During the time between Episodes III – Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV – A New Hope Luke Skywalker was growing up, and Darth Vader was ruling the galaxy with his master the Emperor. Vader’s ambition of taking over from his master was brewing away in his mind, and an opportunity presents itself when he comes across a young boy who is very strong with the Force…
These two games seek to chart some of the events that take place in between Episode III and IV with you playing as the secret apprentice to Darth Vader. Now one of the main selling points of this game was that you would actually get to be playing from the perspective of the Dark Side. Personally that was enough to lure me in because the rebels are all well and good but getting to play as the bad guys with all of their Force powers was too tantalising a prospect for me to pass up.
Released in 2008 on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, The Force Unleashed details some of the events that take place between Episode III and Episode IV. It introduces several new characters and goes into the origins of the rebel alliance as we are introduced to the Dark Apprentice of Darth Vader.
I don’t know about you but I love the Sith, they are just so cool, and can shoot lightening from their finger tips. A Sith Lord can easily take on Jedi and they are just so much more interesting. The lore of the Sith, how they came to exist, and why is there always a Master and an Apprentice?? Who decided that?? I have to say I have literally no idea what the Dark Side of the Force actually is (if there are any fan boys reading this and you can tell me in 500 words or less then please let me know) but it doesn’t matter because it has not stopped me enjoying the films.
So imagine how excited I was when I heard that we were going to be getting a game in which you play as a Sith, and you're tasked with hunting down the remaining Jedi left following the Emperor’s purge order in Revenge of the Sith.
That thud you just heard was my head hitting the console in front of me…I ask you, how could this concept have been so poorly executed??
Let me tell you…right, well we start of on the Wookiee home world playing as Darth Vader as he remorselessly slaughters Wookiees whilst trying to find a Jedi hiding there. He kills the Jedi and senses someone who is “strong with the force” and turns to find a boy standing behind him. Vader takes the child with him and trains him to be his Apprentice in the hopes that he and Vader will kill the Emperor and rule the galaxy.
Cue a few years later and we see Starkiller (apparently that was originally Luke’s surname before being changed to Skywalker) and his robot Proxy that has been programmed to try and kill him in order to keep the young Sith on his toes. In his first few missions he is sent to kill Jedi, and after fighting through various rebels, he finds his targets. Then Vader tries to kill him so Starkiller sets off to find out why and along the way rally support for a rebellion against the Empire.
Starkiller has an impressive array of powers, he can generate lightening, throw people around, blow doors apart and is a master with the lightsaber. Basically enemies are just irritating and offer little to no challenge. The bosses are more of a challenge but the fights are interrupted by quick time events and as usual with a game where you have powers there is a regenerating bar that will drain as you use your powers. The simple fact is that force lightening will pretty much kill anything in the game so you will spend most of the boss fights running around waiting for it to recharge.
I like the idea of hunting down and killing the Jedi, but you do that for maybe 3 missions, then you are betrayed and Vader tries to kill you. This was just a rouse though, now he wants you to act like a Jedi to recruit others so the Empire can lure its enemies out of the woodwork then kill them all (spoiler kind-of). So you spend the rest of the game fighting alongside a Jedi you met in the first mission against the Empire, you still have your Sith powers, but you visit the same locations over and over.
Repetition is the problem, you go to three planets, have a fight in a ship, then go back to the same worlds you visited before (only as a Jedi this time) and then you go after Vader onboard the Death Star. It is repetitive and despite having cool powers pretty dull. Fighting a Rancor should be a highlight but they pop up all the time and so you whittle down their health with force lightening then do a quick time event and move on to the next opponent. The entire game is like this, there are walking mechs and various other larger enemies but all of them you use force lightening, quick time event, rise, lather, repeat…simple and it gets really old really fast.
Starkiller is highly powerful and can deal with most threats without even breaking a sweat. I do like playing around with force powers but without enemies to offer a sufficient challenge it is a really shallow experience. I wanted to be a Sith, tearing through waves of rebels, and crushing anything that stood in my way but really all you do is fight the Empire which has been done to death.
But by far the game’s biggest problem is its length. When I first bought it I put it on around six in the evening, it was a Saturday night and I was going out with some friends of my skin sack, I played the game till about half eight then went out. I fell in around two am and returned to the game…then I finished it.
It literally took me about four hours to complete.
It also features one of the most frustrating boss fights in any game ever namely the Star Destroyer fight. I kid you not, you have to manoeuvre the analogue sticks using onscreen instructions that have almost no relevance to what you are supposed to do…whilst you are trying to pull it down to the planet you will be attacked by fighters which you have to deal with. If you take too long the Destroyer will reset itself back to where it was meaning you have to start again. It is so frustrating and very tedious to watch this ship go back to where it was before, this should have been the highlight of the game, instead it is a pain in the arse and saps any remaining fun out of the game.
I like the powers but the game is too short and the plot is ultimately dull. This was not the game that it could have been and I was very disappointed. It has quite a high replay value because there are secrets to find which unlock different lightsaber and force powers, however, just grinding through the same levels to find a collectable you missed also starts to wear thin pretty quickly.
Ultimately, I did like the game but it was too repetitive so I cannot say that it was a good game and a must for Star Wars fans. My Thumb is therefore going to have to be firmly Down because this seems to be yet another cash-in on the Star Wars name that fails to live up to its own potential.
4/10 - This game is below average, it could have been so much better, but is generally just a lazy effort that just seeks to drain the wallets of its own loyal fan base.
Released in 2010 The Force Unleashed 2 is a sequel to The Force Unleashed if you hadn't twigged that yourself then you may want to stop reading this and seek professional help. It improves on the original because now you can have 2 lightsabers rather than one...
I sometimes wonder why I give the sequels to bad games a chance. More often than not sequels wind up just being a cash-in on the success or popularity of the first game that have had little to no effort put into them. I was hoping for a lot from The Force Unleashed but it failed to be what it so easily could have been. As trailers and promotional material started to crop up advertising Force Unleashed 2 I started to take notice. Perhaps LucasArts had learned from the lacklustre first game and were determined to make it up to their loyal fan base by finally delivering on the potential of this idea...oh how naive I was...
Starkiller is dead…return of Starkiller…
Starkiller was killed off at the end of the previous game when he sacrificed himself so that the rebel leaders could escape. So Darth Vader has decided to clone another one - I didn’t know Jedi could be cloned but apparently they can. It does make me wonder why the Jedi Council didn't clone their greatest Jedi Masters or those who were killed in battle. If they'd done that then perhaps it wouldn't have been so easy for all of them to be wiped out by Order 66. I'm pretty sure the Jedi weren't allowed to have children but if they could be cloned then why not create another Yoda?? Or another Anakin Skywalker and use him to defeat Vader, surely the possibilities, once you throw cloning into the mix are endless but I digress. Anyway the clone breaks out and decides to head off to try and find Juno (the woman from the original game whose presence was so utterly meaningless to me that I didn’t mention her in my review of that game). He travels to a planet and reunites with the General he was friends with in the first game and engages in a pretty entertaining fight with a giant monster.
The pair head off to join with the rebels, the General wants Starkiller to rejoin them because with his powers he will be a serious threat to the Empire. But all Starkiller is interested in is finding Juno again
I think I crave disappointment and tedium, which would explain why I am still stuck on this planet. I sometimes feel like I am like Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier when he claims that “He doesn’t want to be free of his pain, [he] needs his pain”. I think I am the same, if everything in my life was good then I would probably be bored out of my mind, so I relish pain. I welcome disappointment because it gives me something to talk about. If I don’t then why do I keep allowing myself to hope so that my hopes can be dashed again and again??
The Force Unleashed 2 is a massive middle finger to every Star Wars fan regardless whether they are a die-hard fan or a casual fan like me. Again Starkiller is so powerful that he can take on armies of enemies without an trouble and can access a special “Force Rage” mode that makes the enemies even more trivial because it maxes out his powers and his lightsabers enabling you to tear down bosses easily.
Some new powers have been added, my favourite of them is the Jedi mind-trick, you can literally take over the mind of a storm trooper and cause them to either turn on their comrades, or even leap off the nearest ledge committing suicide, and honestly this never gets dull.
Whilst the little enemies are nothing more than bugs, there are some bigger enemies but like the Rancor in the first game the only way The Force Unleashed 2 can ramp up the stakes is to confront you with greater numbers of the bigger enemies rather than creating any new ones. I also found this version of Starkiller to be a bit of a dick, I mean the only thing he is interested in is finding Juno, he doesn’t care about the Rebellion and can only focus on her. He complains constantly and is still being lead around by the nose by Vader. Juno is used against him time and time again. Just like the previous game we visit the same few planets over and over. I cannot understand why we cannot visit some of the other worlds in the Star Wars universe, it is not like there aren’t enough of them, but once again we get a lazy instalment that doesn’t seem interested in doing anything original.
However, the biggest of the dick moves and the reason this film gives its fans a massive middle finger is because on the back of the box we see Starkiller with Yoda, yes, with Yoda, so you would think that the greatest Jedi Master ever is going to set Starkiller straight. He will tell him that Juno is irrelevant and he must help the rebellion. Or that he is not really a clone, he is the real Starkiller, but no. Yoda is sitting on a rock, Starkiller walks over, there is a brief exchange of words before Starkiller goes into a cave that “is strong with the Dark Side”??? Seriously how can a fucking cave be strong with the Dark Side…I have never understood that but anyway, Starkiller goes in has a vision of other versions of himself in pain, he then leaves the cave without another word to Yoda. Why was this scene even in the game?? I’ll tell you why, it is so that Yoda could be put on the box to help draw in people, like me, who were disappointed with the original game but figured that if Yoda was here then this game was going to be tonnes better than the first one.
Do you want to know the most bitter pill to swallow though?? It is just as short as the first game. The controls are the same. So you can get through it in an afternoon. Like the original you get a Light Side or Dark Side ending neither of which are especially interesting. It attempts to do nothing to expand the universe, Starkiller pilots a ship through the atmosphere of a planet, leaps out of the ship, and lands safely on the surface. In this game he is never anything other than a Jedi and yet he can still use all the Sith powers he possessed in the first game.
I really wanted to like this game, I wanted it to improve on the original but it doesn’t. It does not care about the fans, all it wants is to get your money, and doesn’t care how it does that even if it means using Yoda as a hook to lure you in.
The mind-trick is great fun but again the game is just too short, it is repetitive, Starkiller is totally selfish here, and it doesn’t add anything to the lore of Star Wars.
I will mention thought that if you download the additional mission you play as the Dark Apprentice as he travels to Endor to stop the rebels taking down the shield so they can attack the Death Star. Here you are confronted by Chewbacca and Han Solo, I am not joking when I say how jarring it is to watch the Dark Apprentice kill two of the best characters from the original trilogy. It is brutal. This is what I wanted to see a Sith doing, go after familiar faces and kill them because whilst it is almost hard to watch, it is the most memorable thing about the game...of course, this isn't included in the main game and is only playable if you downloaded it. I did because it cost something stupid like 50p to download so I did, and it was really worth it.
My Thumb is still pointing straight Down because once again this is a very lazy effort.
5/10 - It is better than the original but only because of the mind-trick, if they make a Force Unleashed 3 I am not going to play it - I am tired of this title disappointing me