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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II E3 Preview

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was the fastest selling original LucasArts title, shifting an impressive 7 million copies but the game was received less warmly by critics. While the story, soundtrack and setting were met with praise, the erratic camera and occasionally frustrating gameplay was singled out as letting the title down. Announced late last year, The Force Unleashed II aims to tackle these criticisms and develop the combat system and develop the story as it continues to bridge the gap between the original and prequel trilogies.

Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 Screenshots

LucasArts were quick to get the biggest issue with the sequel's story out of the way at the beginning of our preview. Starkiller, Darth Vader's secret apprentice-turned-rebel died rather conclusively at the end of The Forces Unleashed in order to save the Rebel Alliance, after realising the mistakes he had made in hunting down Jedi. So, to learn that he is the protagonist of the sequel is something of a shock, but one that the developers are confident will work. It soon becomes clear that this Starkiller is actually a clone of the original, kept by Darth Vader on the watery planet of Kamino, familiar from Attack of the Clones. Tormented by memories from the original Starkiller, especially those with love-interest Juno Eclipse, he soon clashes with Vader and sets about escaping the planet. Without wanting to give anything away, it seems that this might not be as straightforward as it initially appears so expect some plot twists as the story progresses. Series writer Haden Blackman commented that the team were aiming for an Empire Strikes Back style darker follow up to The Force Unleashed.

Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 Screenshots

During our demonstration of the first few levels, the game engine looked fantastic and it seems that LucasArts have really learnt how to get the most from the Ronin engine. This technology, which incorporated no less than three physics systems (Havoc, Digital Molecular Matter and Euphoria), was one of the best features of The Force Unleashed. After working with the Ronin engine for the original game and its DLC expansions, the team have improved the graphics with some very impressive visuals. The preview began with Starkiller escaping his cell on Kamino and falling down the side of a building during a violent storm. This set piece was eye-watering as the torrential rain lashed against the tower with Starkiller moving side-to-side to avoid ventilation ducts, using his force powers to destroy platforms full of stormtroopers and even hitting a TIE fighter.

Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 Screenshots

These set pieces were littered throughout the first level, as soon Starkiller found himself running from an Imperial gunship as it chased him through a corridor, shattering glass and firing rockets. Clearly a very cinematic element, these are all fully controlled rather than resorting to quick time events, which is a nice touch. To add further challenge stormtroopers littered the corridor, forcing you to either quickly dispatch them or avoid them using force speed leaving them to their own ship's missiles. From the early levels, these events seem rationed out carefully in order to help keep the pacing balanced, which the developers have emphasised as being important.

The bulk of the gameplay still revolves around combat and LucasArts have ensured that Starkiller will have a host of new moves and abilities in order to deal with his enemies. In order to help focus the action, the developers have reduced the total number of opponents to around 25 different types, in order to create foes that were unique to battle. This seems like a wise design move and in the gameplay footage we saw each of the enemies required different tactics to deal with. Fighting outside on a series of suspended platforms, Starkiller encountered groups of stormtroopers who were dispatched using his new twin lightsaber fighting style. This will open up a greater range of moves, including many that will utilise his force powers alongside the weapons.

Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 Screenshots

The environment will also play a greater role in this sequel and killing enemies using their surroundings will give you a greater amount of experience. It is also occasionally necessary to continue and one small puzzle in the demo featured Starkiller using force pull to bring a platform crashing down on a group of stormtroopers stood below. Soon after, one of his new abilities, mind control made short work of a group of new enemies. These stormtroopers came equipped with staffs which could block and deflect lightsaber attacks, although they were very susceptible to force powers. Using the new mind trick, the stormtroopers promptly ran to the nearest edge and flung themselves to their deaths. Alongside these new baddies there will be some fan favourites returning for The Force Unleashed II including the jet pack troops. When these stormtroopers are faced with force lightning their jetpacks lose control and they spiral helplessly before exploding in a ball of flame.

Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 Screenshots

As the demo reached its end one of the mini-boss enemies made an appearance, the carbonite trooper, a large droid wielding a portable freezing device. If Starkiller stays still for too long ice appears on his body and slows his movement speed and if he can't escape the range he will become frozen solid. In order to defeat it, it is necessary to remove the robot's shield using force pull and then hitting it with everything you have while remaining mobile. This style of tougher enemy looks challenging to take down, especially when you have to face them alongside the standard enemies. Before the preview finished Starkiller showed off his other new ability, force fury, a new power which boosts the potency of his other moves. As a squad of a dozen stormtroopers rushed him Starkiller activated this and began to crackle with energy, before unleashing an enhanced force push. This sent all of the enemies hurtling into the distance, taking them all out in a single move. While the other boosted powers weren't demonstrated, they will all have similarly enhanced effects.

Other changes are being implemented across the title, including overhauling the enemy AI to make them more than just ragdolls to work your way through. Combat is still important, but LucasArts have tried to mix in a few other elements including some puzzles utilising your various force powers to help add some variety to the game. Smaller changes have been addressed including allowing more time to be spent on polishing the final experience, tweaks to the targeting and allowing you to have more powers and abilities from the beginning of the game. With a more personal, darker story that is linked more broadly to the Star Wars saga, The Force Unleashed II should iron out the problems of the first and deliver a more complete experience for fans of the franchise.

evilgiraffeman | 28th June, 2010
Dead Alive's picture
Good preview, I'm liking the look of this. I wasn't too sure on the whole 'Starkiller clone' thing, but I'm sure it'll work alright.

I also hope they've made lightsabers appear less like baseball bats and actually make them deadly weapons. It is looking good though, and I love the inclusion of the original Skywalker art skin.

Hopefully it'll be a solid improvement over the original, I'll play it anyway for the story; which was the best aspect of the original game.
Platinum's picture
Want, now!
Maggy's picture
first game is imcredably infuriating.
i dont think ill bother with the second one.

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