Friday, 19 November 2010

Game Review - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2

Formats: (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, DS)

Despite sounding like a bizarre internet acronym, SW:TFU2 is not a short way to tell your Mum on Facebook to shut up. Rather, it is the somewhat ungainly title for the latest in a long and prestigious line of Star Wars video games. Following up unsurprisingly on last year's Force Unleashed (which received lukewarm reviews from the gaming community) Lucas Arts once again seeks to seduce gamers to the darkside with a mix of incredible physics, over-the-top combat and classic Star Wars presentation. So is it a case of SW:FTW or SW:GTFO?

Having fairly enjoyed the last game, I was eager to control Starkiller and once again have access to a wealth of devastating and fun to use Jedi powers. However, this time around you don't actually control Vader's rebellious apprentice -or do you? After escaping Vader's secret cloning facility on Kamino at the outset of the game, Starkiller's clone (or is he?) sets off to find his true love before she is killed in an intergalactic war (or does he?). Spoilers aside, the story doesn't really progress beyond the fact that we're never really sure if the main character is the real Starkiller, but even if he isn't, he's still here to take Sith names and kick Sith ass. Luckily all of Starkiller's name-taking and ass-kicking abilities are present. Along side the ever-useful force grip and lightning abilities is the new Jedi mind trick power, allowing you to convince enemies to fight for you or randomly throw themselves off high ledges. Another new ability is 'Force Fury’; reminiscent of Kratos' Rage of the Gods/Spartans/Titans/whoever Kratos is working for now. Starkiller now wields two lightsabers now, which while not really affecting gameplay, allows the player to equip two different status effects in the form of coloured lightsaber crystals, a welcome addition.

While SW:TFU2 already had a strong framework to build on and made a few worthwhile changes, the overall experience is severely lacking. The combat, although exciting and entertaining for brief flashes, suffers due to fiddly controls and uninspired enemy design and AI. There are only a handful of enemy types throughout the game, and the AI seems to be set to either 'brainless cannon fodder' or 'incredibly annoying and invincible unless you use one move over and over'. The later battles were won not when I played skillfully, but when I figured out which one of my abilities my opponents refused to defend against. The levels, while beautifully realised, were boring and repetitive. With such a wealth of interesting and recognisable locations to visit within the Star Wars universe, it baffles me to think why Lucas Arts chose to design corridor after corridor of 'generic-metal-hallway'. I would say I grew tired of traversing the linear environments, but the game ended before I got the chance. Yes, it really is that short.

That's not to say that The Force Unleashed 2 is without its merits. While Lucas Arts may not have put much love into its creation, they certainly threw a lot of money at it since it contains the same high level of presentation as any other Star Wars release. The three heavily-advertised game engines are in place: the tried-and-true Havok physics engine makes tossing stormtroopers around a genuine blast; the Digital Molecular Matter, a real coup in the last game, plays a much smaller role this time around; and the always impressive Euphoria engine, which gives the ragdoll physics a mystifyingly life-like touch. The game also houses some pretty impressive sequences which, while a little derivative, will raise the eyebrows on even the most imaginative of Star Wars fans.

I was sorely disappointed with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. Rather than building on the first game to create something really special, LucasArts seem to have trotted out a by-the-numbers sequel, complete with trivial 'now with TWO lightsabers!!' changes. Unfortunately, it seems destined to become another embarrassing addition to the Star Wars franchise, the video game equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks.

Lukao gives Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 6 yodas out of 10.
Lukao, CeX UK Contributor.
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