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Star Wars: Dark Forces (Mac) artwork

Star Wars: Dark Forces (Mac) review

"If Mohc's plans come to fruition, the rebels are screwed. Instead of facing unending hordes of bumbling white-armored goofs seemingly incapable of hitting ANYTHING with their lasers, they'll be butchered ruthlessly by unending hordes of lethal killing machines. As the game's title suggests, dark forces are indeed threatening those opposing the tyrannical empire."

Sometimes, I'm amazed by how far games have evolved over the years. Nowadays, I can play Modern Warfare 2 and feel like I've been transported into the center of a chaotic war zone. Everything seems so real and vivid that I occasionally have to take a deep breath and remind myself that it's just a game and I'm not really fighting for my life against the Russians. In the late 90s, I was playing Star Wars: Dark Forces. Back then, you know what blew my mind? That I was playing a FPS where it was possible to look and aim up and down and where my character could jump and crouch. How times have changed...

Set in the fictional world of the Star Wars franchise, Dark Forces is a technological successor to Doom -- which is a nice way of calling it a Doom clone with some upgrades. You'll control Kyle Katarn, a mercenary working for the rebel forces who has an affinity for big guns. To tie things in with series canon, his first mission is to steal the plans for the Death Star. It's a well-done introductory stage that gives fanboys the chance to pump their fist and mutter that THEY made it possible for Luke and company to wind up victorious in the first movie (I admit...I did this).

But that's only the first of 14 stages. The remaining 13 deal with Katarn's efforts to stop Imperial General Rom Mohc from mass-producing nasty little creations known as Dark Troopers, which seem to be a cross between the lovably inept Stormtroopers and a Terminator robot. If Mohc's plans come to fruition, the rebels are screwed. Instead of facing unending hordes of bumbling white-armored goofs seemingly incapable of hitting ANYTHING with their lasers, they'll be butchered ruthlessly by unending hordes of lethal killing machines. As the game's title suggests, dark forces are indeed threatening those opposing the tyrannical empire.

And so Katarn travels over the galaxy in an attempt to stop Mohc, shooting the bejeebers out of Stormtroopers, droids, bounty hunters and pretty much anything else that makes the mistake of moving. When Dark Forces is at its best, you'll be traveling through diverse and atmospheric levels capable of giving you that "I'm in gaming heaven!" vibe. Early in the game, you'll venture into a sewer in search of the dude who designed the Dark Trooper for Mohc. It's a creepy, claustrophobic place that borders on terrifying when the Dianoga attack. You'll see this little eyestalk popping out of the sewage, looking around. When it sees you, it submerges...until this big ugly (definitely NOT fluffy) monstrosity pops up right in front of you chomping away at your health. That's how nightmares are born!

Later, you'll be captured by Jabba the Hutt and imprisoned on his ship. All your weapons have been removed and you have to fight a Kell Dragon to the death. Punch the big lizard out, find some new equipment and make your escape from this the Imperial City, where you'll have to survive a brutal onslaught of foes culminating in a one-on-one dogfight with Boba Fett! Dark Forces can be exhilarating when delivering back-to-back levels this awesome.

Unfortunately, it also can be mundane at times. Even though there's only 14 levels, a few of them still come off as little more than filler. Sure, the final stage where you eventually confront Mohc is suitably epic, but leading up to that part are two short, easy levels that really serve no purpose other than to get Katarn onto the general's ship. When Dark Forces isn't at its best, you're zipping through drab and forgettable places that seem to have just been placed in the game to make it a bit longer. That also is how nightmares are born...

But perhaps that is simply another representation of the one true flaw this game possesses -- a certain lack of imagination. If you look at Dark Forces as nothing more than a Doom clone, it's a success. You have a good variety of weaponry and a lot of enemies to use as target practice. Since you only can save at the conclusion of a level, there's also a fair amount of challenge. It can feel like a true accomplishment to survive some of the more vast and difficult stages. I know I felt like a champ when I finally overcame all those Imperial forces and then gunned down Boba in that sadistic Imperial City level.

But this is Star Wars. A vast fictional behemoth that through the years, has really only been limited by the imaginations of its creators. A place where everything revolves around a sort of magic known as the "Force" and the Jedi who utilize it. That doesn't exist in this game. For all his talents, Kyle Katarn is a regular person who might as well be an anonymous space marine. Even the fearsome Dark Troopers are, for lack of a better word, unexceptional. Some of them charge you to inflict grievous melee wounds, while others fly around blasting you with an assault cannon. But the "Force" never comes into play. While Dark Forces is a very well-executed Doom clone, it still merely is a Doom clone...and this results in the game being a bit of a disappointment.

It'd be nice to use the mental powers of the "Force" to trick guards into thinking you're one of them, allowing you to sneak through a heavily-guarded building in an espionage mission. It'd be great to master the use of a lightsaber, using your newfound powers to tear through previously daunting foes. None of that exists. Instead, you just shoot everything you see and move on to the next level. It'd also be nice if iconic villains not named "Boba Fett" appeared in more than cutscenes. Jabba and Darth make their presence felt, but you never really confront them. You control a "made for the game" hero against a "made for the game" antagonist and this adds to the disappointment. Controlling Luke against Darth would be a lot more thrilling of a concept for a pure action game such as this than Kyle vs. that Rom dude was.

Dark Forces is a pretty slick damn game in and of itself, but with a bit more imagination, could have been great. What you end up with is this sweet fantasy world...with you controlling Generic FPS Killing Machine #43. Which is all well and good if you're just looking for an entertaining game to pass the time, but won't get the job done if you're hoping to get your hands on something a bit more memorable than an "it was fun, but..." sort of experience.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 31, 2010)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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