Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘The Force Unleashed II’: Here we go again

Published: November 5, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

In 2008 LucasArts had a novel idea to make a game that takes place in the 19 years between the prequel and original trilogies of “Star Wars.” The game, titled “The Force Unleashed,” was successful enough to spawn a sequel that was released this week. With a bit of foresight that the game might not be particularly successful, LucasArts focused the story not on an already established character, such as Darth Vader, but instead focuses on Vader’s secret apprentice, codenamed Starkiller.

The story through the first game follows Galen Marek, codenamed Starkiller, who was found by Darth Vader as a toddler and secretly raised and trained in the dark side by Vader. With the assistance of Proxy, a companion that is one part C3PO and three parts crazy, and the new arrival of pilot Juno Eclipse, basically a female Han Solo and Starkiller’s love interest, Starkiller embarks on many missions on behalf of Darth Vader. As the missions progress and Starkiller encounters more and more surviving Jedi he is frequently pushed to decide between following the dark side and the lightside. While Starkiller faces this inner turmoil, Vader makes his endgame clear; he expects Starkiller to assist him in overthrowing the Emperor. In the end, Starkiller becomes a founding member of the rebel alliance; even contributing the alliance’s emblem.

“The Force Unleashed II” begins six months after the events of the official ending to the first game. Starting on Kamino, the planet where clones are made, the protagonist, apparently a failed clone of Starkiller, makes a daring escape as Vader prepares to kill him. The story progresses and introduces both new details on the development of the Rebel Alliance as well as an identity crisis of whether this is a clone or the original Starkiller “mind-wiped.”

Perhaps the game’s strongest point is the gameplay. The original game was a mess with difficult controls and boring enemies. This game makes significant improvements in terms of both aiming and attack combos. After defeating a stormtrooper if you keep attacking him, you can cut limbs off in true lightsaber fashion. Additionally, while there are not very many different enemies (I’d say there are less than 15) every single enemy requires a unique approach. Not everyone will go down with simple lightsaber slashes and some enemies are immune to force attacks; this leads to combat that is engaging and not a simple case of button mashing.

In addition to solid gameplay, the cinematic and in-game cut-scenes (as opposed to pre-rendered cinematic ones) make the game feel like a movie. Starting with the standard text roll and “Star Wars” music serves to make the game seem as though it’s a movie with gameplay bridging the gap between core parts of the story. Even a couple attacks are rendered as cut-scenes and add extra incentive to pull off tough combos; even if only to see enemies destroyed in cool ways. Adding to the movie-like atmosphere is the music. The game is filled to the brim with classic “Star Wars” music and never has a moment where the music does not feel like it fits in the “Star Wars” universe.

“Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II” was a game that I hoped would be amazing and fully make up for the weaknesses of the first. Unfortunately, this game has one glaring weakness; it is incredibly short. I really didn’t think I’d finish the game so soon (it came out Oct. 26). On the moderate difficulty setting the game takes, at most, six hours to play through the story once. While it offers replay value in pursuit of achievements (or trophies on the PS3 version) a game that can be completed so quickly is hardly worth $60 ($80 if you want the collectors’ edition).

Additionally the story, while interesting, leaves me seriously hoping that either a third game (making this a trilogy) or downloadable content will expand the life of the game and further the story. The first game, whether you choose the dark ending or the canon light ending, at least has a definitive ending to the story. This game raises many questions, but with the canon ending leaves almost every question unanswered.

The original “Force Unleashed” game had a thoroughly developed story but was marred by weak gameplay and nuanced glitches. This game fixes the errors of the first but did it at the apparent cost of the original game’s strengths.