We take a look at how Obi Wan is shaping up on the Xbox
Obi-Wan's journey to gamers' hands has been a rather bumpy road. Originally announced for the PC last year, the game promised some truly unique gameplay elements. Unfortunately, LucasArts cancelled Obi-Wan for the PC that November, stating the game would instead come to a next-generation console. Following the cancellation, nary a peep was uttered about the game until this past May, when LucasArts officially announced the game for the Xbox and showed it off at E3. In our last look at
A third-person action-adventure title, Obi-Wan puts you in the role of everyone's favorite Jedi. Unfolding across 19 levels set in such familiar locales as Coruscant, Theed, and Tatooine, the game's story starts up slightly before the main action in the Phantom Menace and eventually overlaps events from the film. Early levels will provide you with background on Obi-Wan's experiences as a Jedi in training, while later levels will flesh out his offscreen experiences in Episode 1. Thrown into the mix are new levels and story elements, which will introduce a new group of enemies, the Jin ha. Familiar faces--such as Qui Gon and the Jedi Council--from Episode 1 are present, along with less-friendly folk like Darth Maul.
Following the basic structure of a story-driven action game, Obi-Wan will have you exploring levels, interacting with nonplayer characters (NPCs), and taking out enemies. Along the way, you'll have to master the use of force powers and your trusty lightsaber to build up your Jedi skills. Fortunately, the Jedi Council is around to help build up those skills by sparring with you in the Jedi Saber Arena. You'll be able to hone lightsaber techniques against nearly all of the council, although gamers with a score to settle against Yoda will be left wanting, as the pointy-eared one is not among the sparring partners.
The game's controls make you wonder why the movies made being a Jedi seem so hard. Obi-Wan makes good use of the Xbox controller with a solid control scheme. The left analog stick controls movement, while the right stick controls your lightsaber. You will also be able to pull off Obi-Wan's arsenal of acrobatic moves--such as cartwheels, front flips, and back flips--by using the Y button in conjunction with the analog stick.
Jumping is accomplished by pressing the A button. In addition to these standard attacks, Obi-Wan will be able to use a wide array of force powers, such as the force push for knocking back enemies, force speed for fast running, force pull for pulling objects and enemies to him, force throw to toss enemies around, force defend for enhanced blocking, and force jump for superhuman leaps. You'll also be able to use the force to enhance your lightsaber attacks; you'll be able to throw your lightsaber and partially control its arc while it flies, as well as enhance your basic lightsaber attacks to do more damage. Blocking is automatic but is dependent on your position--basically, how successful a block is depends on the direction you're facing in relation to the origin of the blast. The more you are facing the origin the more accurate the block.
Obi-Wan's graphics are impressive, although still a bit shaky in the frame rate department. We had the opportunity to see the Jedi Saber Arena and seedy living area on Coruscant, the base of the Jin ha in a swamp on an unnamed planet, and a Tusken Raider camp on Tatooine. The areas offered nice detail, like the scenic vista of Coruscant from the Jedi Arena. In Coruscant's seedy area, cleanly textured posters and graffiti stood out amidst air vehicles on the move. The Jin ha base's swamp area offered a cool water effect achieved by combining a translucent reflection map that reacted to movement. Tatooine's Tusken Raider camp had a good sense of scale and nice lighting effects. Character models are somewhat better than those in Obi-Wan PC and offer
solid detail, although they don't appear to be a massive leap from the ones used in the PC version. One of the most impressive elements of the stages, in Coruscant and Tatooine,was the sense of scale. The areas were huge and, in the case of Coruscant's underbelly, on the move: NPCs running by, air vehicles, and so on. Unfortunately, at the moment, the cost of the detail and size of the levels is a jittery frame rate. The game's target frame rate is a constant 30 frames per second and, given that the game is slated to ship around December, looks possible--although not without work.
Obi-Wan is slowly starting to realize the potential of its premise. If the gameplay and graphics can match each other in quality, the Xbox will have a very solid title in its library.
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