Tag Archives: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

The Unreleased Force

It’s been quite a while since I’ve sat down and played a single player game from start to finish. You know, insert “life” blah blah blah, and my other usual excuses. I’ve continued to play around with the console versions of Tropico 4 and Diablo III and even dipped back into World of Warcraft briefly enough to finally give Warlords of Draenor a fair shake.

Anyway, with all of the recent hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the last couple of months I found myself in the mood to revisit some of my favorite old Star Wars related games. At some point this turned into wanting to play some of the Star Wars games I missed, most notably the GameCube’s Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader and Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike. This urge coincided nicely with having an entire day off of work with no other plans. Unfortunately I couldn’t find copies of either game locally so I ended up going into my own collection and dusting off a copy of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.

Stop! Pleeeassee stop!
“Stop! Pleeeassee stop!”

I was skeptical about the first Force Unleashed but ended up enjoying it overall. Still, I never played the DLC and had totally resigned myself to skipping the second game after seeing it get totally panned by both critics and fans alike. Still, a few positive reviews including one from a co-worker of mine convinced my to toss a cheap, used copy of the Xbox 360 version into my backlog.

So, there I was, a day off of work and an apparently incredibly short (with many people claiming to beat it in about 4.5 hours) Star Wars game queued up to play. So…?

What can I say? Suprisingly, I actually really enjoyed TFU2 and I’ve got to say that right off the bat that it definitely doesn’t deserve its place among those “worst Star Wars games ever created” lists I sometimes see it on.

First, TFU2 dials up the already nice graphics and sound from the first game just a bit, particularly when it comes to the pre-rendered cutscenes. This game will have Star Wars nerds salivating with its aesthetics, for sure. I absolutely cannot complain here – I was impressed.

The rebel fleet running away, as usual.
“The rebel fleet running away, as usual.”

Now, TFU2 plays almost exactly like the first game. The systems have been polished a bit to the point that I don’t really recall running into the issue with accidentally targeting the wrong enemies or objects with force powers that apparently aggravated me a lot during my playthrough of the first game, which is great. Also, this time you start with most of your force powers unlocked and spend the first several levels more or less owning the faces off of all of your enemies without much of a challenge. This I like! Of course, there was a point at which I seemed to hit a bit of a sudden shift in difficulty, with some boss fights and even some normal set pieces being quite challenging. Unlike the first game’s reliance on enemies that were immune to certain attacks (which are here as well but seemingly less prominent) TFU2 seems to delight in challenging the player by simply filling a single area with a large amount of different, averagely difficult enemies at one time. I think this became most noticeable after the introduction of those damn terror droids and the later terror walker boss. Ugh!

Bringing down an AT-ST.
“Bringing down an AT-ST.”

At around the same point in the game the polish gets noticeably turned down just a notch, with environments and puzzles getting more repetitive and checkpoints seemingly placed with less of a generous hand, meaning repeating larger chunks of gameplay and even character dialog upon dying. Oh, and platforming sections – did I mentioned platforming sections? Still, overall the game was a fairly smooth ride and despite TFU2’s reputation for being unfinished and buggy, I actually ran into zero bugs during the main campaign.

The story was one of the things critics panned the most. Yes, there isn’t much substance to it. It’s entirely throwaway, in fact, and it doesn’t fit cleanly into the canon (err, I guess “legends” now!) Still, I remember watching at least one review video that panned the plot for being all about Starkiller‘s emo clone desperately and hopelessly chasing after a woman for no real reason like the plot of some lame 80s teen movie. It definitely looked silly the way it was presented but it turns out that this was largely creative editing. In reality, Starkiller’s clone is understandably emotional and unstable and attempts to flee the empire’s control. His obsession with Juno came across as a desperate grasp towards one of his only remaining, shared memories and not some kind of unrequited crush. I had no real problems with it.

Enjoying the view on Cato Neimoidia.
“Enjoying the view on Cato Neimoidia.”

Despite choosing the lightside ending of the first game, which resulted in Starkiller fucking up both Vader and the emperor, but ultimately dying as a martyr to the fledgling rebellion, knowing how inconsequential Starkiller’s clone was in TFU2 inspired me to strike down Lord Vader which led to a pretty surprisingly result that lead perfectly into my playthrough of the Battle for Endor DLC mission. I gave myself an appropriately dark side looking costume, my trusty old red lightsabers, and headed to Endor with bad, bad intentions.

The Endor DLC was a lot of fun. First, it added some much needed variety to the scenery of the main game – the lush jungles of the forest moon of Endor, of course. It also added two new enemies in the form of rebel troops of various types and, of course, motherfucking Ewoks! Both of these could be surprisingly annoying foes, but brutalizing Ewoks en masse kind of made any difficulty in these sections totally worth it. I especially enjoyed the special grapple attack move which performs some kind of hilarious force punt to the poor little bastards. Also, and this has been spoiled long, long ago so I don’t feel bad by saying so, and it’s totally non-canon in ANY version of the Star Wars universe, but Starkiller’s clone manages to brutally execute both the dynamic duo of Chewbacca and Han Solo AND the inexplicably badass-Jedi version of Princess Leia. Awesome. The end was a little confusing and, ultimately a cliff hanger for I assume further DLC that unfortunately never came out.

Getting all Darth Sidious on Vader's ass!
“Getting all Darth Sidious on Vader’s ass!”

Overall, despite the occasional frustrating fight, repetitive sections, and the throwaway story, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II was a quick, fun playthrough that I’d recommend for any Star Wars fan who can distance themselves enough from the canon to have a little dark side fun or who enjoyed the first game enough to want more of the same. Just don’t go in looking for anything long or with an engrossing story…

PC screenshots plundered from sources throughout the galaxy by the Knights of Ren.

Force Feedback

Ughhhhhh… it’s been a while! I haven’t been playing much Xbox 360 lately, or much else besides World of Warcraft for that matter, but the one game I have been working my way through is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Yeah, the first one – you should be used to me playing old games by now. 😉 Where, oh where, do I start?

I’ve got a long history with Star Wars games being somewhat of an in-the-closet Star Wars geek, and often times the fan service supplied in these games is almost enough to get me through them alone, for better or for worse. In the case of TFU it is definitely for the worse, unfortunately. TFU nails the Star Wars aesthetic fairly well and, as with the vast majority of Star Wars games, the sound effects and music are great. The graphics themselves are pretty solid, even quite nice on occasion, despite a few bugs here and there and relatively minor issues with animation, clipping, and the like.

Shaak Ti about to join the rest of the Jedi.
“Shaak Ti about to join the rest of the Jedi.”

Speaking of bugs, despite the game being massively patched since it was first released, there are still plenty of them to go around. I ran into a few major glitches during two different end level boss fights which left me unable to continue and extremely frustrated. I’d have to say that the bugs were a lot less annoying than some of the other things I took issue over though.

TFU plays, more or less, like other “character action” games such as the God of War series, for instance. One big difference though is your force powers, and due to the nature of many of them, it is necessary to have a way to target specific characters and objects beyond the typical melee and direction based targeting common to this style of game. TFU handles this by locking onto the closest enemy that you’re facing and allowing you to change your target at will though the targeting is often way too imprecise in the heat of battle causing you to sometimes lock on to a piece of a wall or a chunk of debris instead of the giant AT-ST currently standing next to you, filling your cloak full of holes. At best this can be annoying and at worst will cause you to die needlessly many times throughout the course of the game. The game is challenging enough without sabotaging you with bad controls.

Zzzzaaaapppp! Crispy Stormtrooper, anyone?
“Zzzzaaaapppp! Crispy Stormtrooper, anyone?”

The challenge is something else I have a problem with. There are some sections that are frustrating for various reasons (the infamous Star Destroyer part says hello!) but even allowing for those exceptions I absolutely hated running into hordes and hordes of common enemies that were somehow immune to various force attacks or otherwise frustratingly powerful. Isn’t part of the fun of having all of these amazing powers the ability to trounce people with them and generally cause all kinds of massive havoc? It succeeds some of the time but I often found myself feeling like I had to work a lot harder than I should have to work to get through a level or boss fight. Many of the boss fights took this annoyance up a notch by feeling overly cheap because of the combinations of their various immunities and special attacks.

Not to sound too negative! Graphics, sound, and general “Star Warsiness” aside, I also found myself really enjoying the story. While the tale of Starkiller isn’t exactly incredibly engrossing, it was pretty satisfying (in a shamefully nerdy way) to see how his story fit into the plots of the movies and the general canon Star Wars Galaxy timeline. It isn’t at all unusual for Star Wars games, books, comics, etc. to be considered canon but they don’t often tie so closely to the original trilogy. The endings were quite awesome as well. I chose the light side route (naturally!) and ended up watching the dark side ending on YouTube rather than suffering through the last level again.

You even kill a ton of Stormtroopers when you work for the Empire. I love Star Wars games!
“You even kill a ton of Stormtroopers when you work for the Empire. I love Star Wars games!”

So, I suppose I enjoyed TFU overall, somehow. Really, if it weren’t a Star Wars game I probably wouldn’t have completed it, though I’m sure I’ve felt that way many, many times in the past as well. Sadly, I just barely managed to like the overall experience enough that I’m now tempted to eventually pick up TFU2 from a bargain bin despite how much it got slammed in reviews though, that said, I wasn’t exactly desperate to play more of the first game when it was done and indeed will be skipping the DLC for now.

Now where is my damn X-wing/Tie Fighter reboot?

Ok, that title was a bit forced… get it? GET IT?! Surprise! My love affair with awful comedy is still very much intact. 🙂