Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens – review

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  • Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, Wii U, PC, PS3, 360, 3DS, Vita
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
  • Developer: TT Games
  • Players: 1-2 (offline only)
  • Site: http://www.lego.com/en-gb/starwars/games/videogame
  • Game code shared from freelance work

For most games, bugs and glitches have only a minimal impact on our reviews. We’re saddened and frustrated at the machinations of the industry over the years in its determination to make consoles more like PCs, to the point where only one console manufacturer (Nintendo) is still determined to ensure all games released on its system hit the shops working properly. We live in the age of the ubiquitous Day One Patch. We can at least take a little comfort in the fact that these patches will (usually) remove any egregious problems; so long as you have your console connected to the internet, of course. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, however, is at time of writing (over a week after launch) so unforgivably riddled with major game-ruining bugs that we can not in good faith recommend it. This review is based on the digital Xbox One version, but it’s hard to imagine the other releases being 100% free of all the issues that we’ve encountered.

The real tragedy is that it would seem, underneath all of the huge issues missed by underpaid QA staff (or perhaps ignored by the higher-ups eager to get the game out the door on time), is a pretty good game. Lego titles have arguably lost their way in recent years, with Lego Marvel Avengers feeling particularly soulless – especially in the wake of Lego Marvel Superheroes. The Force Awakens was always going to be a tough movie to adapt for a game like this, with action scenes perfectly suited joined by long, quiet periods very much not suited. The movie’s storyline is shared amongst eleven levels and, while there are necessarily padded-out sequences and many that didn’t actually appear in the film at all, generally speaking it manages to retain the feel of a Star Wars game. Specifically, a TFA game.

That said, the game grabs your attention with arguable cheek by opening with a “prologue” based on the closing act of Return of the Jedi. Chewie, Wicket, explosions, space battle, destruction of the Death Star, piloting an AT-ST… it’s very Star Warsy if nothing else. It’s also used to introduce you to ‘Blaster Battles’. These are sections in certain levels where the game suddenly becomes a cross between a lightgun game and a cover shooter, as you pop your head out to shoot enemies and uncover weak points in structures and turrets. You’re even awarded a medal based on how well you did (basically, don’t die for gold). They sound out of place, but actually they’re pretty fun and never outstay their welcome.

It’s a pretty looking game. Shame it doesn’t work properly.

Another new feature thrown in here is the ‘multi build’ concept. Sometimes, a pile of buildable bricks will have more than one use, and you can destroy what you’ve made to use them again. It’s an interesting idea, but unambitiously implemented; at best, trying the less obvious option will yield a collectable. While you will sometimes need to use multi-builds in a certain order to progress, if you make just one mistake the game will immediately signpost what you need to do via character dialogue.

Speaking of dialogue, there’s a whole bunch of new lines recorded for the game by the original cast. While huge chunks of speech are lifted directly from the film for cutscenes, there’s lots of unique incidental dialogue, and even scenes for levels that explore events outside of the film. Despite being excellent in the movie, Daisy Ridley is a disappointment here, always sounding two words away from saying “Look, I’ve got more important things to do, can’t you just get an impersonator in?”. Everybody else does a good job, though. And the aforementioned levels that take place outside the movie script will please those who, for example, felt that Max von Sydow was underused, or who wanted to know exactly how the heck Han and Chewie got those Rathtars in the first place.

At times, it even recaptures the hilarity of the early Lego games (though never gets close to the comic genius of Lego City Undercover). There are some good one-liners, and a few visual gags that had us laughing out loud. Throw in some cool (if severely restrictive) vehicle sections, and you have what should have been one of the best Lego games.

Which it would have been, were it not for the bugs.

Screenshot or video? Given the number of bugs, could be either.

We’re not talking about minor annoyances, like how we had to tell the game we wanted to invert flight controls on every single mission because it was completely unable to remember our preference. Nor the way that, when playing solo, it can be frustratingly difficult to get an AI partner to work with you on a puzzle. Nor even are we thinking of the fact that we remain genuinely unsure as to whether or not the game uses checkpoints (after being forced out of a level once, our first retry sent us back to the beginning, our second retry to a section shortly before the bug, our third retry to the beginning again). No, we’re talking about bugs that left us with no choice but to restart the game or, at best, return to the main menu.

We were so frustrated that we were twice on the verge of downing tools and writing a review without finishing the story. As it is, we played only a few of the ‘extra’ levels before running into yet another bug, which proved to be the final straw. In the end we played a total of fourteen levels, and four of them forced us to restart, losing all progress within that stage (two of those levels we had to restart twice). ‘Highlights’ included three instances of cutscenes freezing and two infinite animation loops it was impossible to escape from. If we’d paid the £40-£58 Microsoft is expecting on the Xbox store, we’d be furious.

Buyer beware, the force of commercial pressure is strong with this one.

critical score 4

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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