What the hell was up with the checkpoint system in TFU? It was atrocious – at one point, the game actually took us back to before a boss battle. It’s possible that there are some cruddy checkpoints in TFU II, but we didn’t encounter them. The checkpoints we did encounter were entirely reasonable, but we also didn’t encounter them as often: TFU II doesn’t kill you as much as the first game, and especially doesn’t often kill you for bullshit reasons (we recall dying instantly in TFU with no discernable cause).
Above: The platforming still isn't great, but it's not horrible either. Pulling off air-dashes to cross this chasm is pretty satisfying
The enemy AI has been vastly improved – it’s too bad this only brings it up to “acceptable” because the vast improvement is in comparison to the absolutely embarrassing AI in the first game. If you don’t remember, you might have seen stormtroopers completely ignoring you when you were right next to them, or enemies diving off bridges, or even bosses that got stuck trying to figure out how to get to you.
Speaking of bosses, TFU II dumps the tedious Jedi battles and offers more interesting encounters that we won’t spoil here. We will say, though, that one boss in particular has multiple stages, with each getting cooler than the last. Although the first part of the boss is kind of annoying, the subsequent sequences more than make up for it.
Above: This is not the mega-epic boss. That other boss is bigger than this
Finally, there are the two new powers. TFU II swaps out of the Lightning Shield power for Mind Trick. The Lightning Shield was kind of cool in the first game, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Mind Trick. Now you have the hilarious option of getting enemies to fight each other or even dive right out through windows. The dialogue alone is worth it: Starkiller offers different quips to convince enemies to go against their will, and the enemy responses get quite amusing. The other addition is Force Fury, which is really an uninspired afterthought. It’s just your standard “rage” meter that gets built up and once activated turns on hyper mode. We actually barely bothered to use it. Still, seeing Starkiller continuously toss two whirling lightsabers is pretty cool.
Not everything in The Force Unleashed II is hunky-dory. All of the above tweaks take the clunky weak points of the original and smooth them over or trade them for something more fun. At the same time, that’s what they are: small tweaks. Other than the Mind Trick power, not much has changed for toys to play with, especially since the dual lightsabers don’t do anything other than look cool, at least in the middle of combat.
Above: Now why does this place look familiar? Hmm...
The backdrops to the action are mostly less imaginative than the first game. Cato Nemoidia is gorgeous, but other than that, there isn’t much to match the majestic vistas of Kashyyyk or the ultra-alien flora of that world with the war-painted rancors. So we just don’t see as much of the fantastic Star Wars universe, and unfortunately it seems we spend less time there. We didn’t get an exact time on our playthrough, but TFU II feels slightly shorter than the first game, and the original was already a short game. This becomes a sticking point to carefully consider – did the length of the first game leave you feeling unsatisfied? We didn’t have much of an issue with either game’s length – but then if you only buy one game a month or whatever, it could matter quite a lot. The game does offer challenge modes, but they’re also short and frankly not much fun.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed? Yes. We realize we explained all of this already, but it is definitive that TFU II is a superior game. It plays better and looks better. Its story holds up to the quality of the original, and builds upon the relationships established earlier, deepening the complexities and raising new questions. Most importantly, the game is more fun.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow? No. Castlevania is more hardcore, which could make TFU II more appealing to those just wanting fun combat and epic boss battles, but it’s hard to argue with Castlevania’s deeper combat, more imaginative world, and generous length. TFU II’s story is more interesting, though.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West? No, but it’s close. Both are story-driven action games. TFU II looks and plays with more confident polish and its story fits perfectly into a ridiculously deep universe (which isn’t easy to do, we might add). Enslaved, however, also does a take on an existing story (Journey to the West) but goes in a wholly original direction. Its world isn’t like anything we’ve seen before and its characters are downright amazing in their human emotions and nuanced interactions. We have to give the slight edge to Enslaved for being more daring, whereas TFU II plays it safe.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II takes nearly every complaint we had about the original and fixes it or gives us something better. We finally feel like a proper, force-wielding one-man army. It’s still short and doesn’t take us on a truly grand tour of the Star Wars universe, but the storytelling holds up in quality and fits right in to the existing mythology.
Oct 26, 2010