Let’s begin with a simple question, your answer will determine whether you will enjoy this game or not. What colour is Darth Vader’s lightsaber?
- Can we start hacking people up with it yet
- Meh… who cares
If you answered blue, you might be confused. Anakin Skywalker used a blue lightsaber and when he is turned to the dark side gives it up for a red saber, the colour favoured by Sith Lords. I knew I was going to have trouble liking this game about two minutes in when, in a stunning consistency error, a ‘memory segment’ shows Vader stabbing our hero with a… blue lightsaber. Shudder! How can a company that only works on Star Wars games commit such an obvious error? Well once you have played the game from start to finish you may have your answer. To my mind this game lacked polish, and whilst enjoyable it needed refinement. Maybe they rushed it out? Who knows, but let’s be honest this is a mediocre game. I’ll tell you why I think that, after the jump.
Don’t get me wrong I wanted to like this game. As a new console owner and one with a love of the Star Wars movies (only three of them mind you, ahem!) I was looking forward to wielding my lightsabers, crushing enemies, and using the force willy-nilly. You do get to do plenty of that in this game, I just never expected to get bored of it so quickly.
The Force Unleashed II is set sometime between those terrible Star Wars movies and the good ones. You play as Starkiller the same hero from the first Force Unleashed game. I never played that game so came into this one with no expectations; surprisingly even no expectations can be dashed. The plot, of which there is very little, involves you escaping from a secret cloning facility and chasing after the love of your life, Juno Eclipse. I was expecting intrigue, new plot lines, perhaps a new character introduction. Unfortunately there isn’t much of any of that.
The good part is that the game looks fantastic, the scenery is on a grand planetary scale and just gosh darn pretty. The atmospheric effects add pizzazz to the proceedings although I would have liked some greater variance. Fighting in the rain is great with watery reflections of lightsabers and laser fire creating a dazzling show, encore, more of that please. There’s a scene involving giant star ships and a space battle, it’s epic and good to look at. There’s another where you fight a giant beast the name of which eludes me, but it’s big and grand and I enjoyed that fight thoroughly.
Another great thing is the physics engine. Many objects in the world can be picked up and thrown with force grip and you can even add a touch of force lightning to turn any object into a grenade, boom! Some of the platforming sections require you to move entire sections of the scenery with your force powers. Although this is a neat trick it would have been a great one if the platforming was a little more thought provoking. Still, picking a stormtrooper up with force grip and throwing a lightsaber down his throat is enjoyable, especially because they squirm and flail and try to get away. Force pushing your enemies over the edge out into nothing is also great… for the first ten times you do it.
Unfortunately the good parts only come round every now and again and for the most part you fight the usual array of storm troopers and robots. It’s here where the game really falls short. I could forgive the boring plot and any other faults if the combat had been great. It’s not. As a newbie console gamer I set the difficulty as standard and played the thing through. I can tell you now I only died a handful of times during actual combat. The majority of my deaths came from the poor platforming areas where repetition was the name of the game. The fighting is seriously one-sided, I cleared whole rooms with a massive force push, smashed doors down with a wink, and blew attacking spaceships out of the sky with a mere fart. Despite enjoying the force powers and the small number of combos you can do, I grew bored quickly. You see there are only a handful of different types of enemies and each has just one scripted takedown. Once you have seen each one once, that’s it. Then it gets repetitive. Button mashing is the easiest way to clear a level since there’s no real point in trying for strategical advantage, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually used the Jedi mind trick, the shame!
All this saddens me greatly, because despite its flaws any game involving lightsabers and stormtroopers is only a spit and polish away from being a great game. Seriously all it required was some more imaginative combat and a greater variety of enemies and perhaps a better plot. They could at least have made the small variety of enemies that do come at you a little more difficult to smash to pieces. Sure on the harder difficulties they don’t go down as easily, but it’s still just a button mashing affair. What happened to wall jumps and spins and cool stuff like that! I kept believing if I pushed the button enough times a flowing lightsaber dance would emerge, a thing of beauty of grace and poise and killing, like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ with lightsabers. It never happened.
If the combat wasn’t repetitive enough and easy enough the developers added Force Fury into the mix. Force Fury pumps up your already insane powers to hitherto untouched levels allowing you to take down enemies with even greater ease. It wasn’t something I used very often since you can dispatch most enemies with a casual glance. They should have cast Chuck Norris in the lead role. As for replayability, I guess you could play some of the levels again if only to admire the scenery and there are some unlockable costumes and lightsabers including a Guybrush Threepkiller costume, none of that would pull me back. The game itself only took about 4 hours to play right through, which would have been fine if the story was tight and the game polished, which it wasn’t.
So back to the original question, if you are a Star Wars fan you will likely enjoy this game but as I did, feel a bit cheated by it. It’s a bit like the three terrible movies; you wanted them to be great… But they never quite made it to greatness. If you like the idea of killing tonnes of bad guys with a lightsaber and some lightning, you will enjoy this game but even your bloodlust will cool considerably the 100th time you take down an enemy with exactly the same maneuver.
Whilst Darth Vader’s lightsaber does appear as red throughout the rest of the game, the colour it appeared in that early cut scene is how I felt after finishing this game.