You hear the big chord and the brass fanfare, and you know what's coming. It's easy to get excited when you hear the rousing Star Wars theme, though the franchise has hardly been known for exceeding expectations in recent years. If you're interested in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for its story and theme, you won't be disappointed: Its campaign supplies a weighty plot with a few stunning surprises. If you're more interested in the action, you'll find that while some frustrations get in the way during the main campaign, the PSP-exclusive modes are designed well and offer a surprising amount of replay value.
You're cast as Galen "Starkiller" Malek, Darth Vader's secret apprentice. The Clone Wars have ended, and Vader orders you to hunt and destroy the last of the remaining Jedi. Exploring the universe from this dark perspective is remarkably compelling. The story is over in under six hours, but it contains multiple twists, features some friendly and not-so-friendly faces, and is both explosive and remarkably intimate. You'll interact with Vader, of course, but Starkiller spends most of his time with an android called PROXY and his female pilot, Juno Eclipse. Sharing the details of the trio's adventures would spoil too much, so suffice it to say that you'll grow remarkably fond of Starkiller and his companions, and their moral conflicts carry a lot of weight.
The real star of the game isn't Starkiller, though; it's the robust physics engine that powers your most impressive moves. Using Force grip, you can grab and throw any number of objects, including your enemies; with Force push, you can shove items and foes out of your path. These skills and their variants deliver the game's best moments. Whether you're flinging stormtroopers into each other or offing swarms of rebels with a burst of energy, there are a number of "did you see that?" moments that will have you grabbing your friends to show them your Felucian-flinging prowess. Nevertheless, the controls can be unresponsive and sometimes lack fluidity. There is a bit of a delay after some of the longer Force-power animations, so your button presses may not result in onscreen action, and the floaty jumping makes some platforming sequences more frustrating than fun.
Those platforming sequences are made more vexing by Force Unleashed's unwieldy camera. The player has no manual camera control, and though the game tries to leash this untamable beast, it easily gets stuck in corners and against walls. A targeting system that lets you focus on a single enemy mitigates this issue somewhat, and the camera will reposition itself behind you if you remain immobile for a second or two, but these are imperfect solutions. However, the targeting isn't as frustrating as it is in other versions, given that environments are generally smaller and not littered with as much stuff. There are still some moments when you'll grab a different object than you intended, but seeing as how there are fewer objects to grab, these moments will provide only the occasional frustration.