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2/16/2013

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (Xbox 360)


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is a direct sequel to the game of the same name that originally came out back in 2008. Just like in the prequel, players take control of Galen Marek, better known as “Starkiller”, a Dark Jedi apprentice who works for Darth Vader in a secret plot to overthrow Emperor Sidious.

In this second game though, Starkiller has been betrayed again by Vader and he seeks revenge to fortify the Rebel Alliance he himself formed in the first game and resume their campaign to fight the Galactic Empire. In the game, we learn that this Starkiller is actually a clone of the original one who died in the first game’s ending but the clone is just as powerful and dangerous to Vader as the true Marek was.

The Force Unleashed II is better than the first game in some ways and worse in others. The first title was special for having a very interesting plot inside the Star Wars universe and a nice, easy-to-learn gameplay that resembled famous games like God of War or Devil May Cry, even though the targeting system for Force powers was a disaster. The sequel manages to fix most of the targeting problems from the first title and in general, the gameplay is much better but an extremely short campaign and a rather uninteresting story affect the game’s overall experience in a very negative way.

Starting with the graphical power, TFU2 looks very good for a game of that time. There are some minor antialiasing and HDR problems here and there but most of the times the Xbox 360 version of the game looks quite nice. The framerate is stable and solid and doesn’t seem to slow down even when tons of things are happening in the screen at the same time, which is almost all the time.

The animations used in the game are good for the most part, most of the enemies move smoothly and some are very fast, like the Sith Acolytes who are very dangerous Force sensitive enemies but just like some look good, some don’t. The normal weak Stormtroopers move around in an awkward way but fortunately, they’re the weakest enemy in the game so they’ll be dispatched immediately after appearing to avoid looking bad.

In the cinematics, the game looks especially good. The facial expressions of characters like General Kota or Juno are quite nice, a vast improvement from the first game. Too bad the story these characters tell is too short and not very interesting. But at least the visual aspects are very good.

In terms of sound, TFU2 has a very cool voice-acting; the lines the characters say feel natural and fit perfectly for the most part. Sometimes the same ones can be repeated a bit if the players take too long to defeat a boss or advance in a specific part of the game but in general, the voice acting is solid and of great quality.

The Force Unleashed 2 also has excellent music, just like the prequel, most songs in the game are directly taken from the popular movies, so the game benefits itself quite a lot from those. Some parts of the campaign feel much more climatic because of the music played in them which will remind die-hard Star Wars fans of similar scenes and events in the movies.

Gameplay-wise, the game is a vast improvement over The Force Unleashed I. I remember mentioning in my review of that game that while it wasn’t specifically bad, the targeting system for Force powers was broken and almost always gave some kind of problem, like Starkiller shooting Force Lightning at a random object instead of enemies. This fortunately does not happen in the sequel which seems to have fixed all the issues when aiming.

Most of the lightsaber combos Marek uses also saw several improvements. They are longer, flashier and far more damaging. The first game sometimes felt like using a lightsaber on some enemies was an unnecessary risk. This time though, all of Starkiller’s tools seem more balanced so players don’t feel forced to rely on a specific tactic for a specific type of enemy. Also, Starkiller now uses two lightsabers in reverse-grip instead of one so the overall look of his movements and skills is much better than before.

There’s a new Force power available that allows players to confuse enemies and make them attack their allies. It’s not really a game-changing mechanic but it works great for the most part and is useful depending on the situation (especially in one Boss fight that can be quite hard without it). The rest of his powers are there, Force Push, Lightning, Repulse and Lightsaber Throw and they all feel more balanced and useful.

Players will be able to change lightsaber colors again and there are some new ones over the first game like Pink, Orange or Silver. Each color gives a useful attribute like health regeneration, more experience points earned with each kill or better fill of a new bar that gives Starkiller a few seconds of some kind of “berserk mode” that will give him insane speed and strength for a very short period of time.

Though the overall gameplay is very good, the length of the game is too short. I’m pretty sure the entire thing can be done in about six hours. This is definitely bad for the game because it could and should have been easily extended by adding missions in other planets, characters and new events that could have been more than welcome.

The story is not very good as well, most players will finish the game quite confused and not very amused unlike with the prequel. The good gameplay and music kind of make up for it but when you put in a balance good gameplay and music with a bad story and length it becomes quite hard to say if the game is good overall or not.

Besides the main story, there are some challenge missions available. They’re not long and there aren’t many of them but they’re difficult and obtaining a gold or platinum medal in them will prove to be quite a challenge. These challenge missions are a welcome addition and definitely extend the game’s length but don’t save it from being too short.

For closing comments, I can say that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is definitely not a bad game and at least in gameplay, is much better than other, more famous and praised franchises. The graphics, sound and gameplay are very good for the most part but the story is bad and the game itself is very, very short so it’s better to just rent it if you can, ask a friend for it or buy it pre-owned for less than 20 dollars if you find it at that price. Star Wars fans will definitely find it more interesting that the rest of the public but at least in gameplay, the game is very enjoyable.


Pros:

-          Fast-paced gameplay with tons of moves to choose from.
-          Force Powers work better and are more balanced.
-          Excellent music.
-          Good voice acting and visual presentation.

Cons:

-          Main Story is too short.
-          The plot is not very interesting, even by Star Wars standards.
-          Not much to do in it once the story is finished.


-          Graphics and Visuals………....8
-          Music and Sound Effects…......8
-          Gameplay………………….…9
-          Replay Value………………....5

-          Overall Score……………….. 7 / 10

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