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Star Wars: Dark Forces (DOS)

89
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  RussS (781)
Written on  :  Sep 25, 2009
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

A gem of its time, recreating the original Star Wars fun and adventure.

The Good

Released during LucasArts heyday in the mid-nineties when they were on a role in the adventure genre with the SCUMM based games, and the Star Wars brand was at its pre-prequel resurgent height, Dark Forces provides Star Wars with its own quality FPS as much as X-Wing gave it a quality space-flight sim.

The story is set during the classic era, intertwined around the events of the films with the first mission being to steal the plans of the first Death Star. This places you in amongst the classic scenario of fighting against Stormtroopers in typical Imperial garrisons, creating the atmosphere with well-drawn sprites and the iconic sound effects. You are cast as Kyle Katarn an ex-Stormtrooper turned Rebel Agent, whose hard boiled attitude is obviously a tribute to Han Solo. In this the plotting is quite poor, as the developers obviously couldn't think of a decent main character so resorted to the loveable rogue stereotype, much like the later Dash Rendar, it wouldn't be until the later games that Kyle really comes into his own. Here he is a thin character sent on missions by the Rebel Alliance to 'investigate' an Imperial project to create 'Dark Troopers', a new kind of super Stormtrooper. Of course this FPS is very much of it's time and investigating generally involves progressing through a linear level shooting anything that moves and picking up key cards and weapons and despatching such a number of Imperial troops that Kyle Katarn can easily be a one man army. That LucasArts actually tried to conceive a plot to this is a credit, compared to games such as Duke Nukem, Dark Forces features cut-scenes that progress the story and give you a sense that you're somehow contributing to it.

The game engine is good for it's time, the graphics are clean and sharp with levels well thought out and the Stormtroopers have the classic poor shooting skills. The controls are intuitive and allow for looking up and down making the game world deeper, though you hardly have to for game play.

The Bad

Any negative criticism of the game really depends on what you might be expecting to get out of it. The game is very much an FPS both in game play and plot line, which has you facing an ever increasing number of enemies of ever increasing toughness, dressed up in a plot to make it believable, though the actual plot of the Dark Troopers is hardly believable, but this is Star Wars. All this plays out in the typical check point level format, picking up a vast array of weapons generally based on those seen in the films, and health packs, a-la Doom et al. It's a shame that so many of the FPS clich├ęs made it into the game, but then it is a product of it's time.

If you're looking to relive parts from the films or see any hints of the main characters, you'll be disappointed though as aside from appearances of Darth Vader in the cut-scenes the game lives pretty much in it's own world. None of the classic Star Wars locales are given for exploration, although some of the levels are made to be familiar to them.

The game doesn't have the re-playability of its sibling space flight sim games and could have opted to place you in the role of an anonymous rebel agent as in X-Wing, allowing for branching missions and creating a plot more around you, but that really wasn't the mode for FPS at the time, only really System Shock was getting near that style of play.

The Bottom Line

Overall the game is a great way to live out Star Wars fantasies and place yourself in the action, nicely framed in the Star Wars universe. What it lacks in original game play it makes up for in polish and plot, making it a thoroughly engaging experience, that if worth playing for all Star Wars fans, if they can get it to run on modern systems. More importantly as it was made and set before the Star Wars universe exploded after the prequels came out, it retains the innocent charm of the original trilogy.