Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Force Unleashed 2 review

    The Force Unleashed is one of my favorite Star Wars games. I was anxiously awaiting playing the sequel when the credits rolled on the first game. I had heard mixed reviews on The Force Unleashed 2 so I put it in with some trepidation. So, what is my opinion of TFU2?

    Well, it's good, just not as good as the original.

The use of the planet Kamino was a nice addition.
    The major problem with the game begins with the introduction. Darth Vader has cloned the deceased Starkiller (who sacrificed his life to save the newly formed Rebellion's leadership) and is preparing him to resume his template's duties.

    You play the clone, or appear to, which is significantly less interesting than playing the original model. Just look at Alex Denton from Deus Ex 2. To the game's credit, they cast doubt on Starkiller's clone status soon after but not before the game protagonist's first impression is ruined.

    Clones have a long and storied history with Star Wars, ever since Obi Wan Kenobi made an ambiguous reference to wars involving them in A New Hope. We've had clone Jedi Masters, clone troopers, clone body doubles, rebel clones, and clone heroes. The fact is, I'm not all that interested in the plot and think it's a rather cheap way of providing drama.

These Imperial Scout Walkers don't have a chance.
    The plot of The Force Unleashed 2 is another area where I feel the developers dropped the ball. Starkiller rebels against Lord Vader in the first level, goes after his old crew, has another showdown with Darth Vader, and then nothing. The game ends on a cliffhanger which, due to disappointing sales, will probably never be resolved by a third game.

    The Force Unleashed was a game with surprising poignancy despite its short cutscenes. Starkiller's sense of betrayal and shock at the revelation Darth Vader didn't give a crap about him was genuinely affecting. Likewise, I enjoyed the relationship between Rahm Kota and Starkiller. It reminded me of how Obi Wan and Luke Skywalker might have looked had the former given up rather than found new purpose.

    The relationship between Juno and Starkiller wasn't so much poorly written as nonexistent but I enjoyed the rest of the game enough to ignore it. Unfortunately, the central premise of this game is Starkiller is so in-love with Juno he's willing to tear down the galaxy to get back to her. Worse, we don't get any more development of the pair's relationship. It was deeply disappointing since I was eager to find out more about what draws one to the other.

The section on Cato-Neimodia involving Starkiller attacking a luxury resort is one of my favorite parts.
    Despite this, there's a lot to like about the game. The plot is simple but it's not a bad plot. Starkiller needs to rescue his friends, so he goes and rescues his friends. It's just the game's surprisingly short running time (I finished it in about six hours) means the game could have been lengthened at least another two hours without disrupting the story. I was disappointed Maris Brood didn't make an appearance either, being one of my favorite characters from the original The Force Unleashed.

    The gameplay for The Force Unleashed 2 is 90% the same as the original, so it's still solid. Unfortunately, the camera in the game pulls back so the mass-slaughter of Stormtroopers and battle droids seems less personal. Part of what made Starkiller such an impressive character was that you really sensed he was hovering on the edge the entire time he was killing his way through the Galaxy Far Far Away.

Kevin Smith has ruined giant spiders for me.
    Here, the bad guys are treated as nothing more than targets and this makes Starkiller less impressive. This is compensated for by giving Starkiller two lightsabers, which is awesome. Unfortunately, the game also simplified the combo system and I feel it was less entertaining as a result. It was quite possible to play the game using nothing but force-lightning and your lightsaber.

    The only area I don't feel The Force Unleashed 2 was inferior to the original was the acting and writing. Sam Witwer's voice acting is excellent as always but the script gives Starkiller the beginning of a snarky humorous personality. I also appreciated the surprising revelation our hero cares little for the Galactic Rebellion. That's a nice bit of characterization, one which separates him from Luke Skywalker. Darth Vader also seemed more impressive this time around, plotting galactic domination with his Sith experiments.

    In conclusion, less entertaining than The Force Unleashed still leaves a lot of room to be entertaining. I didn't regret buying the game but I felt it could have been much-much better. I hope they'll add a third volume to the trilogy to round out the trilogy. Certainly, it seems criminal to end the game series on its Empire Strikes Back-esque cliffhanger.


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