When we look back at some of the best Star Wars games, The Force Unleashed is one of the biggest names that come to mind. The 2008 action title from LucasArts was the first big step forward into delivering on the Jedi Knight fantasy since the Dark Forces series, and it did it all through a new character detached from the baggage of the existing series: Starkiller.
What made The Force Unleashed so special all those years ago was the amount of player freedom that it offered. Unlike the Jedi Knight series, this game was all about delivering on the brutality of a Dark Side Force wielder. That’s because, unlike Jedi: Survivor’s Cal Kestis, Starkiller is no Jedi, but the adopted apprentice of Darth Vader himself. It’s one of the few times that the series ever let loose and fully let you experience what taking a darker path could be like, and it was incredible.
Even for a game released in 2008, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed wasn’t exactly leading in the visuals or environmental design departments. If you’re used to the polish of the likes of Jedi: Fallen Order, then diving back into this one might make for a rough experience. However, the developers how to utilize the Ronin engine effectively, which meant that what it lacked in details made up for in environmental destructibility and interaction. Starkiller was able to manipulate his surroundings in ways that made you feel truly powerful.
Where Respawn’s Star Wars: Jedi series is more concerned with delivering stunning cinematic visuals and emotional storytelling, The Force Unleashed was more straightforward in what it gave you. You’re Galen Marek, codenamed Starkiller, and you’re tasked with assassinating the last of the remaining Jedi Masters before taking on and killing the Emperor himself. It’s about as full-on as you can get for a title set between the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope, something which has become commonplace now in the 14 years since.
The Force is with you
Killing off The Jedi is no easy feat, and Palpatine isn’t exactly a pushover either. That’s where Starkiller’s strong bond with The Force elevates this game the most. While you can string combos together with your lightsaber, and look good doing it, the real meat here is in the powers at your disposal. While you can throw your lightsaber, you can also shoot lightning out of your hands, force grip enemies and throw them off cliffs, or even manipulate their minds and make them take their own lives. It’s dark stuff and just a taste of what’s on offer.
The combat system shares a lot more DNA with the older God of War and Devil May Cry games, contrasting with the Dark Souls-inspired approach of Respawn’s titles. That means you’ll be hacking and slashing your way through everything from Stormtroopers, Jedi Knights, and beasts, all while doing battle in established locales like Coruscant, Cloud City, and Kashyyk. Escalation is the theme when it comes to Marek’s abilities At first, you’re tackling a room full of the Emperor’s soldiers with more than a little difficulty, but, after a few hours, you’re crippling Rancors with relative ease.
It all culminates in one of the most intense boss fights in series history as Starkiller takes on Darth Vader. The man, who is a force of nature in and of himself, doesn’t go quietly. Considering that hours ago you were able to slaughter some of the most trained Jedi knights known to the galaxy and tear Tie fighters out of the air with ease, Vader serves as your reality check.
The Dark Lord of the Sith is able to ragdoll you just for getting too close, resulting in you being slammed hard into the ground. This escalates to Vader tearing off the terrain and throwing it at you. It’s only when you get the upper hand that we see everything that Luke Skywalker could have become once Galek gets Vader down to his knees. He wastes no time in completely brutalizing him, smashing his helmet and damaging his respirator in the process.
So what exactly stops you in your tracks in The Force Unleashed? Nothing short of the Emperor throwing a Star Destroyer at you which is about as intense as it gets. Even that doesn’t finish Starkiller off though, merely wounds him leaving him to a fate that took down Vader before him setting up the sequel. Is it high art? No. Is there a deep and meaningful story complimented by a thorough combat system? Not quite. However, The Force Unleashed gives you access to the power of The Force in a way that no other Star Wars game has quite managed since. That alone makes this one worth remembering.
You can currently play Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on PC through Steam or Nintendo Switch. It’s also backwards compatible with Xbox Series X and Series S through the Microsoft Store.