The Five: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The skinny: In a galaxy far, far away, in the time period between period Episodes III and IV, you are Darth Vader's secret apprentice, and the Force is extremely strong with you.
1. C'mon! It's set in the Star Wars universe after it sucked -- Episodes I through III. That means the team has some ground to create some story after Anakin has become Darth Vader but before Luke has come into the picture. You're serving Vader by ridding the universe of the remaining Jedi, and at the same time you're taking revenge on the Emperor.
2. You have full access to Force powers: Toss Tie Fighters at rebels; Force-push a Wookie into a tree. It's really up to you, and you can use combinations of Force powers to decimate opponents -- which is ridiculous fun. While previous Jedi Knight titles allowed you to use these abilities, never before has the experience been so smooth.
3. Even though the premise seems dark, The Force Unleashed is a story about redemption. In the beginning of the game, as a child you witness Darth Vader come to your village on Kashyyyk and murder your father as well as any Stormtrooper witnesses. We have a sneaking suspicion that there will be some twists and turns here that may see you somehow go against your evil Master.
4. The new digital molecular materials system allows for some impressive destructible environments. We witnessed as playing Darth Vader that we could blast trees into oncoming opponents, splintering them into pieces and chunks and tossing them into our adversaries. Blasting open doors or using the Force to lift particles from fallen environmental objects into the air made many elements around us instant projectile weapons.
5. Even though we've seen The Force Unleashed in many tech demos, the visuals have not disappointed us so far. As we played through the initial Kashyyyk level, the world around us was actively engaged in a full-out war (take some of the war sequences from Episodes I through III and ramp them up a bit). We're just hoping we somehow get to also be a part of those battles.
The Force is strong with this one: It's been a while since there's been a quality Star Wars action title on the consoles, and The Force Unleashed has gotten our inner Jedi quite excited. Delicious visuals, physics fun that goes even beyond Half-Life 2 in some ways, and an intriguing storyline -- this could mark the return of Star Wars to consoles.
This preview is based on both hands-on play and a publisher-driven demo at E3.