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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – Review | Rebellions are Built on Hope

Star Wars is a weird property. It goes through lulls in various media and then suddenly reappears with gusto. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was the last high-profile licensed game from the PS2/360 era, and made its way onto a variety of platforms since.

Those who missed out, don’t despair. You can now find it on the Nintendo Switch as the latest in this current torrent of re-releases filling the gap between brand new Star Wars titles.

A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is set within that pocket of years between Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: A New Hope.

It starts with a rather chilling first level, one that to this day remains one of the most poignant introduction sequences in Star Wars history. After this, you assume the role of Galan Marek also known as The Apprentice or Starkiller.

Being that ol’ Starkiller is an insurance policy for Lord Vader who is constantly under the watchful eye of the Emperor, he is raised and trained in secret. His duty is to perform covert tasks to help Vader achieve complete control of the universe.

You have a witty Droid and female love interest but aside from that, the only notable characters you’ll meet are from existing Star Wars lore which this title just about fits in with.

Aren’t You a Little Short to be a Stormtrooper?

The story has all the scale of the movies and features original ideas alongside already fleshed out locations. You don’t need to be a massive Star Wars fan to get taken in by the locals and locations.

It’s worth noting that when the game was originally released, it was pre-Disney and the “Extended Universe” was still a thing. This game was considered canon back then but has been declared no longer so by Mickey and Co.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Lightning

Let The Past Die. Kill It If You Have To

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a hack and slash meets platformer. But keep in mind that it’s in the vein of the PS2/early 360 era. Instead of the Souls-inspired Jedi Fallen Order, this has more in common with titles like Devil May Cry or the original God of War titles. 

You’re a Jedi/Sith so naturally, you have access to the coolest parts of Star Wars – the Lightsabers and the Force Powers. Nothing quite beats lifting a foe with the Force and then throwing your ‘Saber into their gut.

When the combat works, it is fun. Sadly there is a lack of feedback when hitting enemies, so you feel like slicing fog. The Force can be a finicky pain to pick up the right thing you want to chuck. On top of that, glitches such as getting stuck in the scenery or character models awkwardly reacting to it make it a somewhat flawed experience.

More positively, there are a plethora of moves to unlock throughout the campaign. This is expanded even further when you factor in that you can power these up with EXP taken from fallen enemies.

Of course, as you’re initially raised as a Sith you have access to Force Lightning. This furthers the carnage you can have at the expense of the Empire and the Rebels. It may not always work and might take a while to click, but when it does it’s hard to not enjoy the distinct chaos of the Force being Unleashed.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - QTE

Unlimited Power!

To break up your fits of unbridled rage, there are platforming sections. That said, they’re rather uninspired and with the insane jump height and character model look quite goofy. There are also Quick Time Events which were all the rage back then. I see the theory behind playing the cutscenes, but I’ve never been a QTE person myself despite my love for Shenmue!

The boss battles do provide some more impressive QTE sections and provide an ample challenge, but again the feeling that there could be more is brought on by the lack of feedback and almost flailing nature of the combat.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Combat

Your Eyes Can Deceive You; Don’t Trust Them

Interestingly the version that’s been re-released here is the Wii/PS2/PSP version. This is a plus and a minus.

On the plus side, this version has more levels than the PC/360/PS3 versions. There is also the rather expansive local multiplayer duel mode that pits characters from the game and films against each other. It’s quite fun, but sadly a local-only affair so you need real-life friends for this.

Another feature brought over more from the Wii version is that this game can be played with motion controls. I’ve tried them out and I’m happy to say they aren’t too bad.

While I’m not a lover of motion controls, the ones available here work quite well. At points, I even found that I had a smoother experience with them than wildly button-mashing my way to the Jedi Council. 

On the dark side of things, this game doesn’t come with any of the “Ultimate Sith Edition” content which was DLC for the “main” versions of the game. Sadly there’s no running around Hoth trying to kill Luke and Han Solo on the Nintendo Switch. 

Another omission is the iconic scene where Starkiller brings a Star Destroyer down with The Force. In the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions onward you guide it down, but here it’s just a hands-off process sadly.

Finally, while not exactly the smoothest experience the version ported over is much jankier. The engine has issues – there are lots of glitches and curious character animations are rife. This is partly to the fact the “main” versions had Ragdoll, whereas this version has a somewhat watered-down version.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Darth Vader

She’s Got It Where It Counts

Now when it comes to performance and visual quality here you can tell exactly which version of the game forms the base of this port. It’s more than the absence of ragdoll.

The textures throughout are distinctly PS2-era. While tidied up somewhat, at no point does the game manage to look close to the quality of the post-PS2 versions. It does employ a little more color, but that’s about the only positive comparison.

Cutscenes have been frankly butchered. It significantly impacts the story and how much you get from it. Characters move so robotically and often lack any facial expressions. Instead, comically dead stares are the order of the day and are wonderfully chased up with awkward cutscene transitions and endings.

The musical score is exactly what you’d expect from a Star Wars title. It’s big and orchestral with all the famous tracks doing the rounds. Voice acting on the other hand is insanely wooden and Vader especially has had better outings vocally!


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is an interesting time capsule from an era that wasn’t actually a long time ago but feels like forever.

It’s a fun 8-hour romp as long as you turn your mind off and expect a somewhat budget feeling PS2 era title. Visually and in its gameplay it has started to show its age.

It’s a shame that the 360/PS3 version didn’t make the jump. I feel these stand up to today’s standards a little better than its Frankenstein of a baby brother.

It’s not got the legacy of Jedi Knight and it’s not in the same league as Jedi Fallen Order, but there is still a decent bit of budget fun that can be found here. If nothing else, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is still miles better than its rushed-out sequel!


Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Other Versions Available on PC and Various Older Consoles)

If you enjoy Star Wars, then perhaps you’d like our review for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga or Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge.

Many thanks go to Aspyr for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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