The Force Unleashed II
AMD Athlon X2 6000+
AMD Radeon HD 4800
A direct sequel to Lucas Arts controversial 2009 game. The Force Unleashed II promised to fix a lot of the issues from the first. Not just with gameplay, but also the apparent plot inconsistencies with the established Star Wars canon. Nothing to be scoffed at. Rumours of the old 80s TV trope of having the previous game be nothing more than a dream didn’t help matters. But did it work? Or was it just another sigh inducing disappointment?
Well, somehow, The Force Unleashed II managed to be a million times better, and a million times worse than it’s predecessor. At the same time. It almost feels like the development team went out of their way to take all of the things that worked, and improve on them. Whilst, at the same time, taking everything that was most hated, and ‘improving’ that as well. The end result is, unsurprisingly, a mixed bag of guilty joy and illicit ‘affair with that cousin who’s really hot’ shame.
Wendy I can fly
I don’t have any problems pointing to the first game and saying it was out and out bad. I mean, it wasn’t terrible, but it was still pretty bad. Those aforementioned canon breaking moments were pretty cringe worthy. Though, I still say, it had a lot of potential, and could have really worked. It was marred by sloppy execution and some truly awful dialogue. Not to mention forced exposition.
Its sequel (that’s what I’m talking about now, don’t worry) starts off on much better footing. We’re dropped right in on Darth Vader arriving at the cloning facility on Kamino, and actually credited with some fore knowledge. Of both the previous game and other factors from the films. Rather than having a whole load of needless plot and character development thrust upon us, we drop right into the nitty gritty of things. Though, through use of some actually quite clever dialogue, we are left somewhat uncertain whether this is the Starkiller from the previous game, or a clone made for Vader’s own ends.
This becomes something of a running theme throughout much of the narrative. It’s handled reasonably well, but it does become more than a little tedious at times. Starkiller himself often falling into the clichéd ‘what am I?’ soul searching, whilst everyone around him, I think rightly, just doesn’t care. General Kota (undeniably the best thing to come out of this entire affair) sums it up best. Pointing out that, whether he is a clone or not, his actions, memories and motivations remain the same. In nicer terms ‘get over it you soppy git’.
You are tearing me APART Lisa!
The story is definitely stronger this time, and does manage to address some of our concerns. But seems to have intentionally left room for a third. There are still some problems with it, but it would take too long to go into all of them, and this is a review, rather than an in-depth plot analysis. So they, I am afraid, must be left for another time. However, the good news is that the plot is not the game’s strongest point. Not to say that it’s weak. It is still lacking, but the dialogue and voice acting are both a marked improvement over it’s predecessor. With Kota, again, stealing the whole show.
Gameplay has been improved exponentially, for the most part. Starkiller’s proclivity for standing around like a lemon, waving his hand in the air, with his Force bar flashing yellow because TK (telekinesis) didn’t work, again, is gone. It works, or at least worked for me, every time without a hitch. Some enemies, of course, were still resistant, or outright immune, to it’s effects (which is extremely cheap, but more on that later) and other enemies boast the same regarding other attacks. Force lightning still remaining his God power that bitch slaps everything with equal impunity. (*Ed - UNLIMITED POWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!)
Boss fights have made a return, I can’t say it’s overly surprising, nor can I say it’s surprisingly frustrating. Just as in the previous games, they rely on cheap gimmicks. And when I say cheap, I mean really cheap. The worst part being, mostly, that you can rely on being just as cheap as they are to make it through. Things like grabbing missiles and throwing them back at enemies, deflecting laser fire from freaking space ships, and lightning...ing the crap out of everything in sight for easy kills. Once again, it isn’t so much a case of the Force being unleashed, as it is the Force being stupidly overpowered.
I...I think I broke it
We’ve seen a marked visual improvement as well. With textures being a lot more polished, with much better depth of field. Auxiliary effects like bloom, wind and rain are also as impressive, if somewhat ludicrous, physics all stacking up to make the game a generally more enjoyable experience. Better yet, despite being somewhat on the short side (five or six hours at best) the variety of environments is a lot better. A lot less revisiting of old areas, and all around greater diversity on the whole, even within the same locations.
Sound isn’t really something that requires much discussion. The actual quality, from a sample rate perspective, is strong. Blaster fire sounding suitably whiney, and lightsabres (still English) sounding like, well, lightsabres. Though the music is nothing spectacular on the whole, there are some moments where it can set a very nice atmosphere. Which becomes disappointing when, at other times, it swells up like a horde of angry bees having an orgy in the centre of your skull.
Overall, it’s not a terrible game, but is still somewhat lacking. The main thing holding it back is how fervently Lucas is still trying to shoehorn it all in as part of the accepted canon. George, dude, just give it up. Greedo did not shoot first. And The Force Unleashed is not a great story. It’s gotten better this time, but it still isn’t anything great. Just...dude, just make it an alternate timeline and we can all appreciate it a lot better as a standalone. And please, please, please, please stop turning the Dark Side into pretentious teen angst.
- Improved visuals: It will never be touted as a gaming benchmark, but the game does look extremely nice
- Varied environments: There are repeating textures, of course, but they are most decidedly the exception
- Decent plot: Could still be better, mostly by not being pushed as official Star Wars canon
- Good sound design: Music is beautifully understated in some places, painfully overpowering in others
- Dodgy dialogue: On the whole it’s decent, and Starkiller is acted extremely well, but dayum does he whine
- Too Short: Shorter, even, than the first game, which was already on the short side