By CHONG JINN XIUNGintech@thestar.com.my
Starkiller is back to wreak havoc with his much-enhanced Force powers in the latest Star Wars game.
TWO years ago LucasArts created a Star Wars game that allowed players to fully dabble with powers of the Force.
The Force Unleashed was met with mixed reactions - some praised it for its story while others disliked the repetitive gameplay.
We were rather surprised when LucasArts announced a sequel, considering how the original game ended. But like it or not, Starkiller - or a clone of him - is back.
The Force Unleashed 2 (TFU2) isn't going to win any awards for its story which has an uninspired plot with no twists.
Characters like General Kota, Juno and Proxy are also back but only make brief appearances that don't really make the plot any more exciting.
So, the main attraction of the game is the Force powers and the ability to unleash them on the many stormtroopers that will put up a weak resistance to stop you.
A Force to be reckoned with
Starkiller may just be a clone but he is really powerful - right off the bat he gets all the classic Force powers from the original game.
With Force Push you can push your enemies off ledges, Force Lightning allows you to toast them, and Force Grip can be used to grab and hurl enemies and objects.
Force Mind Trick is a new power that can be used to trick an enemy to turn against his allies or commit suicide by jumping off a ledge, which can be comical sometimes.
The execution of the Force powers is spectacular and have really been improved over the last game.
However, most of the action sequences feel very similar to games like the God of War.
Also, the game feels like a rushed sequel because it lacks variety in terms of level design and enemies.
The first game took Starkiller to all sorts of different locations that included a TIE fighter factory, Felucia, Bespin and Kashyyyk.
TFU2, on the other hand, has very few unique environments - there are only nine levels in the game with two planets and a starship to explore. And we are not counting Dagobah because it's a tiny level and will probably only take you less than five minutes to finish it.
You will spend most of the time running down corridors killing waves upon waves of stormtroopers and other Imperial soldiers.
You definitely don't need a mini-map like you did in the first game because everything is so linear with no branching paths.
Also, the in-game cameos by famous Star Wars characters are insignificant as they only say a few lines and are off the screen before you know it.
There are also a few simple puzzles that you need to solve with your Force powers but this hardly takes any thinking. You also get to do a bit of platforming but, again, it's not challenging and very short.
Many gamers complained that the lightsabre in the first game felt underpowered because enemies took a lot of hits before going down. This has been rectified as Starkillers' twin lightsabres are capable of striking down most enemies with just three hits.
Your lightsabres are so deadly, you can also dismember limbs and decapitate stormtroopers with them.
As you kill more enemies and destroy objects, you gain experience points that can be spent on upgrading the Force powers.
Each Force ability has three upgrades. However, your Force abilities are already very powerful even without any upgrades.
Upgrading the Force powers further makes them a tad overkill. For instance, upgrading Force Lightning allows you to target multiple enemies and at the highest level you can easily take out an entire group of stormtroopers with a few zaps. We suggest playing on hard for a bit more challenge.
Killing enemies also fills up the Force Fury meter. Once it reaches the max you can trigger it to significantly enhance all your powers. Most enemies - and even the bigger ones - won't stand a chance once you activate this power.
There are also coloured holocrons to collect which reward you with experience points, more health, lightsabre crystals and more.
With the crystals you can customise each of your lightsabres to incinerate your enemies, award more Force points, heal faster and such.
The game mixes up the action by having enemies that are immune to certain type of attacks. Sith initiates are immune to Force power while Imperial riot troopers are very good at deflecting lightsabre attacks.
So, you will have to switch between Force powers and lightsabre attacks to dispose them.
There are also Battle Droids or AT-STs and various other bigger robots to contend with. They usually have a unique attack and can also handle lots more punishment.
Also, once you have damaged them enough you will be presented with a quick time event to finish them off instantly.
However, these enemies are always destroyed the same way - so the animation gets boring really quick.
The game also has really huge bosses but they are really pushovers because their pattern of attack is simple to figure out.
The battle with the massive Rancor eating boss in Cato Neimodia, for example, was just long and boring. You can easily evade his attack while you whittle down his health bar.
Once you complete the main story there is little to do except the 10 challenges that are unlocked as you progress through the story.
Only time will tell with if LucasArts will release a DLC to extend the game's life.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 is a relatively short game. We clocked just eight hours for the single-player campaign.
Everything about it feels rushed. The story is especially weak and is now even more convoluted.
The game retains the combat mechanics from the first game but it hasn't been perfected. Targeting enemies is still a problem and the camera can get in the way in tight spaces.
The main problem is that there isn't much to do in the game. The environments are uninspired with a large portion of the game taking place indoors. You don't get to appreciate many exotic sceneries like in the previous game.
Even if you are a fan of the first game and want more of the same action, the game will only be a brief distraction.
Overall, the short length of the campaign makes it more suitable for a weekend rental.
Pros: Improved graphics; fun to use Force powers.
Cons: Weak storyline; easy boss battles; control system still needs tuning.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2
Third-person action game for PC, Xbox 360, PS3
PC System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/7, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 Hz/AMD Athlon X2 5200+, 2GB RAM, 11GB HDD space, ATI Radeon HD 2600/nVidia GeForce 8600GT
Price: US$59.99 (RM189) for Xbox 360 and PS3; US$39.99 (RM126) for PC
Rating: 3 stars
Review copy courtesy of Blackmango Games, (012) 396-5936 or www.blackmangogames.com.