Becoming Vader

Welcome to First Impressions, where I relay my experiences of a game’s opening moments. 

I am become death, destroyer of Wookies. The force is with me, and by it the world conforms to my will. I am Vader unleashed, and nothing shall stand in my way.

As far as opening levels go, the one for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a doozy. While most video games start out small, giving players a limited tool set and gradually introducing them to core gameplay mechanics, Unleashed goes all in. Within three minutes of starting the game, I’m controlling one of the most iconic villains in sci-fi history. Not only that, I’m using force powers to smack around a planet full of Wookies. Wookies. Remember them? The big walking carpets that pull peoples arms out of their sockets when the lose a game? As Darth Vader, I crush them more easily than a trash compacter crushes rebels.

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Vader is on Kashyyyk to continue his quest of eradicating the last remnants of the Jedi from the universe. Rumor has it there is one here under the shelter of those furry monstrosities. Your mission is to hunt him down and take him out. As you step off the Imperial shuttle onto the planet, it’s worth pausing for a moment to take in the spectacle. A half-dozen Imperial Star Destroyers skim the surface of the planet, launching hundreds of TIE Fighters that scour the planet’s surface. Stormtroopers have already started to forge a path for you, engaging squads of Wookies with orange blaster fire. An impressive sight, but not as impressive as a Dark Lord of the Sith and his mastery of the force. Enemies of the dark side have more to fear than his iconic red lightsaber. Vader also has at his disposal two force powers. One allows him to pick up individual objects in the environment and move or throw them at will. The other is a force push which can be charged to let loose a force blast, sending shock waves of concussive force cascading outward.

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There’s no grace, no subtlety to using Vader’s powers. The slightest nudge of the controls results in a disproportionate explosion of force. Trees and wooden barriers shatter spectacularly. Cargo containers take flight and bounce as though nearly weightless. Enemies and allies alike are strewn about like rag dolls. Though the force powers respond to your commands, rarely will you feel completely in control. But in a sense it fits, because when is the rage of a Sith ever synonymous with precision? It’s called “blind rage” not because the actor has no knowledge of his actions, but because such rage will inflict itself upon anything that happens to be nearby. This is exemplified perfectly by Vader’s poor and hapless allies, those lowly Stormtroopers. Force powers affect them, too. The powerful blasts that knock Wookies asunder will do the same to your minions. Those unfortunate enough to survive your wrath may earn your sympathy as they scream in terror and run from your terrible presence.

Vader doesn’t run, though. He can’t. The game won’t let him. There’s no need. When you’re this powerful, you don’t need to run. Sometimes, it’s good to be the bad guy.

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