For $10 you can now download and play a new level of "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed."
I downloaded the level on Friday and played it on Saturday. What kind of experience did I get for my 10 bucks?
The new level took me about 70 minutes to complete.
It was, as "The Force Unleashed" project lead, Haden Blackman, told me in October, highly destructive. It distinguishes itself from the original levels of "Force Unleashed" by the amount of breakable, toss-able, and combustible stuff which your Jedi-on-steroids can crunch, crash and crush.
The new DLC level is set in the Jedi Temple on the plant of Coruscant during a moment wedged between levels of the original "Force Unleashed" game. The playable protagonist, the Dark Apprentice, has come to the Jedi Temple to learn his past. Mostly, though, he spends his time violently deactivating droids and killing stormtroopers with hurricane intensity.
Even LucasArts appears to acknowledge with the inclusion of new character skins that the Jedi Temple level isn't worth the full $10.
I was expecting the Jedi Temple level to be DLC done right. Blackman had told me that it wasn't old content kept from the paying consumers of the disc-based game. The new level was created after the completion of that disc-based game, so he assured me that it would benefit from his development team's experience on the core project.
Now that I've played the level, I will guess that a key learning was that the original game was balanced in a way that unintentionally (?) encourage dplayers to neglect using all of their Force powers except lightning and primarily fight with a lightsaber combos. This new Jedi Temple returns the Force powers -- primarily the ability to lift object and hurl them -- to the lead weapon in the player's arsenal. There are not many rooms in the Jedi Temple, but those that the player enters are full of large statues, explosive vases and massive models of planetary systems begging to be turned into bowling boulders. There is lots of stuff to check.
So you enter the Temple. You fight a lot. You tear up the scenery a lot. There are a few puzzles, more than were in the entire original game. It's good fun. But reminders of unfixed "Force Unleashed" flaws do surface.
The camera can still frustrate. And the use of the Force to do seemingly simple things -- like lifting a heavy door from a doorway so you can get through it without being shot to death -- don't always work without some extra fiddling of the controller.
The level takes a full hour to play the first time (on the second difficulty level, at least) because it can get hard. There are a lot of enemies to fight and at least one tough restart checkpoint. Unfortunately, this bonus adventure ends abruptly, clipping its own little story. It's strange, because the original game so superbly and completely delivered its own tale.
Your hero is slightly different in the DLC. Players get a new outfit for the Dark Apprentice in this level. Despite Blackman telling me that the developers would force players to re-spec their character from scratch, you do seem to be playing with the character whose powers you upgraded in the core game. You're given added Force points to spend on upgrades you may not have bought yet, but there are no new powers.
For their $10 players will also receive some extra skins for their character, allowing cosmetic switches to several characters, including Samuel Jackson Jedi Mace Windu.
Is the "Jedi Temple" worth the money? The value of downloadable content is hard to judge. Do you calculate based on the time it takes to play it? By the graphics? By the worth of experiencing a development team's first learnings from making the game they had just completed? By the pleasure of there being something new to play of a game you beat two months ago?
For $10 I'd want to play the best level of a game. There's at least one level in the original "Force Unleashed" for which I would have paid that price. But even LucasArts appears to acknowledge with the inclusion of new character skins that their adventure in the "Jedi Temple" alone isn't worth the full 10.
I had fun, but LucasArts was correct.
The Jedi Temple level is the first offering of what will be a season of game-expanding downloadable content issued for major 2008 video games over the next few months. Next up are new levels or modes for "Tomb Raider," "Mirror's Edge," "Fallout 3," "Fable II," "Burnout Paradise" and "Grand Theft Auto IV".