Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Review
|Release Date:||29th October, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Some sequels out-do their predecessors in every way. The Dark Knight outdid Batman Begins wholly; Assassin's Creed 2 eclipsed Assassin's Creed in every conceivable way, and The Force Unleashed 2? Well, it... doesn't.
In fact, it's even more of a slapdash mess than the first game, and that's saying something. Sure the graphics are sharper, the gameplay just as entertaining and the slaughter of stormtroopers never gets old, but the game is too short, has a plot about as exciting as watching paint dry and doesn't add anything to the series.
It also messes with canon, and as a Star Wars fan that just gets right in my grill. Picking up some two years after Starkiller's misadventure on the Death Star, Force Unleashed 2 sees the former dark-side apprentice reborn as one of an army of clones, created by Darth Vader to serve him in his conquest of the galaxy.
Unlike the hundreds of clones of Vader's secret apprentice who've come before, this particular version is stable, and relatively sane. He's also plagued by recurring visions of the former Starkiller's love, Captain Juno Eclipse. Vader attempts to beat the visions out of him, but proto-Starkiller gets all peeved and blows his way off Kamino, the cloning planet, in search of his lost love. And that's about it for the plot. No really, that's it.
It seems that unlike the last game, which had an inventive, well-written plot that fitted nicely into the canon, Force Unleashed 2's developers were content to simply keep things ticking along, rather than trying to tell a decent tale, and this shows in the limited number of locations Starkiller jets off to, the limited number of enemies you face off with, and the criminally pointless cameos from recognised Star Wars characters.
The game also assumes you know who Starkiller is, and who the returning faces are from the previous game, offering little or no explanation of who they are, and why they're crashing a starship into a planet.
The action itself is pretty much the same as the previous game. This time around Starkiller (as the clone takes to calling himself) carries two lightsabers and already has the core force powers from the start. Force push, grip, repulse, sabre-throw and lightning are all in place, and combing them for combo takedowns is as much fun as ever.
A new power, mind trick, has joined the roster this time around however, and allows the gamer to even the odds a little by sowing discord amongst the Empire's troops. By targeting a group of stormtroopers, for example, you can make them turn on each other, hurl themselves off cliffs or make them fight for you, which is always a laugh when faced with the never-ending swarm of bad guys the game delights in throwing at you.
Aside from Starkiller's copious force abilities, the lightsaber combat is still more like hitting enemies with a glowing baton than it is using an elegant weapon, for a more civilised age - but this time the glowing blades actually cut people to bits, which is brutally fun.
While the game includes a huge number of combos for Starkiller to go nuts with, mashing the square button takes care of most enemies, and renders the game a little boring after a while - especially when you add this to the limited number of enemies you face in-game. While the previous game took you to some eight or nine different locations, Force Unleashed 2 features a measly five places to explore, and no more than eight or nine different types of enemy.
Several of these are overused to an absurd degree, as they involve yet more of those hated quick-time events, which just suck all the fun out of the fighting. Outside of the constant battling, the game does feature some brilliant set piece moments, and an epic boss battle - that drags on just a little bit too long.
Thankfully, unlike the previous game, the targeting system has been fixed, meaning Starkiller will now target whatever the camera is pointed at, rather than only what his eyes could see. It's also worth mentioning that there is no controller-hurlingly awful scene, like the previous title's "Pull it outta the sky!" battle with a Star Destroyer, but the quick-time events really do get old fast.
The final battle is also something of a wet squib, playing more like a platformer than a third-person actioner, and topping a game that only clocks in at about three hours anyway, which is criminally short.
That said, the graphics rendering the environments are spectacular. Each of the locations look brilliant, from the rains-wept vistas of Kamino, to the deck of a Rebel Alliance cruiser, and the physics engine makes the game world react to Starkiller's passing in amusing ways. As before, if you grip a stormtrooper and push him into another trooper, he'll often cling on for dear life, leaving you with a ball of screaming stormtroopers to throw around, into or through the environment.
The cutscenes are also really well animated, and the acting skill of the motion capture artists really shows through, despite the poor storyline. The score is as good as ever, rejuvenating some of John William's finest themes, and adding a fair few new twists as well
All in all, The Force Unleashed 2 just feels rushed, and underwhelming. The developers didn't learn from their past mistakes, and instead concentrated on producing a game which fails to eclipse its predecessor, and as a result gets boring fast. Perhaps it's a good thing that it only clocks in at three hours.
- Fun gameplay
- Brilliant graphics
- Good score
Not so good stuff
- Far too short