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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2

It’s probably bad form to start a review of a game by talking about OTHER reviews of said game but I’m going to do it anyway.  I enjoyed the first Force Unleashed game despite its flaws (my review here).  I saw so much potential in that game that I was very excited for the second one to come out, which of course it did.  In October of last year.  So why am I only playing it now?  Middle of the road reviews and bad word of mouth.  The day after it came out a friend who had made the purchase told me that he had already finished it, it took him about five hours, and the it was “meh, ok”.  So I waited for a price drop, which recently happened.  Instead of a full retail $60, the game is available for $30.  After playing through the game, taking about five and a half hours, the $30 price tag seems appropriate.  Stars Wars is a rich universe in which to set a game, which makes the Force Unleashed 2 that much more disappointing.  It’s not a bad game, but I consider it a step back from the first.  In fixing some of the problems that plagued the first game, it seems the developers forgot about making sure the rest was up to par.

Once again you play as Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret Sith apprentice who ended up turning to the light by the end of the first game, only to be killed minutes later.  If playing as a dead guy sounds like it might be boring, don’t worry, its quickly established that you are not the original Starkiller, but a clone made by Vader.  Vader lets on that he’s been trying to clone Starkiller for a while, going for someone who has all the badass powers of the original without any of the silly emotions.  When this version of Starkiller clearly still has an emotional attachment to his past, particularly a love for his former Imperial pilot Juno Eclipse (love star wars names) Vader means to off him, but you escape out into the galaxy to try to find Juno and your old good Jedi Master, General Kota.  The story of the first game was a strength, weaving itself into the core mythos, but here it’s given very little attention.  Not nearly as much HAPPENS in this game as did in the first, and only a few parts were really interesting.

The biggest upgrade over the first game for Force Unleashed 2 are the visuals.  Right from the start of the game, which takes place on perpetually storming Kamino, the weather effects are striking.  The lighting is a stand out, with slick surfaces looking appropriately shiny and Starkillers now dual lightsabers casting light on him as he moves around.  The animations are a step up as well, for both the player and the various imperial troops you will be slaughtering.  The environments look fantastic, with each location being visually unique of all the others and memorable.  While the art and ideas behind each level are very well done, the level design itself suffers from being VERY repetitive.  For example, the second level of the game takes place in a Cloud City type environment, with tall statues, gold and red decorated walkways, and large fountains standing out.  Even though the game is short, I found myself fighting groups of enemies around the same fountain about four times.  Another level on a rebel frigate features the exactly same hallway probably six or seven times.  I had this same complaint about Dragon Age 2, but at least that game was 50 hours long and had unique content in those reused environments.  Changing the room to room look of each level would have gone a long way toward making the game more immersive, but as it stands it drew me out of the experience.

Oh hey! THIS hallway again! And it has MORE STORMTROOPERS IN IT! WOAH!

One of the reasons the story feels weaker than the first game is that there are NO NEW CHARACTERS.  I understand that the first game had interesting ones that I wanted to spend more time with, but other than a somewhat power drunk imperial baron who rules a planet with an iron fist (incidentally, the first game had a very similar character), whose name I can’t even remember, everybody I encountered was a known entity.  Also disappointing are the lack of awesome Jedi boss battles, which the first game did very well.  Boss battles are present here and one is absolutely spectacular in a Shadow of the Colossus kind of way, namely that the…creature you are fighting is insanely enormous.  This is fine, but what’s the best part of any Star Wars game?  Lightsaber fights!  There is ONE in the whole game and it’s the very end.  This sounds like a nerdy complaint, but the interesting Jedi characters from the first game that you would 1.  MEET AND LEARN ABOUT AS NEW CHARACTERS and 2. ENGAGE IN VISUALLY AWESOME LIGHTSABER FIGHTS are sorely missing here.  I think the writers may have put themselves in a corner by setting their game in a universe where Jedi are very rare, but to not come up with some reason just screams lack of effort.  It’s Star Wars and a video game, come up with some reason for me to be fighting a Jedi.

Impressive graphics though, good rain!

The lack of lightsaber action hurts even more because the actual combat system is an upgrade over the first game.  Animations are better, but more importantly, the powers flow together much better and chaining a bunch of moves involving slashes, force push, force lightning, and saber throws together are Force Unleashed 2’s best moments.  I actually wish I had played the game on a harder difficulty level (I chose medium) because most of the time I dispatched any enemy with relative ease.  I met deaths cold embrace a few times, but more due to my own stupidity than the game throwing a legitimate challenge at me.  Force push will cause just about any enemy to fly to their death.  The lightsaber grapple move will also work on any humanoid within reach and will always stun them for a good length of time, although it usually just kills them.  The only thing that ever really poses a threat other than the bosses are the various Imperial Walkers.  Once I figured out the pattern for them though, dispatching them also became easy, although at least more time-consuming than the waves of stormtroopers.

I’ve spent most of this review pointing out the flaws of Force Unleashed 2, but it’s not a bad game.  It’s just one that I wouldn’t recommend to everyone.  I think it’s pretty simple, if you enjoyed the first game then this one is worth playing, caveat being at the current price tag.  There just isn’t as much content here to justify full retail price it came out at.  I’m in this target audience!  Despite the flaws I enjoyed my time with the game and plan to play it again on the highest difficulty.  Hell it won’t take very long anyway!  Despite the visual upgrades, the step backwards in story and poor level design make this part of the saga not nearly as good as it should have been.  Still waiting on an action game that fully capitalizes on the Stars Wars universe.

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2 Responses

  1. Spot on review. I thought Force Unleashed 2 was a disappointment. Same complaint as Dragon Age 2: the game designers simplified the character building a little too much. Don’t get me wrong, I liked part 2, but I friggin loved the first one (except the Star Destroyer part, which had me screaming F-bombs for over an hour–it still pisses me off when I think about it).

    • Lol. That is exactly the part of the game that made me throw my controller into my recliner and shove the disc back into its Gamefly envelope. The controls for the Star Destroyer part on the Xbox were so grotesquely inadequate I completely wrote off the rest of the game and didn’t want anything to do with the second one.

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