Preview – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
Last week I attended Star Wars Celebration V, and in between shopping in the vendors room, laser tag, and taking pictures, I went to check out the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II panel. I wasn’t really that impressed by Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and was sincerely hoping the sequel wouldn’t be as clunky as the first. (So hopeful, in fact, that I withstood yelling from a very passionate fan who was angry I chose the Force Unleashed II panel over attending the Mark Hamill one.)
Overseeing the Force Unleashed II panel was David Collins (Lead Sound Designer and Voice Director for LucasArts, and the voice of PROXY from Force Unleashed and Force Unleashed II), Matt Omernick (Art Director for The Force Unleashed II), and Brett Rector (Assistant Producer for The Force Unleashed II). The hour was spent on footage and live game play, as well as discussions of the game’s plot and improvements they made over the original Force Unleashed.
Be careful as plot spoilers follow:
The Force Unleashed ended with the Darth Vader’s apprentice, Starkiller, being slain by Vader himself. So how is it that Starkiller is back for a second game? It seems Darth Vader’s attachment issues have gotten the better of him and he’s secretly created an army of Starkiller clones. Vader approaches the most recently awakened clone, informs him right away he’s a clone, he’s worthless, and, oh by the way, all the other clones before him have gone insane, so he probably will, too. But when Starkiller starts to have flashbacks to events in The Force Unleashed, especially to those of his former love Juno Eclipse, Vader brushes it off to the memory implants. It was emphasized over and over again by the panel that Starkiller is “allegedly” a clone, and that several characters will begin to doubt Darth Vader told Starkiller the truth. (Epic foreshadowing, perhaps?)
The first three levels of The Force Unleashed II were reveled next, along with screen captures, concept art, and cut scenes. The first level of the game consists of Starkiller escaping from Kamino, and destroying everything in his path. At the end of his destructive rampage, Starkiller hijacks Darth Vader’s TIE-Advanced and heads off. (Teenagers these days.) The second level takes place on the planet Cato Neimoidia, where Starkiller runs into his old Jedi master, General Rahm Kota. From there it’s off to Dagobah where Starkiller meet a certain short, green Jedi master—much to the crowd’s roaring approval. (See the video below.) While Starkiller makes his way through the slimy mudhole planet, Darth Vader contracts a familiar Mandalorian bounty hunter to track down Starkiller and bring him back.
Overall, the game looks very shiny. The cut scenes and game play shown on the movie screen were gorgeous. One of my biggest complaints from the first game was the characters looked fake and plastic. Not in the sequel. Clothing looks like fabric, and moves like fabric should. Facial expressions on characters look natural, and most importantly, characters don’t walk like they’re robots. From what little we were shown, the environments are meticulously detailed and realistic. Seeing in-game footage on a giant movie theater-sized screen only made the visuals just that much more brilliant.
As for the Force powers and combat? Force Push, Force Pull, Force Lightening… they’re all back. The newest power Starkiller has at his disposal is Jedi Mind Trick, where at certain points against certain enemies, Starkiller can “control” their moves. The first level of the demo showed Starkiller using Jedi Mind Trick against a Stormtrooper, convincing him to jump out a window and to his death. Even the lightsaber combat has been improved; Starkiller now duel-wields lightsabers, and his weapons are (finally) more than just glowing clubs. This time around, the Jedi weapon hacks off limbs and heads, and anything else that gets in the way.
Due to Starkiller’s constant memory flashes, Vader’s number one assassin begins to have an identity crisis. Starkiller’s mental instability is reflected in the character’s movements and appearance in the game. In The Force Unleashed, Starkiller was very arrogant, his moves and lightsaber combat style filled with pizzazz and finesse. But in The Force Unleashed II, Starkiller’s approach is much more direct and involves much less flare. When watching the game play and comparing it to the first game, I could see what the panel members were referring to. There was something about the character’s stance and overall appearance that reflected an angry, confused fighter.
The one thing lacking in The Force Unleashed will also be missing in The Force Unleashed II: multiplayer mode. Like the first game, only the Wii version will feature multiplayer modes, while the 360 and PS3 versions will feature a challenge mode with online stat rankings to compare your score against your friends.
Later, I got a chance to play the floor demo, which consists of the first ten minutes of the game. Sadly, that’s just before memories of playing the first game came flooding back. The Force Unleashed II plays exactly like the first one—which can be both good and bad. The same buttons are used to make Starkiller walk, hack, slash, use the Force. And even though it was stated multiple times in the panel that the intelligence level of the AIs has increased, I didn’t see much evidence of this; the Stormtroopers appear to be just as befuddled in the sequel as they were in the first game. Another thing that’s back is looping quick-time events. In Force Unleashed, bosses had to be defeated by completing a series of QTEs. If the player hit the wrong button, the QTE looped continuously until properly completed. I think I loudly groaned when told they were back in Force Unleashed II.
It was also emphasized during the panel discussion that certain enemies would be immune to certain Force abilities. While I did see evidence of that, I also saw that the enemies weren’t necessarily immune to A) all Force abilities or B) the same Force ability used over and over again. Case in point: When I tried to hit a Stormtrooper with Force Push, the trooper dodged the first attack, but he was unsuccessful in dodging the barrage of Force Pushes that followed. (I’m a button masher, what can I say?) I was told the Force Powers were “upped” for the floor demo, but still. In The Force Unleashed, the player didn’t need to bother to upgrade his lightsaber as pushing, pulling, and zapping Stormtroopers with Force Lightening was much more effective, and judging from what little I played, the same is potentially in store for The Force Unleashed II.
I hope that come the game’s release, I’m proven wrong. I really want to like the sequel, and hope that the improvements and upgrades discussed are properly reflected in the rest of the game.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II hits shelves October 26, and will be available for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and Wii.Preview - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II,