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First Impressions - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

Publisher: LucasArts

Developer: LucasArts

Release Date: October 26, 2010

Date of Play: October 28, 2010

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a game I enjoyed playing, but never finished. I got my fill of the spiffy Force powers during my rental period and before I ever got anywhere near the end the repetition, occasionally clunky combat, and frequent frustrating sections put an end to my lightsaber-wielding ways.

I was hopeful when I heard of a sequel that they would improve upon some of the elements that I disliked about the first game and turn the experience into something I might be able to see through to the end. I was also wary that they might simply spit out an easy followup with nary an improvement in sight; something that would be all too easy to justify given the high sales of the first game.

So which is it? Does Force Unleashed II give us perfected Force flinging like we’ve never seen before or does it rest on its laurels and deliver more of the same? Let’s find out.

  • I think my surround sound system is going to have fun with this one.
  • Ahh, the requisite text intro. How quaint. 
  • Rebels vs the Empire. Ragtag bunch. Yawn. Seen it. I’ll be honest, I think these text scrolls are a needless throwback and a bad form of storytelling that should have died after the original Star Wars trilogy.
  • The production values on these prerendered cutscenes are certainly good enough. Very shiny. Kinda wish I was playing instead though.
  • This Darth Vader impersonator isn’t very good. He sounds like he’s forcing it. Guess that happens when you’re imitating one of the most iconic voices ever.
  • This Apprentice dude has some demons. I might be interested if I cared about the story. Especially having not finished the first game, I don’t. Let me shoot things with lightning already!
  • The tutorial has you trying (and failing) to attack a holographic image of what I can only assume was a love interest from the first game. I like the integration of story into what otherwise could have been a boring tutorial. 
  • Confirmed: Force lightning is still way awesome.
  • You aren’t Vader! You’re an imposter! Lies! Lies I tell you!
  • Dude! Vader just got bitchslapped with lightning! That’s not something you see every day. I told you this weak-voiced ninny wasn’t Vader.
  • This much is for sure: I may not yet know whether the combat will stay interesting and not frustrating, but I’m only a few minutes in and I’m already sure this game will have setpieces to spare, which was certainly one of the best points of the original and exactly what I’m looking for in this kind of action game.
  • You can combo saber strikes with Force power moves. I don’t remember the original well enough to know if this is new, but I like it either way.
  • And I died already. I’ll blame that one on user error.
  • Ahh, there’s the block button. That should help me not die.
  • I can press up to have a Force power direct me to my next destination. I don’t know why I’d need this, as the level is pretty much a straight line. Thanks anyway?
  • These enemies spout health like fountains. Note: this is not a complaint. This is not a game where I’m looking for challenge. I want to admire setpieces, kill a billion stormtroopers, and leave with a smile on my face. Frustration does not aid in this goal. 
  • Jumping still feels really awkward. I hope this game doesn’t ask me to do any platforming like the last one sometimes did.
  • And already an enemy that forces me to change my tactics just a tad. Not a bad sign. 
  • I’m wishing the camera were a little better, especially during frantic combat. I wonder if there’s a lock on function I’m missing. That might help. [Edit: There is, and it doesn’t]
  • Wow. The game is already letting me Force crush Tie Fighters. So yeah, no arbitraily making me weaker just for the sake of having me level up again here. I like that, but where do we go from here when I’m already pulling badass moves like crushing Tie Fighters with my mind?
  • Call me a freak to my face, will you? Man, you just have no sense of self-preservation.
  • I have no long distance attack to counter the constant barrage of ranged fire coming at me from distant Stormtroopers. This is annoying.
  • I appreciate the occasional tip telling me how to play the game, but this opening level is handholding me through every single obstacle. I hope this is just for the beginning.
  • Ooo… upgraded Force push is fun!
  • The game’s one new Force power, from what I hear, is mind trick. It is fabulous. I just convinced a Stormtrooper that it would be in his best interest to jump out of a window and fall to his doom. Good stuff.
  • Not even through the first level and I’m already worrying that combat fatigue could become a problem. Not that abusing these force powers isn’t awesome, but if this is all the game has, this is going to become repetitive quickly.
  • I see they stole God of War 3’s idea of putting the buttom prompts for the apparently requisite quicktime events on the sides of the screen. If you’re going to do these annoying button matching minigames, it’s probably best to do them this way I suppose.
  • This is a pretty game, although so far it’s also very grey. I wish they would throw in a little more color. I guess that’s the Star Wars aesthetic for you, though.
  • Watching these troopers on jetpacks shoot wildly across the sky helplessly after a little dose of force lightning is fun.
  • I cannot deny the appeal of using Tie Fighters as my personal playthings. I also cannot deny that I worry about the longetivity of the appeal of such novelties. How many Tie Fighters do I have to fling before I get bored of flinging Tie Fighters? This game might just let me find out.
  • And as I finish one area, I am met with a cutscene that is spending a lot of time transitioning me to the next section without actually telling me much of any importance. It’s very shiny though. Yup, this is Star Wars all right.

Conclusion: I think that nicely sums up Force Unleashed II. It is a series of spectacular setpieces strung together by mundane combat and a glue of novelty which is bound to lose its grip as the experience wears on. This is not necessarily a recipie for failure. It is simply a formula that requires the game to keep throwing changes of scenery and tons of spectacle my way in order to remain interesting, because the combat alone isn’t likely to do that. In any case I’m sure to get a few memorable moments out of it before I put it down, so not bad all in all, but also not something I would be comfortable spending $60 on. 

Result: A qualified success. As a rental, not a purchase, I’m perfectly willing to spend more time with it until I get bored or frustrated, which likely won’t be too long. 


Post-first-hour update for those interested: 

  • The annoying stop-and-go difficulty with frequent deaths is still here in full force
  • Nearing the end of the second level, the game is already getting mind-numbingly repetitive, using the same tiny number of enemies over and over and over.
  • The handholding never stops. Looks like you’ll be carefully guided through any even slightly tricky section. It’s even so “kind” as to keep reminding you of stuff it’s already told you, as if you were a forgetful toddler.
  • The high production value continues, and the spectacular setpieces keep coming, but not fast enough to offset the tedium of the relentless combat.
  • The boss fight at the end of the fourth area (two or three hours in and not quite halfway through the game, if the number of levels in the level select screen is anything to go by) is one of the most overly long, annoying, unfair, poorly executed boss fights I’ve had the misfortune of playing in quite some time. While desperately trying to figure out the game’s unhelpful, cryptic hints and ignore the jackass constantly spouting the same two lines of advice at me over and over, I spewed many a profanity in the general direction of my television. When I finally got past the part that had me stumped, it moved on to the second half of the fight which was just as frustrating and had even fewer hints as to what to do. This, I think, might end my time with the game, because if I have to face this frustrating mess of a boss fight again I’m going to end up with one less working controller and a hole in what used to be an intact window.

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