This week Zero Punctuation pushes around hapless Stormtroopers in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty much over the Wii. It was a nice experiment. When the first pack of Nintendo games were still fresh and sales were utterly crushing the competition beneath its sandaled feet, it towered overhead in a turgid position of power and manliness. But now the honeymoon's over, and what once stood boldly upright has become limp and floppy in my hands. Whenever it's brought out, the cruel, mocking laughs of onlookers savage my self-esteem, and it’s starting to leak this weird, brownish fluid, but I'm too embarrassed to see a doctor.
What was I talking about? Well, anyway, The Force Unleashed. So the game's come out for practically everything with a screen: the Wii, PS3, 360, PSP, iPhone, ZX Spectrum, graphing calculator, microwave oven. But my thinking was that since the first thing anyone does with a Wii controller is swing it around making lightsaber noises, it would be remiss to play an actual official lightsaber game on anything else. A slight graphical downgrade is a relatively minor storm to weather for a game that actually feels like being a legendary, unstoppable warrior-magician rather than merely piloting one by remote control.
Playing the game, however, it turned out that the legendary, unstoppable warrior-magician has a Zimmer frame and Parkinson’s disease, and a slight graphical downgrade became "it looks like it was left in a swamp monster's trouser pocket on laundry day." Just to take another massive bladder evacuation into my horrified upward-facing eyes and nostrils, I later caught a glimpse of the PS3 version being played by someone else, and not only were the graphics better, but the level design was drastically different (i.e., actually good!) And the physics seemed to amount more than just swotting things made of cardboard around various empty rooms. On the whole, it seemed like a game I'd much rather be reviewing now, but I made my stupid, stupid choice and now I’m stuck with this watery, dead-eyed knock-off that would have embarrassed a last-generation console with pickax lodge in it. It just goes to prove what I've always said: free will is overrated!
The story concerns Darth Vader, thankfully having gotten over his difficult puberty and now expanding his evil portfolio with a dalliance in stealing other people’s children. His nurturing instincts then kick in and he raises the sprog as a secret apprentice to help him overthrow the Emperor, and why not? Because everything always works out so well whenever he pulls that shit. Apparently the plot is supposed to tie the Star Wars prequel trilogy to the original series, which raises the obvious question: "Why would we want to do this terrible thing?" It’s like tying your breakfast to a plague rat. The grubby fingerprints of George Lucas are all over the story, in that none of the characters are in the slightest bit relatable. That, however, could be because of the Wii’s graphic limitations making them all look like Gerry Anderson puppets of stroke victims. Your female sidekick in particular has something very eerie about her. She never blinks, for one thing; her eyes just sort of wobble every now and again like they're about to fall out.
But let’s move on to the festering bone marrow of the matter, the Wiimote lightsaber controls. Sweep it left and right for horizontal slashing, up and down if you’re feeling sassy. Put in practice, however, most lightsaber fights amount to little more than "run up to enemy, then wave your wrist around like you're a schoolgirl who just noticed a tarantula crawling up her sleeve." The trouble with the Wii motion sensor is that it’s so temperamental and intent to willfully misinterpret your every spastic flail that it’s essentially like playing any other console but with all the buttons randomly reassigned every couple of seconds. If only the controllers had some kind of, say, attachment that fixed all these issues, perhaps the games would be worth a damn. But there I go again on my dreamy little tangents.
Since it' the Wii port's lone unique feature, I should probably mention the Duel Mode, in which you and a friend compete to see who can stave off carpal tunnel syndrome the longest. I and m'colleague opted to fight as Anakin Skywalker vs Darth Vader, just to completely fuck up the canon, but when we figured out that both of us were using the lightsaber fighting style known as Random Shaking Fu, we both just backed up and stuck Force Lightning up each other's arses until one of them fell off.
Back in Single Player Town, I ended up putting all my upgrade points into Force powers, because for reasons already mentioned pulling off the lightsaber combos is like trying to follow an aerobics routine with both your arms tied to different windmills. Once you figure out that Force Pushing and Force Lightning can down an entire roomful of assailants, you'll wonder why you even bother carrying that big, glowing Jedi willy extension around. I mean, Christ, Luke Skywalker was supposed to be some kind of Force prodigy, and the most he could do was move a lightsaber by grimacing at it for an hour. And here’s this guy clearing an entire hallway with a cough!
The Force Unleashed on the Wii did not endear itself to me. I don’t blame the developers, and I'm not just saying that because they're based in this city and might kill me. I blame the Wii for being tight-fisted with its hardware upgrades. I blame myself for failing to research the different versions. I blame Michael Atkinson, the attorney general of South Australia, for quite a few unrelated things. But most of all I blame George Lucas, that hirsute, chinless git pummeling his own franchises with such ham-handedness you could put pieces of bread around each of his mitts and call them BLTs.
What I want to know is when LucasArts are going to drop this shallow pretense that the prequel trilogy wasn’t seven to eight hours of concentrated agony drilled right into the forebrain, declare the whole confused lot of it non-canon, and move on. But no, they keep trying to make us accept it, like our parents making us invite the smelly kid with the hunchback to our birthday party so he can drink all the Fanta and determinedly wet himself. First there was that god-awful CGI movie that looked like a two-hour intro cutscene, and now this. Personally, I would slap George’s hands away from the editing desk, give him a colouring book, then remake the prequel trilogy so that Darth Vader uses the Force to win break dancing competitions and chokes to death anyone who utters the word "midichlorians".
- I am your father: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I'm astonished that not a single person gets their hand cut off in this game
- You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy