Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II – LucasArts – 360

A bit of an almost-retro game review here today. On the eve of 2015, I’ve just played 2010’s Force Unleashed II, which is of course the sequel to 2008’s Force Unleashed. I’ve had this game sitting in my backlog for a couple of years (at least) now. On checking my receipts, I see I bought it in June 2011, for 16 quid, which would have been around AU$22 or so at the time. So not too bad a price. One might wonder why the first thing I’m looking at is the price – the reason for that (aside from it being in the invoice with the date) is because I was wondering if I got ripped off or not. Seeing that I paid what amounts to AU bargain bin prices (typically AU$20 or less) I’m ok with it.

I’m going to skip recapping the story in any detail, as it’s a convoluted and uninteresting mess featuring the emo clone of Starkiller from the first game looking for his girlfriend across the galaxy and whining more than Anakin and Luke combined. (Or is she his ex if she was his original’s girlfriend?) Whatever. And to quote my television’s sport-channel advertisement about 20 seconds ago “Such drama, such terrible, terrible drama.” (How’s that for serendipity?) The story as it matters is that you have lightsabers and force powers and motherfuckers are standing in front of you.

The game’s highlight: Carving up Stormtroopers with lightsabers in the rain. I’m not being ironic.

The thing about FU2 (heh) is that it’s a real mixed bag. The 3rd person gameplay is pretty bog-standard. The graphics look good (a friend who arrived at one point remarked that it looked like a movie at the point I was in), and the cutscenes are actually reasonably well done, with those featuring space battles and the like being pretty impressive indeed. The variety of Force Powers available to you pretty much from the get go do a good job of making you feel powerful – in fact your character is pretty incredibly overpowered compared to anyone in any of the films. Still, the powers are pretty satisfying to use, and despite the lack of challenge, the quality of the visuals helps immensely somehow.

The bad – well, there’s only like 4 levels in the game. Five if you count the return to the opening one. And back down to 4 if you don’t count the 2-minute interval to Dagobah, that seems mostly like it was put there so they could feature Yoda on the back of the case. Kamino looks pretty good in its exteriors, and they do a good job with the atmospheric effects/rain. The ship levels are ok, but very very samey, and the one level that’s not blue-grey is the reddish-brown Not-Geonosis/Tattooine level, which is at least a bit more varied, while being incredibly derivative of both planets and featuring a really tedious and ridiculous boss battle ripped off from/inspired by the God of War series that inspired so much of the poorer parts of FU2.

The number of enemies seems to have decreased from FU1, the length of the game has definitely decreased from FU1, the number of mini-boss types seems to have decreased from FU1, and (I think) the variety of (painful) quicktime event boss kill methods for those mini-bosses seems to have dropped as well – pretty much down to one canned animation for each. Speaking of painful quicktime, the final battle is an exemplar of painful and tedious quicktime events interspersed with bad and tedious gameplay. In order to get to that final boss fight, you need to play through two (!) sets of near-identical incredibly tedious and boring platforming levels.

Quick! It’s Time for a quicktime event on the Red-Brown Level

My initial plan was to play through it twice – a second time to pick up the holocrons for upgrades and such that I missed the first time around. Sadly, the end game was so unsatisfying that I’m simply not going to bother. I played through the Endor DLC a couple of hours ago, and while the change of scenery was very welcome (green!) – it was incredibly short and linear, and featured a final boss fight that was only “better” than the main game’s final fight in that it was shorter (and easier – so it was over faster!) I bought the DLC a couple of years ago for either free or next to nothing. Not sure if it’s still there for that price. Really, though – the DLC should have been included in the base game for all the value that either of them have.

The game also features a bunch of unlockable costumes, some you get as you play through the story, some you get if you have a FU1 save on your console, and some seem to be unlocked either from the shitty challenge modes or from cheat codes. I played through using a few different costumes, and a chunk of the mid-game as Obi-Wan and the final chunk of the game as Boba Fett. The challenge modes unlock additional lightsaber crystals, but I doubt I’ll ever be arsed doing those after the tedious test I did.

But is it Fun?

Well, sad as it is to admit it, I still had fun with this game. Given that it cost as much as a couple of lunches, and lasted a little bit longer than a couple of lunches (I finished it in three short sittings, four if you count the DLC). It would be fair to say that I enjoyed it mostly because slicing Stormtroopers up with lightsabers and force lightning (and making them fight one another with mind trick) is fun, despite the many, many other shortcomings in the game. There were enough off-putting things about it that I’m unlikely to play through it again to max out the powers and achievement whore, but it’s possible that I will. If I do, it speaks to the fun in the aforementioned slaughter combined with the short length of the game.

It’s not what I could call a good game, but it’s far from the worst game with this licence slapped onto it. Make no mistake, I’d have much preferred a longer, better game with less tedium in the boss fights, more variety in enemies and locales. But as a deep bargain bin discounted way to spend a few hours slicing up and electrocuting Sturmtruppen, it’s kinda-sorta recommendable, if you’re a bit of a Star Wars tragic. And apparently, this makes me one of those too?

Verdict: Rent it – or buy it only from the deep discount bargain bin – and only if you’re a big SW fan. Otherwise skip it.