sunnuntai 8. heinäkuuta 2012

REVIEW - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II | Xbox 360 | 2010

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: October 2010
AVAILABLE ON: DS, PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii
DEVELOPER(S): LucasArts, Aspyr Media (PC), Red Fly Studio (Wii)
DESIGNER(S): Steven Chen

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed wasn’t a critical hit by any means, but it was one of the best-selling video games released in 2008, as well as the fastest-selling video game in the history of the Star Wars media franchise, over such successful titles as Dark Forces and Knights of the Old Republic. Whenever you’ve got a game that sells over seven million copies despite harsh reception from critics and fans, and carries the Star Wars brand name to boot, you’ve got all the grounds in the world to make a sequel. A better one – you listen to complaints, and work on them. That’s how it goes, it’s a very simple and logical process. Think how much better Episode III was than Episodes I and II; George Lucas took the feedback seriously, and managed to make a film almost on par with the most basic standards set by the three classics, regaining Star Wars fans’ trust. LucasArts had to seek permission from Mr. Lucas himself to go ahead with the development of the game, and his eventual approval was expected to mean something big. The first game was a very cinematic experience that truly felt like a genuine piece of the Star Wars mythos, but the initially promising gameplay scheme turned out subpar, and the level design was frustrating, among many other flaws. All it’s got going for it, you’d think the second game would be the total package. The second game is the best… example of a useless sequel I’ve seen in a LONG time. It seems all the complaints went on deaf ears, as absolutely squat was done to harvest the deadliest mistakes of its predecessor. I guess the most stubborn fans of mayhemic third-person action and Star Wars are in for a minor treat, but all in all…

…This little one’s not worth the effort

Sam Witwer : Starkiller / Aberrant Clones
Cully Fredricksen : General Rahm Kota
Matt Sloan : Darth Vader
Nathalie Cox : Captain Juno Eclipse
David W. Collins : PROXY / Neimoidian Aide
Dee Bradley Baker : Baron Tarko / Boba Fett / Rebel Soldier
Tom Kane : Yoda / Rebel Pilot
Catherine Taber : Princess Leia Organa
Adrienne Wilkinson : Maris Brood
Roger Jackson : Stormtrooper #2

Darth Vader’s not close to giving up on the idea of having a puppet to dethrone Palpatine and become the ruler of the Galactic Empire, so he decides to clone Starkiller over and over again until there’s one who has absolutely no thoughts of turning against him. One clone is promising enough to be tested in combat, but Starkiller’s memories re-emerge, prompting the clone to escape during the test. The clone takes a trip around the galaxy to find his true identity, and seek out Starkiller’s lost love.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a decent game, but it was also one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever had. I mean, it was Star Wars – and not just Star Wars, but STAR WARS with capital letters. It looked magnificent, it had a great plot which was only semi-attached to the original movie storyline, so it was a great expansion of the Star Wars universe without feeling it was written with half a brain like Shadows of the Empire, and the hero was probably the most capable Sith apprentice ever, torn between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. In turn, The Force Unleashed had tacky controls, tedious gameplay, boring level design (and only a few levels to begin with), countless minor problems that grew to ridiculous proportions as the game went on, and in the end, all you could feel was hate and a semblance of relief for simply getting through the ordeal. The game was easy enough, bearing it was the hard part.

The Force Dance...?
Well, the Force is very weak with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. It’s less powerful than you could possibly imagine. LucasArts went over to the Dark Side when they made this game. Enough with the Star Wars-themed anecdotes, this game is a piece of crap. There’s no actual harm in playing it if you were even half interested in the first game, but if you thought this game would set the Force Unleashed series’ record straight or be just slightly more of an interesting and more comfortable experience from any possible angle, you’re in for a HUGE disappointment. It’s short, boring, meaningless, and very possibly the most anti-climactic piece of Star Wars media of this commercial size I’ve ever seen. Even worse than The Phantom Menace.

Even the storyline sucks. There’s absolutely no point to it, and it makes absolutely no sense at all. It feels like the main hook of Starkiller wondering whether he’s the real deal or the perfect clone is just a red herring to get him up on his feet again after his obvious death in the canonical “Light” ending of the previous game. Halfway through this crapfest, you just don’t care anymore, and neither does Starkiller seem to care anymore, before the final confrontation that comes way too quick, and which sucks so much balls that I can’t even begin to describe it. Having such an epic failure for the final boss fight of the game was the only unpredictable twist in the plot; you see, the developers were in such a hurry to make this stinker that they copied most of the scenes from somewhere else. Just as they recycled stuff from the previous game, they made this one repeat itself a little more than necessary, and filled in the remaining gaps with blunt plagiarism from other action-adventure games – gameplay subtleties they couldn’t even properly use. The level design’s the best part; not only does this son of a bitch represent some of the most uninspired, illogical and all-around boring level design to my personal recollection, there are only FOUR levels in the whole game! Just like in the first game, two of them are visited twice. One’s pretty much a cinematic pit stop at an old friend’s place. How long does it take to beat these four levels, you ask? Well, I started playing this morning, at 9 A.M.. I took a couple of coffee breaks, went to buy some groceries, made lunch, and I still managed to finish the game at 5 P.M., well less than 12 hours after slapping the disc in for the very first time. Sure, once again there are two endings and all kinds of shitty hooks for replay value, but I am simply not interested in playing this game for one more minute.

Before I go on, I’ve got to share a few questions that inevitably popped into my mind while playing the game and somewhat trying to keep up with its weak plot. Exactly why does Darth Vader need Starkiller? Why is he so hell bent on creating him anew? He never gives us a valid reason, only valid reasons to destroy him, which is kinda ironic. How in the hell does he have the resources to keep creating clones without the rest of the Empire catching on to his current little scheme? What is his current little scheme, actually?! Emperor Palpatine isn’t even actually mentioned in the whole game, so it seems like simple mischief for the fun of it on Vader’s part – not really his style. Lastly, and most importantly, what the fuck was Boba Fett doing in this game? I guess we’ll never know, because if everything works out the way it should, there will never be a Force Unleashed III, even though the game ends in a series of would-be cliffhangers.

Tinkering with the Force is fun, but pointless.
Time to slice this rotten apple to shreds. Let’s start with the few nice things I have to say about it; too bad the subjects of these few nice things are not essential as far as a good gameplay experience is concerned. The Force Unleashed II looks and sounds great. Not downright amazing, but great. It retains the true Star Wars feel the first game had, and both the motion capture and facial animations are superb. The voice actors do good jobs in reprising their previous roles, although Sam Witwer can get quite annoying with his constant yelling, and Matt Sloan’s Darth Vader still does not sound anything like James Earl Jones’ real deal.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” This was actually the first thought in my mind, no slightest pun intended, after seeing the first 30 seconds of the game. First, there’s a non-sensical dialogue between “the clone” and Darth Vader, which is followed by a short combat tutorial, and then the first part of the first level – oh yeah, as few as these levels are in numbers, they still go on forever, ensuring your disappointment. Well, this first part is a freefall scene extremely reminiscent of the flight scenes in God of War III; you simply need to destroy and dodge obstacles on your quick way down. It’s not nearly as hard as the scenes in God of War III; you’re allowed to make plenty of mistakes. There are a few of these scenes scattered throughout the short span of the game. They’re all supposed to be different and have wholly different goals, but they’re practically pretty much the same, all of them.

Most of there on out, the game is exactly the same as The Force Unleashed. Meaning, it suffers from the very same problems, and pays us back with absolutely NOTHING. Minor and major glitches, awkward camera trouble, weird pauses after combos, horrible targeting system, and unfair checkpoints in which the unfair part is mostly related to the fact that Starkiller – or whatever the fuck this guy’s name or number is – has a jump disability from hell. This disability – or a whole number of them – becomes very evident in the final boss fight, which, again, is one of the worst boss fights I’ve ever had. The problems Starkiller has with following direct orders from the controller and its holder are just the few rotten cherries on the top of the shitcake.

LucasArts claimed they had improved the combat system, especially when it comes to utilizing Force Powers – I call horseshit! There are absolutely no changes. The controls are as awkward as ever, not to mention the Force Grip targeting system, which LucasArts promoted as one of their main focus points. It still reeks, and it’s a handful of hell to handle in tight combat situations in which one of the keys to survive would be to shower your enemies with debris. Even when you’re given the chance to grip items in total peace, to stack crates to grab a Holocron from high up in the air, for example, the Force Grip once again shows its true colors. One tiny wrong push of the analog stick, and the crate you’re trying to gently place on the ground, suddenly flies through the air with bullet speed, right down a chasm. I had this specific problem in the first game, and I was hoping LucasArts would have the sense to harvest this kind of idiotism completely. Instead, I have the exact same specific problem.

"Dear fans. Although it might not seem that way,
we love you. <3 -LucasArts"
Well, there are a few new moves up the protagonist’s sleeve. Let it be known at this point, though, that you need two or three Force Powers to get through the majority of the game, those being Force Push which can dissolve groups of enemies and break doors down, Force Lightning which works well on just about every enemy, and Force Grip, which you need to use to solve “puzzles” and get rid of certain types of enemies. Besides those, you really don’t need to rely on anything else except your trusty ol’ lightsaber. Actually, you wield two lightsabers this time. Wait a minute, Force Unleashed II… two lightsabers… I totally see what you did there! You can equip these lightsabers with crystals that give you different kinds of perks, but you don’t even need any of them to beat the game. As for the new tricks, the most dominant one is the Jedi Mind Trick. Don’t jizz yourself, it’s not as fancy or legendary as it sounds. It’s pretty much as any possessive ability in any role-playing game, and it’s quite useless in the long run, except in the final boss fight, in which it’s very essential to have in your arsenal; it makes the tedious fight end a lot quicker. Starkiller can also perform melee combos against enemies who are resistant to the powers of the Force, and fancy Quick Time kills on large, weakened foes, for what else than extra EXP and health points. Of course, as LucasArts might’ve seen it, a game like this just isn’t anything without a blatant copy of Rage of the Gods or the Devil Trigger, that’s why Starkiller now has Force Fury, which is activated just like the godmodes that came before it. Kill, kill, kill – and that’s what you’re going to be doing a lot. Sounds like fun, but it isn’t. The game just isn’t fresh enough to be fun. Besides, I can’t remember one instance in the game in which I would’ve actually needed Force Fury, for anything else than an Achievement I didn’t even get. It’s kinda “Force Fed” to you a couple of times, otherwise it’s easy to forget its existence.

To be completely honest, after the first couple of levels I was prepared to forgive The Force Unleashed II for a lot more than it could possibly deserve. After the obvious breakpoint, which is the first point where you realize you’ve played that level before, the game just starts a downhill ride I never thought to experience in a game of such commercial proportions, and the initial potential to be so much better than its predecessor. The lazy build-up to the final battle, not to mention the battle itself, call for the most epic facepalm ever. You’ll be thinking to yourself: “no, this can’t be the end – it’s not possible!” You don’t need to search your feelings to know it to be true, it’s right there in black and white: the bad writing of the game rears its head again, apparently completely regardless of which ending you choose, and then the credits roll. And then you’ll just feel really empty. Torn. And bad. For yourself, and for LucasArts’ reputation.

Vader senses a great disturbance, and there's no
toilet in sight.
The game has some artificial replay value in the form of collectable Holocrons, familiar to anyone who spent any time with the previous game, Achievements/Trophies, as well as trials, which are the same as any challenge rooms in any well-equipped genre game, except they’re a lot worse. Instead of being based on actually killing enemies, they’re mostly based on performing specific button combos, which have such bad response that the challenges turn from addictive to highly tedious in record time. I’m perfectly fine with just having completed the storyline once – and again, it didn’t take me more than a few hours on Medium difficulty. It’s not a hard game. Just a bit tricky to bear. Just like The Force Unleashed, but a lot worse.

There have been a lot of big, disappointing games, but Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is not just a disappointment – it is a bad game. Not exactly what I’d call plain horrible, but I would’ve expected at least a small effort from LucasArts to at least try and make it better than the first one. Instead, they lost interest five minutes into development and ended up with something much worse. Hell, I’m still thinking of buying the first game, despite its huge flaws, it’s such a Star Wars fanboy’s treat. I’m never touching The Force Unleashed II again – not only is it the culmination of the meme “epic fail”, it’s good for absolutely nothing. It has no place. It’s useless. And I don’t like it.

+ The graphics and sound are great; the music, in particular, creates a thick Star Wars atmosphere
+ The game is about half as good as the first game was at its best; I’m not really sure whether this is a good or a bad thing

- The production values might be good, but the story makes no sense or impression at all
- 60-70 bucks for five to six hours doesn’t sound like much of a bargain to begin with; no wonder the game’s price went down by such a sum in record time
- The level design is uninspired to say the least, and the final boss battle seals the deal; LucasArts was in a world of hurry with this one
- Bad controls and camera issues are always worse on the second time around
- The few new skills are useless
- The Challenge Mode is uninteresting

< 4.8 >

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti