LOS ANGELES – Consider it "Star Wars III and a Half" — complete with a pivotal plot twist.
When LucasArts releases "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" on Sept. 16, the video game will serve as George Lucas' official medium between 2005's "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" and 1977's "Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope."
In the game, players become Darth Vader's secret apprentice and use The Force to hunt the remaining Jedi.
"Force Unleashed" allows gamers to use supercharged Force powers to bust through objects, wield a lightsaber, blast lighting bolts and fling around foes.
The game will also change the way fans view "Episode IV" through "Episode VI — Return of the Jedi," LucasArts project lead Haden Blackman told The Associated Press at the E3 Business and Media Summit.
"There's a couple of big twists and turns in the story," said Blackman. "One revelation in particular really impacts the rest of the saga as a whole. It goes way beyond filling in gaps. We try to make a bridge on every level. The story has a real implications on 'Episode IV.' In some ways, without the apprentice, 'Episode IV' couldn't happen."
Versions of "The Force Unleashed" will be available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2.
Blackman and his team worked with Lucas to craft the original saga, which mixes both pre-established elements from the "Star Wars" universe as well as new characters, locales and details from game developers.
"We pitched a number of different story ideas and concepts to him," said Blackman. "With him, we picked and chose the strongest elements. As we worked on 'The Force Unleashed,' he encouraged us to create new characters as well as use existing characters. He told us, 'If you're going to use Vader, that's fine, but here's how you can use him."'
In the first level, players will plow through the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk as Darth Vader. Subsequent levels find players serving as Vader's apprentice and traveling to such locales as a TIE Fighter construction facility, the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, the overgrown planet of Felucia and back to an Empire-ravaged Kashyyyk.
"Story-wise, we left some openings for a sequel," said Blackman. "The concept of 'The Force Unleashed' could be taken in any direction. We could potentially do a 'Force Unleashed' game set in a different 'Star Wars' time period with a new storyline. We were definitely cognizant to leave some doors open at the end."
Lucas will premiere the new computer-animated film "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," which takes place between "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" and "Episode III," on Aug. 10.
The film will be pegged to a new weekly animated TV series as well as new "Clone Wars" video games for both the Nintendo DS and the Wii.