Described as a seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Unleashed is the latest video game installment in the Star Wars universe. With new technologies, an elaborate script and fully fleshed out new characters, it's much more like an interactive film than `just a game.'
In The Force Unleashed the gamer is Starkiller, the secret apprentice of Darth Vader, hunting down the remaining Jedi that escaped the execution of Order 66, while also working with your master to overthrow the emperor.
The game picks up where episode three left off and leads directly into the events of episode four.
"It tells a great story with pieces the fans have always been interested in," says Adrienne Wilkinson, one of the stars of the game. "It fills in the gaps of the eighteen years between the two trilogies, while also being an entirely self contained storyline that can easily stand on its own.
"It has everything that a great story should always have: action, adventure, romance, comedy, good vs evil, personal struggles, near death experiences, loss, grief, triumph and it makes the player part of the story. How can you go wrong with that?"
Adrienne plays Maris Brood, a Zabrak padawan who was training on a starship with her master when Order 66 was executed. When Maris learns of the massacre of the other Jedi, she sets out to exact revenge on Darth Vader, until she is discovered by Shaaki Ti, who urges the young padawan to disappear into hiding on the planet Felucia.
"She goes through a lot of personal trials in her upbringing and her struggle to survive this particular time in the Star Wars Universe."
After Order 66, the Jedi scatter throughout the universe. Some stop using their powers and go into hiding, while others continue to roam the universe as bounty hunters, mercenaries and pirates, which was where the concept for Maris was born.
"For a time she is a pirate, but much like Robin Hood. She is the head of a gang of thieves, but unbeknownst to them, she is secretly using them for good, turning them only on criminals etc."
Early concept art of Maris showed her wielding dual green tonfas, but in later released images, her tonfas were red, suggesting a turn to the dark side. Not surprisingly, Maris' journey has been compared to Adrienne's most well known role - that of Eve/Livia on Xena: Warrior Princess.
"She definitely straddles the line between good and evil at times, but in ways that you can almost always have some compassion or understanding for. As a Jedi, she is good, but her personal compass of right and wrong varies over the course of her life. It's a very confusing time and she is trying desperately to survive.
"The right thing to do doesn't always look like the right thing. Like what sometimes happens to people in real life. You do things you wouldn't expect because your circumstances and your survival calls on you to make choices or take actions you normally wouldn't. That's one of the things I love about her storyline.
"I've heard that much of Maris' additional story line will be told in comic books, novels and other outlets. There are so many adventures that could be played out in the telling of her story. It is exhilarating, and something I know that fans would love as much as I did."
The Force Unleashed is, in fact, getting the full 'star' treatment, just like the movies with an action figure line by Hasbro, a novel adaptation (written by Sean Williams) and a graphic novel (written by Haden Blackman, drawn by Brian Ching and David Ross and published by Dark Horse). [see sidebar]
Adrienne is no stranger to voicing video games. She's done voices for Saints Row, Command & Conquer III: Kane's Wrath, EverQuest II, Kill.switch, Saints Row II and The Sopranos: Road to Respect, but The Force Unleashed is unlike any game that came before it.
The Force Unleashed uses unique technology to capture the visual performance of the actors. "Our shoulders and up are motion capture and our bodies are animated. In the recording process we moved around and used our bodies as if it [were] live action, to make it as real and live as possible. They [had] to incorporate some prosthetic horns, so that was fun.
"Our performances were captured in every way and sort of 'married' together. We gave voice and motion capture performances, and it was all recorded on film. They used all of the various technologies to create the finished product. Our performance dictated much of the animated part based on what we did during the recording with our body movement and reactions. I was very pleased with the final animation and what the artists and creators chose to do with the character.
"I knew I wanted Maris to be strong, but sexy, calculating and dynamic...so I tried to create a voice and a presence that captured those qualities. Fortunately everyone seemed to be pleased. Up until then they said they hadn't had a full picture of [her], but that I filled in all the empty gaps of who she was, where she came from and what she wanted.
"My role expanded because they liked what I did with the character and gave her a really interesting point of view. Basically I filled in the character and made her more dynamic than she had been on paper, which I imagine allowed them to think about her more and create more storyline [for her]."
The chance to work on a Star Wars project was all the motivation Adrienne needed to audition. "You'd have to be crazy to not be interested in working on a Star Wars project. Aside from the pedigree of the companies, the story is very cool and the characters are awesome. I was instantly drawn to the project as soon as I saw the concept art and read the back story and character description that was sent to me for my first audition."
Fan reactions to the new character were quick, and positive. "I've been really blessed. All the fans I've run into have been as ecstatic over the character as I was. But then, how can you go wrong with a character who is that sexy and cool looking?
"More than anything I know how blessed I am to have worked on two projects with amazing and dedicated fans!"
Though she's been involved in several video game projects, Adrienne is not a gamer herself. "I think the first game I ever played was Pong. I also occasionally played things like Pac Man and Frogger. I was never a huge gamer, but I always had fun playing when I did...and I did get into Super Mario Brothers for a minute. Sadly, I never made it all the way to the castle to rescue the Princess."
The Force Unleashed is due out September 16, 2008. "It's quite brilliant. I think the fans will love it."