Effectively acting as Star Wars: Episode III and a half, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed puts players in the role of Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice in and all new adventure that bridges the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Armed with an over-the-top arsenal of Force powers, players follow the Apprentice through his journey of vengeance and redemption, villainy and heroism, as he travels the galaxy with the crew of his starship, the Rogue Shadow. Taken by Vader at a young age, the Secret Apprentice is raised as a slave of the Dark Side, but as he hurtles towards his destiny that will have far reaching implications for Star Wars continuity, he will discover much about his past and his future.
In the course of the game, the player will travel from planet to planet hunting down all remaining Jedi for Darth Vader. Each location (the junk planet Raxus Prime, densely forested Kashyyyk, organic fungal Felucia, and other surprise areas) has new enemies that require different Force powers to defeat, and so the player gains access to them at the start of each new level. For example, most enemies on Raxus are mechanical, so the player learns Force Lightning at the start of the level to exploit this. In addition to the Force Powers, players can use the customization screen to purchase different Force Combos, which combine lightsaber moves with Force Powers and even include several grapple moves. All of these abilities can be powered up in the customization screen, which also has options for tweaking the lightsaber and choosing among several different costumes.
The game rewards players for defeating enemies in flashy ways, using Force powers and the environment instead of simply hacking with the lightsaber. Different “bonuses” are awarded to the player based on how enemies were defeated – for example, a “Crush Bonus” for slamming an enemy into (and subsequently destroying) a piece of the environment, or a “Long Way Down Bonus” for sending an enemy flying off a cliff. These bonuses increase the player’s Force Points, which work like experience points to level up; then once Level Up is achieved, the player receives Combo, Talent, and Ability spheres which can be spent on the aforementioned customization screen in order to gain new abilities and boost attack/defense-related stats. Additionally, the game makes use of an “Action camera” whenever enemies are defeated in particularly brutal ways, which briefly pauses the action to show an enemy hurtling to his death.
The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the Force Unleashed are the first games to use LucasArts’ Ronin engine, which combines the Havok physics engine, Natural Motion’s Euphoria AI, and Pixelux’s Digital Molecular Matter (DMM), which allows enemies to react with fluid animation and self-preserving AI (such as grabbing on to ledges and dodging projectiles), and objects in the environment to bend, stretch and shatter based on their material properties. The versions for other versions simulate the effects, but do not actually include the modules.