on September 17, 2008
The story behind this new entry into the Star Wars universe starts with Darth Vader being sent to Kashyyyk by Palps in order to track down a Jedi that survived Order 66 and the Jedi purge. Vader lands on the planet in his shuttle, and you proceed to kick some serious Wookie butt. The Stormtroopers you see are a nice blend of the Clone Trooper outfit and the newer Storm Trooper outfit, you can see the progression. From their sound, I think the clones aren't in use anymore by this time. The main reason I say that is that they sound a little scared when they status Vader on things, but the whole difference in the Clones and Storm Troopers is a discussion for another geek day. Vader finds the rogue Jedi, and you get your first real battle. Once Vader defeats him and is about to deliver the final blow, the lightsaber is Force Pulled out of his hand and he turns around to see . . . a little boy, maybe 5 years old I would say. Vader feels that the Force in the kid and stands there for a minute thinking of what to do and takes back his lightsaber. The Stormtroopers come up with their guns trained on the kid, and Vader turns around to face them. Cut to the kid's scared face as you hear Vader's lightsaber fire up and takes out everyone - rouge Jedi and Stormtroopers alike. With no witneses, he leads the boy away to become his Secret Apprentice. As the Apprentice, you'll go on missions to find other rouge Jedi, and see how the Rebellion came to be. That's about all I know on the story so far, it's as far in game as I was able to get tonight.
First off, as expected, the graphics aren't anywhere close to what I'm hearing the PS3 and XBox 360 are. That's ok, because I think the graphics are still pretty impressive on this game. Cutscenes are rendered well, the action is pretty fluid, and I didn't really notice any distracting frame drops like I've seen in other titles. There were some graphics glitches, though, but I hear that those are showing up on the other consoles as well - characters sliding through objects/walls, capes and costumes cutting through figures, that kind of thing. But, it's not that bad, really. From my gamer perspective I'd say it looked pretty good.
I was initially disappointed to hear that the Havoc and DMM physics engines weren't going to be in the Wii version, but they do manage to pull it off pretty well. Your victims squrim around when you've got them in a Force Hold, they scream and grunt realistically when you toss them around like ragdolls (I'll get to that in a minute, by far the most awesome part of this game), and there is some rudimentary A.I. being implemented here where they will at least display some level of self-preservation once they realize you're going to squish them like a bug with your Force Slam. I had a few Rebel Militia guys running away after I grabbed a flaming barrel, so that's always fun. There are so many things in the environment that are breakable or throwable, it's really amazing to see. Again, I know the PS3/XBox 360 versions make this look silly with their DMM physics, but the Wii is immersive enough for me in this aspect.
The controls are what sets this game apart. When a game implements a good control scheme for the Wii, it just feels right. You get a lot of games where the controls do feel tacked on, it's just not that exicting to play. Not this one, the controls are incredible. The recently shown Motion+ 1:1 controls would have been great, but honestly, how many of us can realistically wield a sword or lightsaber in a fluid manner anyway? My Apprentice onscreen would look like a flailing idiot, just like me. The limited motion recognition is fine with me, lets me look like a fool while the Apprentice is still fun to watch. Contrary to some opinions, it's much more than just "waggle" (most of those opinions are voiced by PS3 of XBox360 snobs . . . saber-envy, I guess). You swing left-to-right, so does the Apprentice. You swing right to left, so does he. An upward swing? He throws and uppercut-like strike. Downward? Overhand slice. Thrust forward? Lunging stab. You get the picture. You can string together some pretty cool combos with this and, coupled with the force powers, open up some serious Sith whooping.
The Force powers are controlled with the Nunchuck. Push it forward, and you do a simple Force Push. If an object on the screen is highlighted, you can Force Grab by holding the Z button and use the control stick to move it out of the way or throw it at a whimpering target . . . who screams satisfyingly when it hits. The C button gives you your Force Lightning. One of my favorite moves in stringing together attacks is to grab the target soldier, hoisting him up in the air with the Force, and throwing the lightsaber to impale him. I threw a lot of guys into walls, off cliffs/catwalks, into each other. The Force Grab/Throw is by far the coolest and most natural attack I've ever experienced in any of the Star Wars games I've played. And I used it. A lot. And was grinning ear to ear the whole time. Does that make me a Sith?
There is a great training mode, for use with the young Padawans to help get the controls and attacks down before trying out the game. Very interesting use of first-person style showing both hands onscreen using a Wiimote and Nunchuck.The Apprentice's droid is facilitating the training, telling you what to do to get what effect. Well done, overall, and does a great job of introducing the controls, explaining their use, and giving you ample time to experiment with combos and the like.
Lastly, I want to spend a little time on the voice-over experience. So far, Sam Witwer is great in the voice-over acting. Apparently, the cut scenes were actually recorded by the actors on green-screen, interacting with each other, then captured and animated in the game rendering, so there is actual chemistry between them. I haven't heard much from Juno Eclipse yet, the Apprentice's pilot for his ship, the Rouge Shadow, but what I've heard from her, voiced by Nathalie Cox, has been pretty good. Matt Sloan did the voice for Darth Vader, and I'll tell you what, at first I thought it was James Earl Jones, he really nailed the voice. It looks from the cast that they have Jimmy Smits reprising his role as Bail Organa, but I haven't gotten anywhere near his part in the game, I'm guessing. The story is acted wonderfully, and I don't see (yet) any heavy handed influence from George Lucas, which is a good thing. At least, if he throws a Jar Jar Binks or Ziro the Hutt in there, at least let me be able to kill it mercilessly. It really has an older Star Wars feel to it, could even be compared to the Knights of the Old Republic game and it's storyline, and I'm really enjoying it so far. I'll report more as I get deeper into the game, and especially as I try out the Wii-exclusive Duel Mode, which really looks to be amazing. I'm sure my Padawan daughter will wipe the floor with me, but that's just good parental bonding, right?