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Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out now on PC, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Wii U. Our Alan Stock is here to review the PS4 version of the game for ComiConverse.
“It’s hard to see how a mission aboard an exploding spaceship falling towards an acid planet could have gone so wrong…”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally gets its own videogame with this latest outing from Travellers Tales, creators of the popular movie Lego game adaptations. Does the license get the treatment it deserves, and is the game actually any good? To give you a bit of background, I’m a complete newcomer to the Lego game series, although I played Lego as a kid and loved the Lego movie. I’m also a Star Wars fan, but not a hardcore one. I was keen to see what Lego would bring to the table and as their games are generally considered casual and aimed at younger audiences and families, I wondered if they could hold up to a more mature gaming standard.
So then, A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away….
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review
The game immediately plunges you into an unexpected but very welcome scenario in its prologue, none other than the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi. All of the right boxes are ticked right off the bat – music, voices and sound effects straight out of the movies; Ewoks, Stormtroopers and AT-STs (all made from Lego, of course) fighting in the forest, with laser blasts flying everywhere. Brilliant. You control Han Solo initially but can switch at will between other characters in your group such as Leia and Chewbacca. As you advance through the linear level, a heap of gameplay ideas, little set pieces and vehicle sections are thrown at you – it’s high on variety but a bit overwhelming. There’s lots of tutorials and some dodgy pacing with some poorly explained puzzle sections. Visually, it’s also an eye workout – on top of the busy, action filled environment stuffed with ridiculous numbers of collectable Lego coins, there’s a host of icons on the screen and a near continual stream of coins running up into your score. Crazy. Fortunately though, the atmosphere’s spot on, especially when the action switches to the space battle at the second Death Star and you get to fly around in the Millenium Falcon. The intense but entertaining prologue sets the precedent for much of the game, with subsequent chapters taking place during The Force Awakens.
So what does the Lego label add?
Firstly, nearly everything’s constructed from Lego, from buildings to enemies and they all smash into bricks. It all looks authentically “built” and seriously complex – so props to the construction designers are due. Lego characters have a bendy quality to avoid them being limited by their rigid form. In gameplay terms, however, the Lego theme is sorely underused. There’s some cool but simple “multi-build” puzzles – certain piles of bricks can be auto-built and destroyed if desired to create different objects from the same blocks. Other than that, use of Lego-based mechanics are few and far between, and there’s no element of player construction or creation, which is a real shame considering the possibilities the Lego license offers.
The Lego brand also brings a light-hearted and funny approach to everything in the game. Cutscenes mimicking the movie are full of jokes and silly tongue-in-cheek moments. Characters wisecrack as you’re playing, you overhear enemies having amusing conversations, and the Lego theme is used well in the gags. This may sound horrendous but in reality it’s really entertaining; the writing’s good and should elicit plenty of chuckles. Environments are filled with funny and imaginative details and the whole game exudes a silly charm which it’s hard not to fall for.
As you follow the plot of The Force Awakens movie, you’ll control all of the key characters, usually appearing in small groups, replaying all the events from the film. Although some of the movie sections have been cleverly expanded, to make the game stretch for an 8 hour campaign there’s a lot of filler. For example, resupplying the Millenium Falcon before you can launch, or a long puzzle and combat section in the dungeons of Maz Kanata’s castle. Pacing and variety become an issue – the first part of the game is mostly a non-stop deluge of action which gets exhausting – but later the pace becomes too slow, with lots of busywork between the movie set pieces you’re dying to play.
The gameplay as a whole is also a mixed bag. Generally, it’s slightly above mediocre – but certain segments rise above the rest, such as the fun Star Fox-esque space battles and trench runs, which capture the Star Wars essence perfectly. There’s a large variety of gameplay ideas but most of the time you’ll be on-foot. There’s an emphasis on switching between characters to progress, which is good, but it’s often of the arbitrary “this character for that switch” variety. There’s a lack of imagination and repetition in the ideas here and puzzles often want for direction and clarity. A big annoyance is the interact icon is infuriatingly fiddly to make appear and little niggles like this exist throughout the game.
On-foot combat consists of button mashing, and in the passable blaster shoot outs where you use cover, an auto aim removes any element of skill. Infinite lives and respawning immediately after death is a nod to the casual player that strangely you can’t disable – so there’s no need to avoid enemy fire or employ any real tactics in battle. Controls across the board feel loose, the camera isn’t great, and characters and vehicles lack weight. Still, the gameplay does have its moments and it can be forgiven a little thanks to the interesting dressing around it.
Its important to note that Lego games are as much designed to be enjoyed in two player co-op as solo play. With another player, the gameplay doesn’t magically improve or change, but things are more entertaining shared, and its nice to enjoy the laughs together. It also explains why there’s soooo much stuff in every area to smash. It’s an ideal game for family co-op, with nothing too challenging for young players – older players can always tackle trickier parts if needed. But playing solo isn’t an issue; in single player you can switch between characters, and your AI buddies do a good job at fighting and following you around.
The game is bursting at the seams with collectibles and extra content. After finishing the campaign and some bonus missions I was only around 22% complete. There’s side missions and campaign levels to revisit in Free Play mode with any characters you’ve unlocked. You can choose from an insanely large roster of over 200 Star Wars characters from across the series, both major and minor, and some have unique abilities. That’s impressive. In fact, the game’s a real tribute to fans in general; it’s littered with side characters, in-jokes, lore snippets and more. Most fun and interesting of all are some extra, canon approved, missions – for example a funny operation to rescue Admiral Ackbar from a prison ship. It’s a trap! These are full campaign missions with new environments, fully voiced cutscenes and jokes – though you’ll have a lot of collecting ahead to unlock them all.
After a few hours of the campaign I was getting a bit frustrated and tired of the gameplay, but by about half-way through the game I realised I was really starting to enjoy myself. I felt like I was in the movie during the big set pieces, and the Lego charm, humour and treatment of the movie gradually wore off on me. It may be Lego, but it still captures the real Star Wars feel.
If you can overlook the often uninspiring gameplay and the game’s casual nature, there’s actually a lot to like here for gamers and Star Wars fans alike – especially if you have a friend or family member to join you.
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If you can overlook the often mediocre gameplay, there’s plenty to enjoy in this funny and faithful interpretation of the movie.