STAR WARS™: The Force Unleashed™ II
The original Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was an enjoyable, yet very flawed, title. It introduced players to Starkiller, the overpowered secret apprentice of Darth Vader. The Force Unleashed had a pretty definitive end, but since the game sold rather well, it’s no surprise that Starkiller was wheeled out for another third-person hack and slash adventure. Unfortunately, while some improvements were made, the game still falls far short of greatness and in many ways, it is even worse than its predecessor.
The Force Unleashed 2 opens with Starkiller back in the clutches of Darth Vader. We won’t spoil anything, but this is a rather startling turn of events considering what happened at the end of the first game. Nevertheless, Starkiller escapes and then goes on a galaxy-spanning adventure to find the love of his life, Juno Eclipse. It’s not exactly the type of story that we expected from this sequel, to be honest. To make matters worse Starkiller’s adventure doesn’t really take him to a lot of places in the galaxy either. After escaping from Kamino he’s off to Cato Neimoidia to rescue general Rahm Kota, then Dagobah for what amounts to an extended cut-scene, before boarding a rebel cruiser and heading back to Kamino. All in all, the entire adventure can be completed in about six hours and this includes the numerous cut-scenes using both the in-game engine and some CGI. Afterward, there are some extra scored challenges to complete, but that’s about it. The game does have two endings, but these just come down to a single choice after the final battle.
As pretty as the game looks the visuals can’t hide the fact that the levels and locations are rather lackluster. With a whole Star Wars universe available is there any reason to trek through the same old sterile corridors of a rebel cruiser for a third of the game? Also, the Dagobah level is more of an excuse for a quick Yoda cameo than an actual level. We have to admit that some of the boss battles are visually spectacular, but are somewhat ruined by the over-reliance on annoying quick-time events, which we will discuss later.
Visually, the game doesn’t look bad and Starkiller is once again based on the likeness of Sam Witwer. He also wields two lightsabers this time around, which makes for more spectacular looking battles. The resolution for the game can be bumped up all the way to 4K and features such as dynamic shadows, depth of focus, global ambient lighting, and more offer some extra visual fidelity for those with the hardware to handle it. Less impressive, however, is the frame rate that has been locked to 30 frames per second. Some visual trickery was employed to make it seem smoother, but it’s still not a patch on actual 60 frames per second.
The enemies in the game consist of the usual variety of stormtroopers along with some new droids and larger machines. The same technology that was employed in the first game, like “Digital Molecular Matter”, Euphoria from Natural Motion, and Havoc Physics allows for a nice showcase of Starkillers force powers. While the hacking and slashing itself can become repetitive, it remains fun to force grab enemies and hurl them about or kill them using environmental hazards like fire or electricity. Enemies can now also be dismembered but without any blood of course.
One area where the game does not disappoint is the audio as it sounds exactly like an “authentic” Star Wars experience. The music is great and the sound effects very true to the license. The voice acting isn’t half bad either even though the voice actors are not given much of a story to work with. The controls on the other hand are a bit of a pain, especially for those attempting to tackle the game using a keyboard and mouse. The awkward button combinations can thankfully be remapped, but having to do quick-time events with tiny button prompts that can get lost in all the action is just not fun. Running through endless corridors while killing enemies also loses some of its shine after a few hours. It quickly becomes obvious which enemies have to be killed with your lightsabers, which ones can only be downed with force powers, and which ones require a quick time event to kill. We are also not sure if the “puzzles” that are included really count as the game pretty much spells out exactly what you need to do to proceed.
Like the first game, Starkiller earns experience points from killing enemies, which can then be used to upgrade certain skills, such as force lightening or force throws. However, even on higher difficulties he feels overpowered from the get-go. There’s also a lack of any new powers apart from stuff that we rarely used, such as the “mind trick” that can be used on enemies to get them to flee or fight on your side. Usually, it’s easier to just cut them down instead of still having to grapple with the button combinations to perform the mind trick. Another thing that we could have done without is the overabundance of platforming jumping during the final level, which just feels like unnecessary padding. In fact, the whole battle against Vader has to be one of the most tedious final battles in gaming.
As much as we wanted to enjoy The Force Unleashed 2, it is impossible to look past a lot of its flaws. Not only is the story very underwhelming, but even for such a short game some of the levels feel stretched out. We haven’t even mentioned the bugs yet, which ranged from the game constantly freezing if we tried to save manually to crashes during cut-scenes. Needless to say, the PC port once again appears to not have been a very high priority. Star Wars fans who want to experience what it feels like to play as a powerful Jedi might still have fun with this game, but anyone looking for innovation or unique lore is going to walk away disappointed.
- OS: Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista® SP2, or Windows 7
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon X2 5200+
- Memory: 2 GB RAM (XP, Vista, or 7)
- Hard Disk Space: 10GB + 1GB Swapfile
- Video: 256 MB Video Memory with Shader 3.0 support; ATI Radeon HD 2600 / NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT
- Sound: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible Audio Device
- Direct®: DirectX 9.0c (March 2009)
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8 GHz or AMD Athlon X2 6000+
- Video: ATI Radeon HD 4800 / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260