Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II reached its release with none of the vigour, excitement and ambition of its predecessor, which already set our expectations quite low in hoping that it would be great. It turns out that we were right to do that.
- Worth The Time?No, unless you're a die-hard Star Wars junkie. But even then, it's not guaranteed.
- Things LovedThe smooth and flashy saber combat, dismemberment - even though it's very limited, the amazing graphics and CGI cutscenes.
- Things HatedThe extremely short length of the single player campaign, the laughable and weak story, the bad dialogue, the numerous glitches and bugs, the large amount of repetitiveness, the very limited gameplay, the fact that corpses and broken items still disappear after a mere few seconds as they did in the original title, the boss fights, the quicktime events.
- RecommendationThere is not much incentive to buy this game, even if you have played and enjoyed the original title. Perhaps to the true die-hard Star Wars fan this title would be worth getting and playing but, even to them, definitely not at full price.
- Name: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
- Genre: Action Adventure, Hack & Slash
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360, Wii, DS
- Developer: LucasArts (PS3, 360), Aspyr Media (PC), Red Fly Studio (Wii)
- Publisher: LucasArts
- Price: R546-599
- Reviewed On: PS3
The original Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which made its debut in 2008, was an interesting game to say the least. The ambition and excitement surrounding the title, as well as the story concept, was more than enough to intrigue any Star Wars fan. Even though the game itself was plagued by a large amount of severely damaging flaws, it was still worth playing to big time fans of the galaxy far, far away, and the story was appealing enough to see through to the end. Two years later, and The Force Unleashed 2 has hit our shelves. However, bearing none of the ambition or large story appeal that the original had, and seeming to only have been created for the purpose of more daunting fan service and money, this sequel was perhaps condemned from the start to disappoint and leave another bad stain on the Star Wars legacy.
The Force Unleashed 2 takes place some months after the events of the first game, and fits in before Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in the epic saga’s story. In the game, players once again take on the role of Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, except this time around, according to Vader, he’s a clone. However, that is never fully confirmed in the game, despite it continuously dancing back and forth with the idea, where at one moment it seems to be true and the next it’s just back to being questionable again. It might be intriguing at first, but it quickly rushes to grab a backseat in the game’s plot. On the point of being a clone, Starkiller is haunted by memories of his past, which might not even be his to begin with. This causes him to free himself from Darth Vader’s clutches, escape the planet Kamino and fly across the galaxy in search of his own identity and his love from the first game, Juno Eclipse.
Star Wars in this day and age brings with it a certain level of expectation with regards to story, if nothing else. Sadly, The Force Unleashed 2’s plot is nothing more than a string of unimportant, random and stupid events, that seem to only serve the purpose of throwing thousands of the Empire’s troops in Starkiller’s way for repetitive slaughter. Starkiller is clearly a character who causes Vader no end of annoyance, which makes one wonder why he’s still breathing. Not to mention that history repeating itself is seemingly an interesting idea to Force Unleashed 2, as it follows the same pattern of the original, which is to have Starkiller begin as Vader’s lackey, eventually rebel against him, join the good guys and finally confront him in the end. It certainly doesn’t make for an exciting story a second time around, especially more so when one realises that perhaps The Force Unleashed’s greatest failing has always been that it is an interquel, trying to be an important part of the Star Wars canon long after it has ended. This may allow for the attraction of a large fan base, but it doesn’t enable the story to be entertaining, and adds quite a bit of predictability to the tale.
The Force Unleashed 2 plays almost identically to the first game, except this time around Starkiller wields two lightsabers instead of one. There have been various tweaks and upgrades to combat, movement as well as the force powers which makes the overall combat and movement systems smoother, more enjoyable and fast paced, and the controls are slicker and more responsive. However, this does not change the fact that the exact same combos and force powers from the original have made up the entirety of Force Unleashed 2’s combat system, with only the animations changing. Two sabers makes the combat flashy, much faster and initially very entertaining, but the novelty soon wears off as the game becomes increasingly repetitive. Even saber dismemberment, which has been added in this sequel, while initially awesome doesn’t remain appealing for long, as it’s very limited. Very few, barely noticeable additions have been made and the result is an experience that becomes tedious quickly, even more so due to the sheer number of enemies you’re tasked with killing, as though the game took a page out of the Space Invaders handbook. It’s quite intriguing then that the game manages to feel so repetitive when it only lasts a meager five or six hours in total, from start to finish.
On the plus side, a number of gameplay issues from the first game have been fixed and improved, making it easier to stomach the Force Unleashed 2’s main course. The daunting loading times are all gone, the targeting system has been very much improved and environments are more destructible, to name a few. However, these upgrades don’t make a large impact seeing as how they should have been there at the time of the original game, and when considering the overall game here, it doesn’t save Force Unleashed 2 from its failures. Aside from combat, there are only few platforming sections and environmental obstacles that stand in your way, and these are quickly dealt with to once again pit you up against more of the Empire’s army. Speaking of the army, Force Unleashed 2 tries to add a twist to your foes in that some require different tactics to beat, but all this amounts to is learning that one enemy type can only be beaten with sabers, another with force powers and so on. It doesn’t change much, and you won’t find a great deal of challenge in the game, as the only times you’ll really die are when you fall off of a cliff or become overwhelmed by the numbers you face.
In the game you’ll find holocrons hidden within the levels that grant you experience points to purchase new moves, saber crystals for customising your lightsabers and health and force meter upgrades. With regards to experience, you start the game so powerful that upgrading Starkiller almost feels unneeded, not to mention that there are hardly any combat upgrades to begin with, removing any appeal in character progression. Sure enough the game wanted you to feel powerful, and this is the case as you play. It’s easy to enjoy taking out hoards of stormtroopers, but the game doesn’t allow for any differentiation in play and the entertainment factor doesn’t last. Speaking of Saber crystals, they’re a nice touch to the game, as they allow you to change the colour of each of your sabers, and provide combat upgrades depending on the crystal type. The last two extras to the game are costumes to unlock for Starkiller and the challenge modes, which just task you with the same repetitive and dull things you do in the main story mode.
The boss fights have also been changed in Force Unleashed 2, and what’s disheartening is that they’ve gone from bad to worse. At least in the original it was fun to send a Jedi flying through the air with force push and hack them up with your lightsaber, when you didn’t have to deal with all the bugs and glitches that is. In this sequel what few boss fights there are amount to multi-tiered, dragged out battles that become a chore long before you empty your foe’s frustratingly huge health bar. Building on that point, some of the larger enemies, like the Empire’s mechs, are finished off with quicktime events just like in the original game, but these repeated, long winded scenes all too soon become tiresome to watch. For the most part, you’ll be wanting to stick to fighting the ground forces, as they’re basically the only enemies who provide real entertainment and allow for creative kills, flashy saber combos and messing around with your abilities such as Force Grip and Mind Trick – but again, the enjoyment only lasts for so long.
At least Force Unleashed 2 can redeem itself from its average standing when it comes to graphics. The game looks amazing, and the CGI cutscenes serve as some great eye-candy. It’s hard to take your eyes off the impressive weather effects, brilliant saber combat animations, realistic physics and fantastic-looking environments. Unfortunately, what dampens things up a bit here are some technical hiccups and glitches, such as you getting stuck on objects often, inexplicably dying once or twice or the very odd crash bug. With regards to audio, the voice acting is of a good standard, but the dialogue is laughably bad, which just results in none of the characters being likable – not even Darth Vader himself. The music may carry some Star Wars flare but, in combination with the dialogue and story, fails to encapsulate the true spirit of the franchise. Overall, when factoring out the impressive visuals, the Force Unleashed 2 seems pretty content with disappointing, and sticks to being average in most regards.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 abandons the ambition and excitement that the original title had and only manages to end up as an average experience at best. It fails to be anything more than a few shallow hours entertainment, but succeeds at becoming a dark stain on the Star Wars legacy. Even to the most devoted Star Was fan, a purchase at full price is not recommended, as what little appeal there is doesn’t last all that long. In the end, while the game is still entertaining and a number of gameplay aspects from the original have been improved, the overall package is disappointing and lacks substance, falling in the shadow of its predecessor.