(Previously… Mafia II)


When The Force Unleashed was released I was an optimistically excited moisture farmer. Despite Lucas’ best efforts to completely ruin my love of Star Wars, I’m still a huge fan of the originals (the SE can piss way off, however). I can watch them and forget the fact that Vader’s was a whiny, 3PO-creating punk and Obi-Wan a constant lightsaber twirler. I love both Knights of the Old Republic games STILL, and even enjoyed Jedi Academy. When I stumbled upon the modding community for that game, I found it still had life and helped keep the game alive well past its sell-by date.

Jedi Academy was extremely linear and on rails (or Bantha Tracks), but that was back in 2003 so it gets a pass. But then Knights of the Old Republic was released the same month and it featured more exploratory environments and a bolder, deeper storyline. Plus it offered customizable characters, which was a huge lure. It was thought at the time that all of these features would help usher in a new era of Star Wars games, that had long been dominated by LucasArts’ overbearing controlling mitts. But that wasn’t the case either, as LucasArts effectively sabotaged the sequel, The Sith Lords, by rushing its completion and causing a ton of material cut! It resulted in a broken, half completed game that was full of bugs and a host of other problems, becoming the poster child for the company’s meddling ways.

Afterwards, crappy half-assed drivel like The Clone Wars and Battlefront were released and were basic shoot ‘em ups/slash ‘em ups, and had zero replayability or innovation. When The Force Unleashed appeared in 2008, many (myself included) had hopes of returning to the better-received RPG (and far more enjoyable) days of Star Wars games. Set between Episodes III and IV, it told the tale of Vaders’ secret apprentice – Starkiller – as he slashed his way across the terrain.

It was a major disappointment.

The fact that the game was such a massive seller doesn’t change the fact that it’s just a go-here-do-this game that requires no thought or gaming skill. Severely on Bantha Tracks, it was a massive, massive bore. A pretty game to be sure, but after about 30 minutes the disc was ejected and sent hurtling across the room.


So here’s the sequel, and going in to the game this time I knew exactly what to expect. I’m well aware that RPG’s aren’t for everyone, but neither should mindless junk like the original Force Unleashed. Mindless junk can be great sometimes, but the amount of money and time spent making this game… well, it should have turned out better than it did.


NAME: Starkiller. Bland and unoriginal, in other words perfect for the Force Unleashed franchise.
CLOTHING/ACCESSORIES: You start with a prisoner/patient outfit and two sabers you insist on holding behind your back like a jackass.
MISC. APPEARANCE: Your character looks like Neil Patrick Harris.
BACKSTORY: Your character is a clone of the original Starkiller, who was killed at the end of the first game for being shitty.




I played the game on Campaign, using the default Normal difficulty level:

-1 minute in and I’m already saddened by the terrible voice acting, especially Vader. It’s a bad James Earl Jones impersonation and is really distracting. Plus, the lip synching doesn’t appear to be all that good either.

at 2 minutes I already hate how Starkiller holds his sabers, in the inverted-behind-the-back style. It was something the first game utilized to show how different and unconventional the character was, but it was stupid then and is stupid now.

-1 minute later and I’m being attacked by a stupid training droid with some overlays telling me to hit the B button in order to activate my Force Push power. I say “screw it” and fly towards them with my lightsaber blazing. I now realize how erotic that sentence sounds.

-at 14 minutes
I’ve already left a trail of  armless and legless Stormtroopers in my wake. And even though I know I can’t, I STILL try to explore the surroundings a bit. It’s a very beautiful game, but it’s frustrating how much it handcuffs you.

-found a holocron at 19 minutes, and the game tells me I can use it to change my lightsaber color. The color you select also grants you a special attribute and would have been highly useful in a better made game, but here it turns out to be completely balls with nothing really special about it.

-I’ve hit the 22 minute mark and gained my first Force power up. I think maybe this will be a cool aspect of the game I wasn’t aware of, but of course not. You basically only have one point to spend on a power at a time, and the game won’t even let you have access to other varieties until much later. So I spend it on a 1st level Force Push and try not to fall asleep out of how boring that choice is.

-there’s a part 29 minutes in that is trying to teach me how to jump a large ravine using the Force, which I completely disregard because I’m already annoyed by the numerous teaching tips. There may be an option to turn these things off, but I didn’t look into it because I had better things to do… like repeatedly falling to my death out of stubbornness.

-30 minutes = more death from the same jump.

-starting to think I should have payed more attention the jumping tutorial.

-finally made that damn jump 33 minutes in, after realizing it was best to stop being an idiot and follow the instructions.

-40 minutes and I’ve gotten my first order to throw a TIE Fighter into a tower. It’s extraordinarily easy, totally ridiculous and kind of fun. I feel slightly ashamed of myself.

-not sure if it’s because I’m great or that the game is way too easy, but at 43 minutes I’ve just finished Level 1 (the water world Kamino). There’s always the possibility I’m rather slow getting off this planet, but I reject that because I’m great. Vader is looking on at my escaping ass, totally pissed.

-I have a new outfit at 45 minutes, and it’s better than the first but not by much. It resembles Luke’s Return of the Jedi threads a little too much, although it has some plastic bits on it just for style. Another sign of lack of creativity on behalf of the game creators?

-the game has just gotten dumber – I’m now being taught how to reflect rockets fired from some AT-ST-looking machine using my lightsabers. Blaster fire I understand, but rockets? Dumber than a sack of Weequay’s.

-It’s 51 minutes, and that means “Worthless Sith Acolytes” time! These red-robed fools show up and try to attack me with their paltry Force powers, which do absolutely nothing to my crappy Jedi. I behead them with a quickness and move along.

-time flies by when you’re being a marauding Jedi with nothing better to do than prance around some guys’ city, chopping down his statues and sending his troops hurtling to their doom by way of multiple Force Pushes. Out of the boredom of throwing items at Stormtroopers and lopping their arms off with sabers, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that this shitty game allows you to destroy the environment somewhat. As stated, you can destroy statues and parts of buildings/bridges. It’s a very minor thing but it helps break up the monotony of the gameplay.

-I’ve hit the 1 hour mark, and have used the Force to lob my sabers at a platform some troopers are shooting at me from. It cuts the thing down and I jump over and chop them all in half, because there’s nothing else to do. Why are these platforms even here in the first place?

-I really do not like this game – time is dragging by extremely slow and it’s been a while since I had died, so the game felt I was due a trip to the afterlife. Some new Stormtrooper with a saberstaff smacks me around for a bit, and I die more from sheer shittiness than from him being a tough opponent. Should have played this game on the hardest level.

-and one observation during my fight with this jerk: there’s a combo you can do on these sabertroopers that generates a cutscene. In it you whirl about and kick the trooper a few times, flip the staff he has into the air AND THEN GIVE IT BACK TO HIM! What? Why wouldn’t you simply run him through with your saber? I couldn’t believe how inane this was.

-1:10 finds me pounding the B button furiously, as I try and get that punk Starkiller to sprint across a bridge that’s being demolished. While running, some Stormtrooper with jetpacks take shots at me, and to make things worse there are random objects in my way that I have to swerve around while busting it to safety. Great level design, bastards!

-I finally had an enjoyable moment with The Force Unleashed! One of those AT-ST-type things that shoot rockets just kicked me in the face and sent me flying over a railing into the abyss! Well… it was funny at the time (1:11).

-Yay, another button-mashing dash! I’m really tempted to throw my controller into the nearest Sarlacc pit.

-the 1:27 mark has me protecting an air tram from being blasted into bits by TIE Fighters. It’s a very generic sub mission that belongs more in a game from 1997 than one “claiming” to have been released in 2010. Plus, it’s another example of lazy gameplay. All I do is stand in one place, use the Force to grab the fighters as they roar by, and throw them into each other. Repetitive and dumb.

-1:34 and one of those flying Stormtroopers just destroyed me. I must have put the controller down to go get a sandwich or something, because there’s no way that should happen to anyone playing this game. Those things are useless and are easily removed by throwing some Force Lightening at them. But, one of them got to me and that’s that.

-found another utterly pointless holocron that allows me to change my lightsaber color. Now where’s the nearest cantina?

-remember when I found the above holocron that changed the blade color? Well, the game apparently forgot this because I’ve hit a cutscene and my sabers have reverted back to their stock red glows. Now this has no affect on gameplay or story whatsoever, but it’s something that really pisses me off: there’s no reason why the cutscene couldn’t have featured my colors. Those things are pre-loaded and are the ONLY thing that you have the power over to try and make that cookie-cutter, bland-Thomas of a character yours. It’s a small, cheap thing to harp on but by this time (1:44) I was completely burned out by the lack of thought and care that went into this game.

-1:49 is the end, thank the maker! Starkiller walks right into a trap because the game has made him nothing more than a mindless clone. He’s in a gladiatorial pit (Episode II shameless ripoff) and is going to face the Gorog. This beast first eats a Rancor, because LucasArts wants you to believe it’s a formidable boss, which turns out to not exactly be the case. It wears these shackles that you have to use Force Push on (button mash B… again) to clamp the thing to poles that just happen to be perfectly placed above the creature. I die several times here, but only because the controls have all of a sudden become atrocious. During this confrontation, your control over the camera seems to go to hell and I kept getting pounded into the Star Wars ground because I couldn’t move as well as before. While I get the shackles clamped a few times, the Gorog simply breaks free and continues its assault on my Jedi. I’m not too concerned about it, and was really thankful when the 2 hour buzzer went off and I allowed Starkiller to lose the will to live.

GOOD

  • The game looks like a wonder. Great, great graphics and good sound.
  • It looks bigger than it actually is, as the sense of scale and visual depth is excellent.
  • The character models are well crafted. Vader looks good.
  • Nice job with the music.

BAD

  • Nothing but a button masher.
  • Very restrictive gameplay that offers no room for independence or exploration.
  • Bad voice acting.
  • No ability to change your character, you’re stuck with the super-dull Starkiller
  • Bosses are ridiculously easy.
  • On the lower levels you’re constantly being told when to do everything. I use whatever Force power I want, jerks!
  • Absolutely zero replayability.

This is 2010 people, and we should expect far more depth to these types of games than in previous years. The Force Unleashed II was exactly as I feared it would be – a vacant, shallow followup to an equally worthless predecessor. I’m a sucker for Star Wars games, and there isn’t one in existence I haven’t tried (at least that I’m aware of), but these Unleashed things could have been classic. If you could pair the look and feel of these games with the care and creativity of the KotOR series you’d have the best Star Wars game ever crafted hands down.

But of course that isn’t the case, and it’s another wasted opportunity in a long line of LucasArts Star Wars properties.


Yes, the quality of this video is beyond reproach. It was taken by Nick on his iPhone of me watching the opening crawl of The Force Unleashed II. I’m distracted and confused and barely audible, so thanks to Renn for the subtitles.