ZADZOOKS: Star Wars, The Force Unleashed review

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Also, I loved bending a piece of large metal framing in the way of a passing T.I.E. Fighter and watching it explode, and splitting an AT-ST in half with a light saber.

Pixel-popping scale: Eight out of 10. I give major kudos to the LucasArts design team for the gorgeous environments and realistic character presentations.

Most impressive, as Vader might retort, are the game’s technological enhancements. The manipulation and reaction of materials such as shattering glass, bending metal, a shaking human body and splintering tree bark is pretty amazing.

Also, nonplayable characters realistically react to their Force-induced predicaments (like living rag dolls with an attitude) through a behavior-simulation engine, and it is pretty scary to watch.

Violent encounters: Verging on the sadistic, the game practically demands I use that slick selection of Force powers to run physics experiments on some helpless minions. About the fifth time I Force-grabbed a trooper, levitated him (as he groaned and twisted in pain), and flung him through a window into outer space, I really started to feel guilty. Although fallen enemies just dissolve into oblivion, it was a bit too realistic for my tastes.

Extras and unlockables: The player eventually can use an assortment of light saber crystals (to change his blade’s color and power) and costumes, view artwork, practice techniques in a training room or read an ever-expanding encyclopedic database as he progresses in the story.

Also, as the apprentice succeeds with primary and secondary mission objectives (I got to free a Sarlacc, giddy moment) and finds Jedi and Sith Holocrons, he is awarded with Force spheres to upgrade powers and combination moves.

Read all about it: “Star Wars” sequential-art scribe and project leader for the game Haden Blackman wrote a comic book adaptation of The Force Unleashed ($15.95) for Dark Horse Comics. It slightly expounds on the story and should be read only after finishing the game.

The bad news: The game’s linear play style along with the lack of any multiplayer element almost dooms it to rental status - once a player enjoys the story, he has little reason to go back and revisit the experience.

What’s it worth: The acting and plot are better than the last three “Star Wars” movies and, best of all, I get to take part in the fun. Fans of the Skywalker saga will not want to miss this dynamic game. However, if it were not for the technological novelties, this would be a pretty routine exercise in beating up bad guys.

Visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Community pages ( www.washingtontimes.com/communities/zadzooks) for a review of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for the Wii.

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