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Game Over Online ~ Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

GameOver Game Reviews - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (c) LucasArts, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (c) LucasArts
System Requirements Xbox 360
Overall Rating 55%
Date Published Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 at 06:18 PM

Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

In the original Star Wars trilogy, it was considered significant that Darth Vader could choke a man out telekinetically, or that Ben Kenobi was capable of short-lived mind control. It was a big deal when Luke levitated a starship or yanked his lightsaber across the room and into his hand.

Thirty years later, we get Starkiller, who crushes TIE fighters with his mind, electrocutes Stormtroopers by the dozen without pausing for breath, and can instantly produce a Force-powered battering ram. It's weird what you have to do to come off as powerful, once a setting's been around for a few decades.

The Force Unleashed II has reportedly had a troubled development history. Its original writer and producer left LucasArts in July, and rumors have been flying about a rushed dev cycle combined with massive layoffs. In conjunction with the recent anonymous blogger "EA Louse" claiming that The Old Republic has gone well over budget, it gives the impression that Force Unleashed II was thrown out the door before it was ready, in an effort to get LucasArts some much-needed cash.

All of this would be irrelevant if the game was good. It'd be easy to chalk the rumors up to Internet hatemongering or some dissatisfied employee taking petty revenge on the company. Unfortunately, Force Unleashed II is half-baked at best, so whether or not the rumors are true, they are at least believable.

Force Unleashed II fits sort of uneasily into the Star Wars universe, as it draws heavy inspiration from the God of War games. You deal with Stormtroopers the same way a kid with a magnifying glass deals with ants, and anything larger gets its face torn off by a quick-time event. You actually can leave a trail of severed, cauterized limbs behind you if you focus on lightsaber combat. It's a surprisingly brutal game set in a universe that already had a bizarre relationship with its own heavy level of violence.

(Star Wars in general is a schizophrenic setting. It features pitched military battles without the horrors of war, warriors carving each other up with swords without bloodshed, thieves who don't steal, and seedy underworlds without sex, drugs, or dirt. It's oddly like the entire universe was heavily edited by a Puritan before it was put into public circulation, like when they try to show Pulp Fiction on basic cable, and a game like Force Unleashed just makes that disparity more obvious.)

Force Unleashed II has a weird difficulty curve, though. You spend most of a given level as a force of nature, destroying everything that doesn't run away fast enough, and then something with a gimmick shows up to ruin Christmas. Maybe it's a Sith disciple who's immune to your Force powers, but who can knock you flying any time you get near him to carve him up with a lightsaber. Maybe it's a massive droid who can slap you down any time it wants, forcing you to run around like a chicken with its head cut off looking for objects to throw at it. Either way, the flow gets abruptly broken by an enemy that can arbitrarily ignore one or more of your chief methods of attack.

The game is badly in need of a couple more revisions. It's easy to find bugs, boss fights are often complicated by the game's complete inability to tell you what you're supposed to be doing, your old grizzled mentor just won't shut up during boss fights, Starkiller controls like both his feet have been buttered up, and the entire singleplayer game is over in maybe four hours. (This food is terrible, and the portions are so small!) A couple of times, there's an action sequence where you're expected to run away from a ship that's strafing your location, but you don't have a run button, so you get to jam on the dash button and hope it works.

Force Unleashed II feels like I'm playing its open beta test, and after the glitch festivals of the Knights of the Old Republic games, I would've hoped this series was past that by now. Then again, the average Star Wars game could come with a free case of post-natal spina bifida and it'd still move a million units just based on the name.

I'm not a Star Wars fan, but I've had fun with several of the games before. The Force Unleashed II just isn't entertaining, though; as soon as you're able to start having fun with it, it pulls out an obnoxious boss fight or another uninspired level on you. I can't honestly recommend this to anyone but the most obsessive, completist fan of the series, and even he's probably going to have to justify this to his friends.


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