Being one of the games that I have been eagerly awaiting ever since it was announced, and being a huge fan of the first Force Unleashed game, I was more than just a little excited to eventually have my hands on the sequel. I already knew quite a bit about the game from reading all I could about it and of course playing through the demo more times than I had played a single demo since the first games release, the count was well into double figures. But now it was time to sit down and play the actual game. As a huge Star Wars fan, any new game based on the license is enough to make me happy. But a game which is a follow up to what is one of my all time favourites surely cannot disappoint, can it ?
The story, the developers at Lucasarts have told us, is much darker in content, comparing it to The Empire Strikes Back to the first game being A New Hope. The story continues the tale that began in the first game, at the end of which it’s suggested that Darth Vader’s secret apprentice was killed in a huge force induced explosion, while both Vader and the Emperor made good their escape, while the Starkiller’s friends, Jedi Knight General Kota and former Imperial Pilot and love interest for our hero, Juno Eclipse, go on to help form The Rebel Alliance alongside a young Princess Leia. Without giving too much away and spoiling the game for those wishing to play it, the game begins with Darth Vader’s personal TIE Fighter approaching the stormy water based planet Kamino, a familiar location to those who have watched the new trilogy of movies as home to some of the most advanced cloning technology in the galaxy.
It is revealed in the opening scenes of the game that the reason behind Vaders visit to the Cloning Facility on Kamino is that he has been trying, unsuccessfully up until this point, to clone his young apprentice so that he can continue to use him as a tool of the Darkside. Vaders latest attempt, although appearing to be a successful attempt at cloning the young Jedi, has run into a few problems. The cloned apprentice is suffering from memories, flashbacks and voices within his head, which Vader tells him are nothing but residual memories from training programmes used in the cloning process. It is however during a training session when Starkiller refuses to obey Vaders order to strike down a training droid holographically disguised as Juno Eclipse. Vader then informs him that it is as he feared, and that the cloning process has failed once again. Starkiller though, sensing that the Dark Lord is about to strike, fights back and makes his escape, planning on tracking down Juno and searching for answers within himself. And so begins the game with the player taking control as our hero makes good his escape from the planet and begins his search.
The basic gameplay in the new game is much the same as it was in the first game, however thereÂ are of course a number of additions and improvements. At it’s heart it remains a third person action adventure much like the original, but with all of the little problems which plagued it being ironed out, most notably when it came to the targeting system. The new game has, as the first one did, an auto lock on targeting system which locked onto the nearest item or enemy in the general direction the player is looking. In the first game this occasionally proved to be tricky at best, as the game had difficulty locking onto as the many interactive objects lying around. Therefore, when it came to enemies, it was a lot easier to get as close as you could before attempting to lock on. Although this has been improved in the new game, mostly I think it is because there are a lot less random items scattered throughout the stages confusing the system. Although it definitely helps, the problem is still present, be it on a much smaller scale this time around.
Another huge improvement is the combat within the game, both lightsabre and force power combat has been improved upon. The fact that Starkiller now uses dual lightsabres instead of just the one has given the developers all the excuse they need to completely redo this side of the games combat. The whole thing not only looks, but also feels a lot smoother and it flows together a lot more impressively with intricate combinations being pulled off with simple taps on two sometimes even the one face button. The force powers also are once again a huge part of the game with all the powers from the first game returning along with a new Jedi Mind Trick Power, which quite amusingly when used upon hapless Stormtroopers has them turning on their comrades and on the odd occasion it also amusingly has them jumping to their deaths from a high ledge. Although technically there are the same number of force powers in the game, it does feel like there are less and I think this has a lot to do with the levelling up which is a lot more simple this time around. Instead of having to worry about the purchasing of lightsabre skills and combinations along with health upgrades, there is a lot less to worry about this time around. As you collect points through killing enemies and destroying the scenery, the game informs you when the requisite number of points needed to upgrade a force power has been amassed. Each of the powers has three ranks and once all of these have been purchased, that is all the levelling up you need to worry about.
Another welcome change to the game is the number of enemy types. Rather than being increased, which you might imagine being a good thing, it has actually been decreased and this actually makes the game more enjoyable. The first game had you fighting a huge array of bad guys on numerous planets, but this new release has dropped the number of opponent types drastically to only a few dozen. All of which are mostly a variation on Imperial forces and although at first this may sound like it would harm the games enjoyment, it is actually a welcome change. The challenge comes from the fact that not all enemies can be disposed of using the same means. Some Imperial troops are force sensitive and have the ability to block the majority of Starkillers force attacks, requiring the use of melee attacks. On the opposite end of the scale you have troops who are proficient in the use of melee weapons themselves and need to be dealt with using only force powers. This means that you have to be aware of who you are fighting and what tactics you need employ to take them down. On the downside however, with not so many enemy types, once you know how to take each and every one of the bad guys down it ceases to be such a challenge and more a case of, okay that’s who I am fighting, this is what I need to do. This is also true of the games mini boss characters who take the shape of large robot like bad guys with flame throwers or carbonite throwers. Again, once you know how to take these guys out they soon become not much of a challenge.
On the presentation front you really cannot fault the game with both the looks and the sound again improving on the original title and everything is undeniably Star Wars. The levels and locations, more of which in a moment, are all beautifully created, along with all the characters within the game. All the boxes are also checked when it comes to the sound from the orchestral star wars theme and soundtrack, to the snap-hiss of a lightsabre igniting which all helps to set the mood amazingly well, making you feel as if you really are playing within the Star wars universe. So, up until now things have all been good and everything has been vastly improved up from the first game. However, and it does pain me to say this as I so wanted so much to love everything about this game, it does fail in one major area. Star Wars The Force Unleashed II is a short game, a very short game. This is something that has been becoming more prevalent when it comes to games of late, a short single player story mode. Most games can get away with this as they also include a fairly extensive multiplayer mode ensuring there is plenty to do after the single player campaign is complete.
The force Unleashed II however has no multiplayer mode to give it more length. It does have a series of challenge levels, but these alone are little consolation. Nowadays you are lucky if a single player campaign lasts you a weekend. However, The Force Unleashed II is barely enough to last you a day. I myself completed my first play through on normal difficulty in around seven hours of playtime. Granted, playing the game on Unleashed difficulty will make take more time and is definitely more of a challenge. The first game in the series had several locations, the majority of which you visit twice, compared to the new game which has only three locations and only two of which you visit twice, meaning the game is over all too quickly and leaves you wanting for more. This is the games one flaw, but unfortunately it is a pretty big one which may well dissuade many a gamer from picking it up. To be honest, if it was not a Star wars game and sequel to a title which I enjoyed immensely, I am not sure, knowing what I know now, whether I would pick the game up or not.
So overall it’s not an easy one to sum up. Although technically it trumps the first game in every way, looks, sound and of course gameplay, the length of the game is a huge letdown and means that when it comes to scoring the game, especially for someone such as myself, it is not easy. If like me you are a huge Star Wars fan, you will more than likely play through the game more than once and still enjoy it just as much as the last time. So if I was scoring the game as a star wars fan I would probably give it an eight and a half out of ten. But scoring the game based totally on the game itself I would have to knock that score down to a seven and half out of ten. If you are a fan then this is well worth checking out. For non-fans however, it is an easy game to pass on or pick up when it is available at a cheaper price.