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Star Wars: Obi-Wan

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Genre: Action
Players: 1-2
Similar To: Tomb Raider
Rating: Teen
Published: 01 :07 : 02
Reviewed By: Ryan Newman

Overall: 5 = Average


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Breaking from their recent trend of flight-oriented titles, LucasArts releases Star Wars: Obi-Wan, an adventure title set in the Episode I universe. With some glaring flaws but plenty of promise, the quest for the perfect Star Wars title continues.

Gameplay: 5/10
To be blunt, there are a number of problems with Star Wars: Obi-Wan: the level design is repetitious, the enemies are mindless and mind-boggling numerous, the story doesn’t flow well, there are constant scripting problems, and there is little interaction with the world aside from using objects to attack enemies or activating a switch to open a door or move an elevator. However, with all of that said, the game still shows plenty of promise with regards to the Force powers and the use of the light saber. It also doesn’t hurt that the story is interesting: leading up to the events in Episode I, some underground hooligans are developing Force-resistant weapons and armor. Being the young padawan that you are, you and your master go to investigate the happenings at the request of the council, and in so doing, manage to stumble into surroundings of the Episode I movie. It’s a very nice touch when, only a few seconds into a new level, you realize that you’re playing through the very beginning of the movie.

It’s incredible how many flaws can be overlooked when one is having so much fun Force-throwing droids into walls and doing somersaults off of balconies just to land swiftly enough to take off an enemy’s head. In all fairness, the game isn’t as bad as I might have initially made it seem, though it’s far from perfect. In a strange way, Star Wars: Obi-Wan shows just as much progress as much as it does a regression in the quality of Star Wars games. Sure, the droids are stupid and there is little interaction with the world around the young padawan, but using the Force view – a slow-motion mode that makes handling multiple opponents easier – to roll under enemy fire, pop up and Force throw them into another droid and then make a huge vase fly through the air and smash the robot to pieces upon impact…well, there is just something special about that.

On the flip side of the coin, the levels are bland and devoid of anything that might give them a life of their own, and worse, many of them are just downright confusing. For instance, you might stumble a room that features three locked doors and three buttons, none of which seem to do anything. After spending an eternity trying to figure out what to do, you eventually discover that you needed to hit a button outside this new room, then re-enter, and through sheer luck, stumble down a particular spot of the floor that you need to escape. Now, there was no indication that this floor moved or even hinted at the fact that this is where the gamer needed to go, instead of through the three huge doors. There are so many instances of rooms devoid of any apparent action that completing the game requires a rather large amount of guessing. One time, I was stuck inside of a chimney without any obvious means of escape; after about twenty minutes I got aggravated and just started jumping. Well lo and behold, there was a ledge! A shame it was impossible to see.

Another problem, aside from the predictable enemies, are the horrible scripted events, which very rarely introduce any sort of life into the environments. For instance, Naboo soldiers make a show of fighting off the invading Federation, but they will often shoot Obi-Wan or even toss a grenade right at his feet. Other times, they will need to open a door and simply won’t. That certain triggered events would simply not occur was one of the game’s biggest faults. The only way to bypass this was to wander around aimlessly in the hopes that you happen to stumble upon something that’ll show you what to do, or else you’d have to restart the level while praying to the gaming gods that this isn’t really happening because the last spawn point was a long way back.

One problem that cropped up in the later levels was the notorious console-style save points. Instead of letting the gamer save anywhere they wish, Star Wars: Obi-Wan gives about four lives per level with respawn points in fixed locations. This really isn’t a bad thing at first; in fact, the good number of lives is very much a welcome thing. It is towards the end when things become even more vague as respawn points are distanced fairly far apart, forcing you to constantly repeat fifteen-minute-long sections over and over, until you run out of lives and must restart the level from the very beginning. The fact that the controls were spotty also didn’t help, as navigating tight spots was extremely tricky and led to quite a few needless deaths.

Now to the good stuff. There are a great deal of Force powers to play with, which include Force pull, Force view, Force jump, Force push, light saber throw, and Force throw. There is also a nice little lock-on effect that will focus the combat on a single enemy, and with a simple system which uses the right analog to control the swings, some serious swashbuckling can take place. There is also a much-appreciated auto-blocking feature; whenever a laser blast is incoming, Obi-Wan will let his light saber take the blast, though this deflection requires some good timing, as well as some of the Force – which, like his health, is gauged by a meter. This little addition went a long way, as it felt especially good to take out small squads of droids with their own laser blasts. There were also some later levels, Naboo for instance, that were more detailed and were a welcome change of pace from the various underground and outdoor environments. Sadly, even the better levels lacked the atmosphere of a city under siege or of a people in dire emergency. Additionally, there were also some very un-Jedi weapons like flame and stun grenades, as well as a sniper rifle. While they were fun, I didn’t feel nearly close to the intergalactic Jedi-in-training, Force-wielding badass as I should have when I needed to use a sniper rifle for a few pesky grenadier droids.

In all, Star Wars: Obi-Wan provides an extremely solid foundation for an incredible sequel, but, as it stands right now, this game is more of a rental than anything. There is a VS. Jedi mode for two players which unlocks more characters as the game progresses, but even with this and the small awards and other tidbits that can be found, the game won’t last longer than twelve hours. Also, the scripting issues were very damaging to the gameplay and overall story, and should have been addressed before shipping: following Qui-Gon Jinn as he ran in circles, screaming for me to follow didn’t exactly scream ‘ready to ship’ to me. Still, despite the huge faults, there is also a good deal of charm, which can really be enjoyed with enough tolerance and patience.

Graphics: 5.5/10
Help me, I’m st-st-st-st-stuttering. You guessed it: there was some pretty noticeable slowdown -- especially when things got hectic -- and polygon clipping, not to mention that clipping would often occur when it really shouldn’t have. Slipping off a ledge would get me stuck halfway into a wall, causing me to die, whereas backing into a wall would zoom the camera to the back of Obi-Wan’s head, causing half of his head to turn white. While the environments were fairly large in scope, they were devoid of anything that would make them seem truly alive. Also, a few animals had the same model of an animal or person here and there, but nothing to make a planet seem like an actual planet. Beyond that, the colors were extremely drab, and everything looked very bland, aside from the light saber and a few of the enemies.

There were also times when the screen would pause whenever the light saber was drawn or put away. This might not sound overly bad, but imagine using your binoculars to notice an assassin droid rushing your position, but instead of immediately taking out the saber of doom, the screen stops for a second with both characters in mid-pose before proceeding; it’s very distracting. The models look good from afar, but up close, they are pretty scary; also, it’s odd to see a person talk without their lips moving, with their arms and heads sliding about in a very rigid fashion. While the expanded environments and various other small tidbits, like Naboo and the Raider Chief, help to make the game look nice, it is still far behind the curve and was a lackluster use of the Xbox’s power.

Sound: 7/10
Some of the voice-overs were adequate, while some flat-out sucked, and sometimes they didn’t even talk! There were a few moments when Qui-Gon Jinn was supposed to give me an order, but instead just hopped into battle, thus losing the mission for me. The sound is the typical grade-A Lucasarts material and the sound effects were superb, but the repeated sayings of the enemies and the characters with poor voice-overs – sadly, Obi-Wan is the worst offender -- sound close to the original, but only close enough to sound obnoxious over time.

Control: 4.5/10
Moving is easy in wide-open areas, but very tricky in tight spots. Light saber controls rely on the right analog stick, with the right shoulder button locking on and activating the Force to do even more damaging combos. The Force powers require almost every button the controller, and it’s difficult at first with the far-off button placement on the controller, but in due time it can come together. There were some instances when the controls simply wouldn’t respond, which was extremely aggravating. Again, the more intricate aspects like the Force and light saber combat work fantastically, but the implementation in general was poor.

Overall: 5/10
If this had been any other game without the benefits of the Force and light saber parrying combat, it would have been panned to high hell. It’s a testament to how well those facets were implemented that Star Wars: Obi-Wan’s score remains above a 3. By smoothing out the rough edges, a sequel could be all that a Star Wars fan could ever hope for, but as of now, the game isn’t going to keep anyone happy – except, of course, for the diehard serious fans.

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Related Links: LucasArts