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Review – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II | Level Up News

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Review – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

 

Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts, Red Fly (Wii), Aspyr (PC)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS
Genre: Action
Rating: T for Teen
ESRB Content Descriptors: Violence and Mild Blood
Buy from: Amazon, GameStop
The Scoop: Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, Starkiller, is now a fugitive on the run from his master and in search for his lover, Juno Eclipse.

Please note: While Star Wars: Force Unleashed II is available for all platforms, this review is based off of the Xbox 360 versionwhich is similar to the PS3 and PC version of the game. The Wii and DS versions feature a different engine and a different game play style.

The Setup: I talked about the plot of the game in my preview article, but here’s a quick summary: Force Unleashed ended with Starkiller dying at Darth Vader’s hand. But Darth Attachment Issues hasn’t been able to let go, and has created a secret clone army of Starkillers. One by one the clones have gone insane as it’s not possible to successfully clone a Jedi. (Perhaps it throws the Force out of whack?) He approaches the most recent clone, tells him how worthless he is (great motivational speaker, that Vader), and commands him to follow and be loyal. But Starkiller’s mind is elsewhere; he complains of memory flashes of people and places he been to before. Vader explains it’s a side effect of the memory implants; pay them no attention. But Starkiller can’t let it go, especially when it comes to memories of Juno Eclipse, his love interest in the first game. And when the worthless clone speech begins, the worthless clone goes mad, destroying the room and attacking Darth Asthma. Now on the run, Starkiller sets off to find Juno, consequences be damned.

Due to my dislike of the original, I was not interested in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II at all. I went to the developer panel at Star Wars Celebration V in hopes of my mind being changed about the franchise, and did exit with a feeling of some hope. Playing the demo at the same convention, however, brought back all my doubts and bad memories. Yet somehow, Force Unleashed II is getting a four out of five. Why? Despite loathing Force Unleashed, I actually discovered I was enjoying the sequel. After playing the game for two and a half hours solid, I suddenly realized, “Holy crap, when did I start liking this franchise?”

What’s Hot: Let’s start with my biggest complaint from the first Force Unleashed: The story. I don’t care how pretty it looked; the story was not my cup of tea, and I could have cared less about the outcome. I’d be surprised if Force Unleashed II won any awards for writing as the story isn’t as solid nor as well written as the first one. A lot of short-cuts were taken to move the story along, and they made little-to-no sense in spots. Plus the finding the long-lost love plotline is at the same drama-level of “Twilight”—especially at the climax of the game. But the difference is, unlike the first game, I want to know what happens in the second. Does Starkiller find Juno? Does Vader kill Starkiller again? Is he really a clone? Can you successfully clone a Jedi? Will the fan forums explode (again) over debating the cloning issue? Tell me now!

My second biggest complaint about the first game was the wobbly controls. Starkiller ran around like a spaz, Force powers flying left and right, and some of the combos difficult to pull off. When I played the floor demo at Celebration V, I looked for these, especially after the developer’s panel repeated over and over again how much the controls had improved. I didn’t see much evidence of this in the floor demo, but playing the actual game, I could see the difference. While Force Unleashed II’s physical controls are the same as the first game (A to attack, B to Push, Y to fry a Stormtrooper), Starkiller is more toned down, more focused, and less crazed. The combos seem easier to pull off, the Force abilities easer to control. I didn’t have the troubles I had with the first game, and it made the game play flow more smoothly. After a while, I stopped consciously looking for control issues, and just, well, played the game.

My third biggest complaint about the original was the plastic graphics. But that’s been overhauled, too. Force Unleashed II is freaking gorgeous. Characters and environments look realistic and not fake like in Force Unleashed, and there were periods where I felt like I was looking at a photograph of a distant world. (Check out the screen cap below.) The only trouble is characters in cut scenes still tend to walk like robots. There’s just something about the way the knees bend and the characters shift their weight when walking. It still looks clunky, but is cleaner and smoother than the original.

Uh... hi?

There are a lot of other features of the game worth pointing out. For starters, Force Unleashed II looks for your Force Unleashed save files. The only things I saw it pull over into the second game were costumes I had unlocked, thus expanding Starkiller’s wardrobe by three outfits. Nice touch if you liked the original looks.

And holocrons are back! Like in the first game, holocrons will level up your health, level up your Force abilities, or give you powerful lightsaber crystals, depending on which ones you find. There aren’t any power holocrons like in Force Unleashed, though. In the first game, you would be granted bonuses, depending on what holocron you found. It would last the length of a Star in Super Mario Bros. but would give the player a brief advantage. I haven’t really decided whether the lack of bonus powers is good, but I didn’t really miss them, either.

There’s also no level map, but it wasn’t necessary. Force Unleashed II is very linear with a logical level layout. There were a couple times where I got turned around, with platforms all looking the same, but was quickly able to figure out where I was and where I needed to go.

What’s Not: Holy Sith this game is short! I beat it in a little over four hours, then sat there thinking, “Uh… that’s it?” And don’t look for online play; there isn’t any. There’s just a series of challenges that resemble training arenas where you play Beat the Clock and can rank your scores over Xbox Live, comparing them against your friends. (Seriously?)

Force Unleashed never really gave a reason to have or upgrade a lightsaber, and Force Unleashed II didn’t really address this, either. In the first game, Starkiller’s Force abilities were so powerful that giving him a lightsaber was pointless. It was nothing more than a glowing stick he carried around in case a rave broke out. Now Starkiller has two glowing sticks that are only partially-useless. They will cut an enemy to bits, and are great for button-mashing when surrounded by enemies. But a well-timed Force power does just as much if not more damage.

 

Who needs lightsabers when you have the Force?

Then there are the enemies. The developers talked at great lengths about the advancements made to the AIs, making them more intelligent and difficult to defeat. All I saw were more Stormtroopers that needed their limbs removed. When I played the floor demo at Celebration V, I was told that given the improvements to the AI, I needed to consider certain strategies when facing off against enemies. Some could block certain Force powers, others lightsaber swings, and to choose my attacks wisely. My strategy was to use Force Push on everything—which seemed to disappoint the developer watching me play. Man or machine, it didn’t matter; it rarely failed. I called it Bowling for Stormtroopers. This has carried over to playing the full version of Force Unleashed II. The demo may have been upped for the convention, but the move is still damn powerful in the game. Soldiers advancing? Throw them over the side! Snipers on the left? Eat my Force Push!

There was only one Stormtrooper class I came across where Force Push was useless: Jumptroopers. The only difference between a Stormtrooper and a Jumptrooper is a jetpack. Jumptroopers fly around, thinking they’re all cool and invincible—until they met my Force Lightening. One zap and the jetpacks explode. While highly amusing, this seems like a tragic design flaw. Think about it: these soldiers spend four years training at the Imperial Academy, then additional months/years training to be a Jumptrooper, only to get stationed on Kamino—the thunderstorm capital of the galaxy—and given a jetpack that explodes when it comes in contact with lightening. So if Starkiller didn’t zap them, the never-ending storm would have. I actually felt sorry for the poor bucketheads.

I will give the game credit for enemy variety, though. Not every NPC was a Stormtrooper of sorts; there were some Sith Acolytes mixed in. Those little buggers were invulnerable to Force abilities, and only lightsabers did any damage. And by damage, I mean stabbing the Sith through the torso, then chucking him across the platform. Sometimes it would take several stab-and-throws for the Sith to die, and it was the same repetitive move over and over again. Hooray for the glow sticks not being useless, but boo on the repetitiveness.

Speaking of repetitive: Quick Time Events! The QTEs in Force Unleashed were complicated, but had to be completed in order to defeat bosses. If you hit a wrong button, the QTE would continuously loop until you got it right. QTEs work the same way in Force Unleashed II, but they aren’t nearly as complicated. They still resemble a game of Simon, but more like the beginning stages. And they’re still repetitive: every time you bring down a carbonite war droid, you’re going to get the same exact cut scene. It’s cool at first, but gets old quick.

I remember at the Celebration V panel the audience loudly cheering when it was revealed both Yoda and Boba Fett would be in the game. But they failed to mention Yoda and Boba Fett would have blink-and-you-miss-them cameos. For example, if you saw the Yoda game clip I posted, congrats, you’ve seen Yoda in the game. In fact, the whole Dagobah level was pointless, only proving that Starkiller could land a ship in a swamp much better than Luke Skywalker. Starkiller showed up, walked immediately to the dark cave, saw the green Muppet sitting outside, walked in, had a vision about Juno, walked out, left the planet. Five minutes tops. The entire time, Yoda sat outside the cave like a bouncer at a night club. I’m beginning to think Yoda spent his 23 years in hiding guarding the cave incase innocent tourists happened upon it.

And don’t even get me started on the game’s ending. (SPOILER ALERT: Starkiller’s kiss brings people back to life. It’s like “Twilight” and early Disney films had a baby.)

Final Verdict: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It’s not perfect, and there are still some game play balance issues to work out, but it’s better than the first. The story isn’t as well crafted, but the game play improvements make up for it. I won’t say this is a Must Own, but Star Wars fans will enjoy it for what it is: the next chapter in the Force Unleashed saga.

On a related note: Force Unleashed II does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, so perhaps a third game is in the works? The plot’s timeline, however, is moving ever-so-close to the Star Wars: Dark Forces franchise territory, so maybe the third game will tie in to Kyle Katarn stealing the plans for the Death Star? I would not be opposed to this.

Review - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
 

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About the author

Ever since her father introduced her to arcades at age four, Jennifer has been a gamer. Known around the office as the walking Star Wars encyclopedia, her favorite games include Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Metal Gear Solid, and Mass Effect. Follow her on Twitter! @jennifervolpe

 
 

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