Star Wars The Force Unleashed II Review

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It definitely didn’t take too long to get to the big sequel to the original Force Unleashed. I enjoyed the first game quite a bit so I was excited to see what the sequel brings to the table. Ideally a sequel should always be just as good or better in every way. This sequel managed to pull that off in all areas aside from the plot. Is it enough to get that extra star and nab a 9 or will it continue to elude the game? Time to find out!

The game starts with Starkiller waking up in one of Darth Vader’s training rooms. The Sith explains that this Starkiller is the only clone to have been a success and that the original Starkiller is dead. This clone has all of his powers and memories and Vader will make him destroy the Jedi. Clone or not, Starkiller decides to escape instead and manages to find his old resistance teammate, the blind Jedi. The Jedi claims that Vader is lying and Starkiller is the original. Starkiller’s not sure what to think about all of this, but the main heroine is in trouble so he decides to launch a full scale attack on Vader’s base. Ultimately, his origin won’t matter as long as he can save her.

I don’t really mind the game keeping it ambiguous as to whether Starkiller is the genuine article or not. It adds a little tension and who doesn’t want to see some of that in the story. As long as it isn’t overplayed, it works well. Unfortunately, the story still was a step down from the first. It’s still cinematic and feels like a movie, but it’s a movie that doesn’t have much of a plot. It takes a while for Starkiller to decide what to do and by the time he does, the story is over. You could sum up the game’s story in a few sentences. Starkiller returns and meets up with his old pal. The two of them make it to the resistance base, but it was destroyed. They head over to Vader’s base and blow it up as they save the heroine. That’s really all that happens in this game.

Of course, the game was quite short so it was never going to have the same amount of content as the first game. Still, I was expecting a little more. Admittedly, part of the fault is in the fact that I thought the game was more about choosing between good and evil the whole time like in the Shadow The Hedgehog game. It turns out that only the ending matters like in the first game so it’s quite different from what I had assumed. The game is supposed to be roughly 5 hours long and that sounds about right. Hardcore gamers can finish it in one sitting although it took me 2. 5 hours of straight gaming may have been something I did more back in the day, but that is really a long time to be sitting down.

Granted, the ending is quite great just like in the last game. I ended up obtaining the dark ending. I wanted to make the hero call of course, but then the villain started to goad me on and I decided it was time to end him. A pretty shocking moment occurred and honestly it was all handled beautifully. As always the blind Jedi was supremely annoying, but I suppose that couldn’t be helped. Personally I’d say that the Starkiller in this game is a clone. It’s not really a spoiler since I know people have gone either way with this although most see it the way that I do in this case. That being said, he may have been more likable than the first one.

The gameplay is a lot smoother than the first game and I was hoping that would be the case. It’s the same core gameplay as it’s a 3D hack and slash title where you have other abilities at your disposal as well. You can shoot lightning and harness the force to protect yourself. This time you have 2 Lightsabers and you can switch out their crystals to give the weapon other special abilities. I recommend the extra EXP ones since those really add up by the end. The combos are a lot more fluid and the tutorial is fast while also being comprehensive. You’ll really feel like a Jedi Master as you slice through dozens and dozens of opponents.

There are a lot of cubes to find and trophies to collect which should add to the replay value. It has about the same kind of bonus content as the first game so there’s not much new to be on the lookout for. Just grab all of the cubes that you can and level up. It’s considerably easier than the first game as well I might add and that is probably because of how much smoother it is. I died quite a few times in the first game because my lightning wouldn’t lock on, but that’s never an issue here. With the original’s story this would instantly be a 9. As it is, it is a close call. The gameplay is amazing, but the experience is relatively short.

You probably figured this from the first game, but the graphics are still quite great. They have improved from the first title which is saying something. This is definitely pretty high end even for the PS3. The soundtrack is a little more forgettable though. Surprisingly both games didn’t really have any memorable tunes. I guess this game had to have a weakness somewhere right?

Speaking of weaknesses though, I did think that some of the quick time events were a little too hard. Not in terms of timing as that was pretty normal, but the events where you had to press a button really quickly. I just couldn’t push it fast enough and had to keep trying different ways until I finally nailed it. There were around 3 bosses like this and they just didn’t feel fair or balanced. I can’t imagine how a kid would get through these levels. I definitely have to respect their button mashing skills if they pulled it off.

Beyond that, I am still a big QTE fan as always. Personally I think it makes the boss fights more epic. I know some don’t care for it and I can see the negative side (Losing near the end of a long QTE sequence and having to do the whole thing over again) but it’s certainly still a positive in the end. As for the story which I keep taking subtle shots at, I just felt like the writing for Starkiller was a little all over the place. At times he was fairly quiet and treated like an experienced veteran. Then he would suddenly talk and then he wouldn’t stop as he panicked about everything and did a ton of yelling. The former is what I expected of Starkiller while the latter just feels out of character. He’s just a lot more emotional than I would have expected at times although he still makes the rational choices in the end.

I did say that I liked him more than the first Starkiller though and that’s because he’s just a little more intense. He makes the controversial decision to abandon the alliance so he could save the heroine instead, but it’s a move that I can go with. The rebellion is always falling to pieces anyway and they were okay with sacrificing her so naturally that was not okay. Starkiller made the right move. The game’s ending is quite dark no matter which ending you ultimately ended up going for. Naturally mine was incredibly dark but probably the more hype ending. It just seems like Starkiller can’t catch a break. I’d love a sequel to this game, but it seems like it isn’t to be.

Overall, The Force Unleashed II did everything you could ask for from a sequel. It tightened up the already solid gameplay to make it even better. It improved the graphics and still gave us a full cinematic story. There’s also a good amount of replay value here and none of the trophies are too crazy. You’ll have a blast from start to finish. Even if the story isn’t quite as intense as the first game, you’ll still be pretty reasonably hooked during it and the climax ends the game with a bang. Now if only we could get a multiplayer mode.

Overall 9/10

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Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens Review

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All right, it’s Star Wars time! This film got a lot of hype as to be expected since this was a sequel that people had been waiting for. It smashed the box office and looks to easily reach the billion mark while still having enough steam to get a few extra hundred million. I’m in the camp that still doesn’t see it challenging Titanic or Avatar, but it will go far. After seeing the film, I can safely confirm that it is a solid movie. It’s not great, but it’s pretty good and that’s good enough for now.

The film’s plot is a little hard to describe in part because it doesn’t have much of a plot at times. This is actually a bit of a negative for me, but that’ll be mentioned later. The Sith may be gone and the Empire is gone, but the First Order has arrived so the resistance is still the resistance and nothing has really changed for them. At this rate, they’ll never be able to cease control of the universe or become the big heroes that they’ve always wanted to be. Times are tough and it’s a losing battle as all of the Jedi have been destroyed with Luke Skywalker being the final one. The villains are looking for him, but nobody knows where he is.

Meanwhile, Rey is a lady who lives on a desert planet and she comes across a robot who has a map, which leads to Luke Skywalker. Finn also landed on the planet after barely escaping from the First Order and he pretends to be a part of the Resistance to impress Rey. The two of them must now make it to the Resistance to give them the coordinates and if they want to live to tell the tale, they’ll need some help from Han Solo. The First Order is serious business so the heroes have to watch their step.

Rey’s a decent main character. She knows how to fight and decides to help BB-8 get to Luke. She’s fairly selfless and does well to survive in such a harsh environment on her own. To an extent she’s fairly generic, but that helps to fuel the similarities between her and Luke. I’d prefer for her to be a little more headstrong, but maybe that trait will come with practice and overconfidence. That would definitely make her a great heroine! She puts up a good fight in the final showdown although I felt like the fight scene was a little bizarre.

As mentioned, she is already an experienced combatant and in particular, she’s good with a weapon. This training seems to leave her in the final fight or maybe it was just a problem with the choreography. For some reason, she constantly throws out thrusts (A stabbing motion with the Lightsaber) which leaves her vulnerable many times, but Kylo is so weak that it doesn’t end up mattering all that much. The fight was still odd though because Rey seemed experienced enough in the intro to have fought a little better than what she displayed there.

Rey is much better than her male counterpart, Finn. For starters, I didn’t like how Finn was constantly out of breath for most of his earlier scenes. I get that he was a little nervous, but cmon now. It’s not the greatest way to make the main character seem cool. He panicked a lot and the possible romance between him and Rey is already off to a terrible start. This is why we have the friend zone, so random romances won’t occur. I give the film props for avoiding this right away though and it’s possible that this will lead nowhere, which would be great.

Still, I just didn’t find Finn to be a cool character. It doesn’t help that he got wrecked in his first big fight scene. It’s good that he realized what it means to be a hero, but realizing that a little sooner and helping the civilians out on the planet in the intro would have been nice. Better yet, he could have decided not to abandon everyone because he was scared. This character has a ways to go to be even slightly likable.

That being said, Finn’s much better than Kylo. Kylo is a terrible villain and I love how Wikipedia hyped him up a lot. They say that he’s already shown to be as strong as Darth Vader and in interviews they were saying that he’s not totally evil and believes himself to be morally justified in his actions. Either a large part of the film never made it past the director’s cut or it was just false hype. He basically defines the term “Generic villain” and the worst part is that he’s an emotional villain. Kylo is just plain sad and the instant that his mask comes off, the character became a joke.

Did you think that the Jupiter Ascending main villain was bad? This guy’s just like that. He gets emotional constantly and is always panicking. He is always on the verge of tears or losing his revolve so he has to talk to a broken mask and an old man to steady himself. Unlike Vader, he allows his underlings to sass him, but since he’s constantly getting humiliated, I suppose that it’s tough to think of a counter. When a guy who’s never even used a lightsaber before it able to hold his own against the main villain, there’s something wrong. Even when Rey is wrecking Kylo, you have to wonder why anybody fears him. His Force abilities are clearly not very good and he forgets to use them when in the heat of battle. He gets overwhelmed a lot and I can’t say that I will be glad to see him in the sequel. This is a villain who is not necessary and I’d probably take any other Sith from the Star Wars series are a better villain. There are probably ones out there who are even worse in terms of character, but I’m sure that they’d at least be tough. The old man isn’t very interesting either so I’m going to be ready for some new villains to spice things up. I want the Sith to return.

So far, they’re definitely not hinting towards any of the old villains showing up, but that’s okay. The video games and comics will likely deal with the what if scenarios more. The old guard doesn’t necessarily need to show up and upstage the new guys, but I definitely wouldn’t mind since they have earned a spot on the hype train. One old character that I was glad got a small role was C3PO and R2-D2. C3PO’s all right and beats the other robots since he can at least talk in English (Talking in gibberish with a character translating is always annoying) but he’s still not the most interesting character out there. I’m waiting for him to grow an arm cannon and start firing, now that would be epic!

The visuals are pretty fun and I’m always up for a nice aerial fight in space. The characters have their blasters ready and the Lightsaber battles are also good. They are noticeably better than the older films although III had the best fights from the series. Once we get more Jedi and Sith, that should probably change as this is more of a prelude than anything else. Having more action scenes would have definitely been good since the film is actually pretty light in that category. More exploration and dialogue than anything else, but building up the universe is important. I’m assuming that the sequel will be upping the stakes. I can’t say that the soundtrack was too memorable, but I’m almost positive that there was an opera styled song in there somewhere. Films rarely have very memorable soundtracks so it’s not a big deal. We had the classic intro theme, which was certainly fun to hear.

For better or worse, this film was really aimed at creating as much nostalgia as possible. Similar to Avengers Assemble (Cartoon) the film tries to reenact as many scenes as possible from the original film. I dare say that most of this film is filled with references to the older ones. We have the classic Darth Vader vs Luke fight scene, dashing across the desert, and dozens of other such moments. This is fine for the most part and it’s nice to remember the old scenes, but it also left little time for character development, fights, and new plots to move forward. Even the climax is extremely similar to a classic occurrence, but it’s not quite as epic as the original, but that can be said for just about every scene. It tries very hard to be Episode IV, but it just doesn’t work.

A complaint that I had with the film is that it actually dragged on a little towards the middle. I’m not going to call the film boring, but there were parts of it were you would just be waiting for something to happen. It’s just not the most fast paced film out there and I feel like the film could have just been a lot more exciting. The characters limited it, but even with that, a few more space fights or some cool dialogue about Siths and Jedi could have helped. In part, I blame this on the fact that Luke is the only Jedi now. I think this was a pretty poor decision to have made because I don’t want the status quo to have reverted all the way back to IV. It just makes it all the easier to add in more homages and remake scenes from the original.

It was nice to see Han Solo again after so long. He did a good job during the fight scenes and showed that he’s still more adept at it than Chewy. Chewy meant well, but for some reason he wasn’t firing his shots all that accurately so he was mostly a liability this time. Ah well, he can still roar and Han is fine with firing the shots himself. Unlike Luke, Han is a character who continues to look good and does his older self justice. Unfortunately, I can tell that Luke’s going to be a very dicey character. He’ll probably snap out of this soon, but let’s just say that his personality had a big change due to a tragic event. As a result, he’s going to be the generic old guy who whispers words of doom constantly. He basically left the universe to fend for itself, which is very irresponsible and is just sad. I was never the biggest fan of Luke, but this is a new low for the Jedi.

As you can see, I certainly had my share of complaints during the film and it was enough for me to know instantly that it was going to only go as high as a 7. A 7’s pretty good, but it does seem low for Star Wars. That being said, it was still a good film and one of the better ones this year. It’s a fun sci-fi film and while you probably couldn’t call it an epic as much as the original, it still has its stakes. Several planets are blown up in the film and the new weapon is pretty intense, I even created a level in Mario Maker based on the concept.

Ranking the Star Wars films from best to worst, Episode IV is still my favorite. That one’s simply classic at this point and did a great job of starting the franchise off on a high note. Next would be Episode III, Episode VII, then Episode VI, Episode V, Episode I, and finally Episode II. The Force Awakens is pretty high in the list so it’ll be cool to see where the sequel stands. It’s too bad that the main villain will likely return, but aside from that I can easily see the sequel being a solid improvement. We’ll likely have more fight scenes and that’s always exciting.

A good thing that Star Wars has, which has stood the test of time is that the film’s tone/atmosphere is good. It’s pleasant and is part of why the film is easy to just watch and enjoy. I’d compare it to the MCU (Iron Man, Avengers) films in that regard. It goes less for comedy although still has some of it within, but it’s not always foggy outside or the heroes are always panicking. It’s not super grimy and since this is the future, I think everything should look pretty modern. It’s why I was thrilled when Rey got off the desert planet since that wasn’t the best locale.

Overall, I enjoyed The Force Awakens. Now Star Wars can be around for the next generation and once the trilogy is over, we can fully compare it to the original two. I’m fairly confident that this trilogy will end up winning as a trio of 7s is actually fairly likely. This film was what Battle of Gods was for DBZ. It tried to bring back the old audience while getting new viewers in. With that over, I expect everything to get more intense in the sequel and I’m ready for some epic Force abilities from both the Light and the Dark side. We’ve also got the spinoffs and prequels coming up so Star Wars is here to stay at last. Hopefully it has long legs in the box office and continues to rack up the cash so we can also get some new video games!

Overall 7/10