Sunday, November 14, 2010

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

I'm sure you've all seen the lackluster reviews for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II by now, and it's partly because of these that I didn't bother to try the demo until today; a demo I downloaded as soon as it was available a month ago. Well, that and I've been busy grinding Daily Challenges in Halo: Reach, but I digress.

The demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is set on Kamino, which is now under Imperial control. Seeing as how Starkiller died at the hands of the Emperor at the end of the first game, Vader has had him cloned. It looks like the Dark Lord wants his old apprentice, who was stronger in the Force than even he, to hunt down the Rebellion Starkiller created. There's just one problem: Starkiller's clone remembers far too much of his genetic predecessor's past, tarnishing his loyalty to Vader.

The demo focuses on Starkiller's escape from Kamino so he can go in pursuit of Juno Eclipse, the woman he loves, and now wielding dual Lightsabres, you get to hack and slash and actually dismember a host of Stormtroopers and other Imperials in your way.

For the demo itself, you're extremely powerful and a lot of your abilities are maxed out. The Controls are akin to those of the first game, save that once you learn how, pressing "Y" while Blocking will now execute a Mind Trick. I used it once and then presumed to Hack, Zap, and Graple my enemies into oblivion instead. Force Lighting still rips things up, you can charge up Force Push to knock back several enemies with devastating force (oh, the pun!), and of course you can combine various attacks to create combos. I'm not just talking about hacking and slashing with Force Lightning infused Lightsabres by "dialing" a combo, I mean you can Grip and enemy, zap them, and launch them at other enemies with explosive results. Good times, but all featured in the first game.

Graphically and audio speaking (Ha, another pun!), the demo was solid with fluidly animated character models, strong voice acting, and those nerdy trademark Star Wars sound effects we all get off on. Gameplay wise I didn't find anything lacking, but I didn't find anything inspiring either. It really did feel just like the first game, save that I started out stronger and I had a second Lightsabre to wave back and forth menacingly. Most of my old combat tricks still worked, the same run-around-zapping-and-tossing-stuff at the bigger enemies to wind them down worked, and there were some cool button mashing finishers, but there wasn't anything to wow or entice me like with the original game's demo.

Another thing I found amusing was the Holocrons. In the original game, you really had to hunt for these items which would bestow you with extra experience, Lightsabre Crystals, or Outfits. In the sequel's demo release, they were a lot like "Find Waldo Yet Again," really not trying anymore. The bloody things were right out in the open in completely unmissable spots! That's not necessarily a bad thing, but a little disappointing as hunting them down was a nice challenge.

I also had an odd little bug where at the end, when I approached the Imperial Shuttle, the game went to the loading screen, but without the spinning reticule. It just stood there forever, and I had to press "Start" and then I could select an option to "Skip," which brought me to a closing cut scene, so I'm not sure if I missed anything or not.

While I greatly enjoyed the original game and thought the critics were far too harsh on it (see my review here), based on my experience with the demo and the feedback I've heard not just from pro reviews but also from my fellow gamers, I can't see Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II as a must have title. As a rental or waiting for it to hit $19.99 in a bargain bin, that I could recommend.

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