STAR WARS THE FORCE UNLEASHED II (X360) Review
Since its birth the Star Wars franchise has churned out some of the biggest grossing movies in cinematic history, from the brilliantly done Return of the Jedi, to the not-so-brilliantly-done Episode III. Naturally due to the success of the various big screen outings the release of video-games based on the franchise was inevitable and over the years, since the early days of gaming we have seen some real classic Star Wars titles.
Over the past few years the Star Wars titles have come to life on their own, spawning brand new storylines and brilliant new ideas. When Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was released in 2008 it was heralded as the movie that never was. Bridging the two Star Wars trilogies together whilst introducing a brand new and rather likeable character, code named "Starkiller", who is Darth Vader's secret apprentice.
Naturally the game was a massive success and despite a mixed response from critics sold well over 7 million copies worldwide. Aiming to build on the success of Force Unleashed, Lucas Arts have released the sequel, Force Unleashed II.
One of the main strengths of Force Unleashed was an excellent storyline and this was backed up by some fantastically charming gameplay. With this sequel it could be assumed that Lucas Arts would build on this platform, expanding the story and fine tuning the gameplay. Unfortunately this isn't the case and it seems that the script really has lost some of the magic from the first title.
The basic plot is that Starkiller, or one of the many possible clones of the protagonist, created by Darth Vader has been given the objective of killing the rebel leader Kota. As we progress Starkiller soon begins to remember his previous life, throwing into doubt our clone status and instead of murdering General Kota we set out to rescue him and our love interest from the original game, Juno Eclipse.
As we are starting from a point in the story shortly after the first game ended we have quite a highly powered character and straight away the player is thrown into the action as Starkiller comes up against a raft of Stormtroopers, each as eager for some Jedi blood as the next. Wielding duel lightsabers Starkiller must carve his way through the enemy battalion; and doing so is brilliant fun and despite an average story it really makes the initial stages of the game enjoyable.
Anyone who is a fan of the Star Wars movie trilogies will be entranced by the combat elements as players can do everything they saw the young Luke Skywalker do and more. Taking control of an enemy Stormtrooper (thanks to the newly added Mind Control ability) and making him kill his own comrades? No problem. Use your mind to pick up any number of objects, charge it with lightning and turn it into a makeshift grenade? Sure thing. If the complex inner workings of the Jedi aren't of any interest then players can always revert to the good old Lightsaber - or duel Lightsaber in our hero's case. A few button taps will see Starkiller cut through entire armies of Stormtroopers like a hot knife through butter and the game is at its best when arms and legs are being lopped off at every opportunity.
After a while though the fact that we are a high level character begins to cause a problem as too much of a good thing can be overkill. There is much less character progression and essentially we use the same controls and abilities to power our way through waves of enemies who offer little variation or challenge. This would be ok if the script was exceptional, providing entertainment in addition to the gameplay but it is not and one of the major failings is that we have to put up with the "World's most bitchy Jedi" General Kota throughout the journey. His shout over a radio connection soon become tiresome.
Despite being great fun to play in the early stages the lack of any sort of compelling storyline to break up the rampant action creates a rather one dimensional game that becomes tedious and tiresome after a couple of hours and those who continue to play may be disappointed with the fact that the story/game end after about 5 hours.
The worlds that Starkiller visits are amazingly well rendered and strikingly beautiful, it's just a shame that players don't get the chance to see more of them. Instead they spend most of their time in narrow corridors with so many Stormtroopers to deal with they don't get a chance at anything other than a fleeting glance. Character animations are also brilliantly done.
The ability to completely destroy Starkillers surroundings using some of the many Jedi Mind Tricks he has add a sense of brand realism to the game that is only intensified when we use a chunk of rock to blow up a spaceship or wipe out a fleet of Stormtroopers.
Everyone who has followed the movies knows and loves the sound of the Lightsaber and listening to it carve through enemies is music to every Star Wars nuts ears. As with every Star Wars title - both in movies and games - the epic soundtrack is a given and creates a sense of urgency and drama that the game would fail to provide without.
Unfortunately having to listen to the droning voice of General Kota soon leaves players reaching for the mute button as he mumbles advice (which sounds more like abuse) to Starkiller through the means of a shoddy sounding radio.
Force Unleashed II should have been a sequel that carried on from the success of the original title and had the potential to be brilliant through enhancing aspects of the first game. There is a solid foundation here on which the writers could have built a exceptional experience. The graphics are very good and the music engaging. Controlling our character and his skills are fun but an uninspired storyline and lack of variation or challenge in the enemies leaves players wanting more.
That said there are parts of the game which are fantastic; as mentioned earlier there is something very gratifying about wiping out entire armies with the use of Starkillers mind whilst slicing and dicing the survivors with the lightsaber is fun. It is just that this could have been so much more. As the great master Yoda would say; "disappointed I am."
||Although great fun to start with killing Stormtroopers soon becomes tedious and the lack of any solid storyline leaves players a little underwhelmed.
||The worlds that Starkiller travels through are beautiful and character animations are perfectly realised. However most of the levels take place inside tight corridors, leaving little room for sight-seeing.
||No Star Wars title would be complete without the epic soundtrack which brings some much needed drama to the game. Sound effects are excellently done and listening to the Lightsaber slash through the Stormtroopers will bring a smile to any Star Wars enthusiasts face.
||Unlike the engaging saga's that was the Star Wars movies the game seems to fizz past in no time. With a little over 5 hours game time players aren't really given the chance to get into it.
(Not an Average)
||A disappointment and a real shame that the production team have run out of ideas so soon with regards to the story of Starkiller. There is nothing to stop Force Unleashed 3 from being a success but Lucas Arts need to rethink the story arc.