria and Digital Molecular Matter to create more lifelike physical interactions between objects (and flying storm troopers). The PSP doesn’t quite have the hardware specs to handle all that fancy code, but to be honest it does a pretty good job throwing enemy bodies around using simple ragdoll and other techniques. There are lots of objects to be picked up and thrown around in the game, adding to the sensation that you really are a powerful jedi.
Graphically, the game looks superb on the PSP. Character models and environments are rendered competently, although some low-resolution textures pop up in places. Where there game really shines is in its effects. Force powers are all rendered in an over-the-top style that make them feel really menacing, with lots of sparks and warped space-time.
Lightsaber effects are especially cool, featuring a nice motion-blur effect and a transparent glow that makes the player feel like they are actually dueling in a scene from one of the films. Cutscenes in the game are rendered in realtime using the PSP hardware, and they do a good job of moving the story along between action sequences. As with all Lucasarts games, the sound effects and musical score in this version are top-notch, recalling the best moments from the epic films.
I may or may not be your father.
A word has to be said about the boss battles contained in the PSP game. Those who love taking on epic, challenging bosses many times larger than themselves will get a lot of enjoyment from this game. Some of the numerous bosses are literally enormous, and for the most part they are quite creatively implemented. At one point, players will be tasked with single-handedly bringing down an AT-ST (the giant walker from Empire Strikes Back, which here feels just as enormous as in the film).
The only drawback to the boss fighting system is that at certain points, players will be asked to input a series of button presses in a quick time event. Long time readers of game flavor will know that we hate these QTEs, but thankfully they are mostly easy to pass and there aren’t very many of them in this game.
AI seems to have suffered a little bit during the translation to the smaller screen. Many enemies will simply stand in one place and shoot at you, or wait for you to attack them. Sometimes it feels as if their only reason to exist is for the player to dispatch them in some gruesome, but ultimately amusing way.
Because of this, some of the force powers can feel a little bit OVERpowered, especially when used against hapless storm troopers. But then, we suppose that is ultimately the point of the game, and bowling for storm troopers using objects littered around the levels is one of the game’s finer pleasures.
- Genre: Action
- Developer: Krome
- Producer: Lucasarts
- Pros: High production values, fun gameplay and original content not contained in the console versions.
- Cons: No infrastructure multiplayer, limited AI.
- Final Score: 4.5 out of 5
- Platform: Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Xbox 360