Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 gameplay preview
12th Aug 2010 | 16:00
It's funny, really. When you think about it - really think about it - couldn't we all be clones? You know, reflections of our similar selves - carbon copies of parallel existences to which we'll never be enlightened?
Of course we couldn't, you mug. For starters, there's your wonky eye and jungly chest rug - idiosyncratic imperfections if ever there were some. Then there's the fact that it's not scientifically possible in this or any dimension. Stop daydreaming. You got candy-floss for brains or something?
Forgive us for our pigheadedness. We're just taking our cue from a man who has far better reason to consider such existential contemplations - The Force Unleashed's Starkiller. Left for dead in LucasArts' first game, it's something of a shock to see the buzz-cut grump alive and well at the opening of our sneak preview of its sequel.
We say 'well'; more imprisoned in the lightless Hades of Darth Vader's grim Kamino cloning facility. But, you know, at least he's breathing.
Vader's quick-fire explanation for Starkiller's continued existence is simple enough - he cloned him after seeing him finished off last time round. Darth wants him to grow up all evil, see, and use his memories (from a past life, yadda yadda) for do-badding. ('Destroy what you loved' and all that gubbins).
The be-helmeted nemesis claims that there have been a number of copycat Starkillers that preceded the grubby experiment before him - but that each of them have lost their minds... and their heartbeats.
Only problem is, this Starkiller's got odd feelings in his bones, too - like a bizarre inability to do even pretend harm to former lover Juno Eclipse. He can smell burning forests and hear a woman's voice. He's either deeply troubled, or plain mental.
Like a gargantuan hangover, he might not be able to fit the pieces together - but he knows something's up. This irks our dark lord somewhat, but has an even more profound effect on his artificial protégée.
Having been terrorised by a flashback of Vader striking him down, Starky (it's the second game, we've known him long enough for nicknames) explosively escapes his former master's clutches - and vows to track down his once-beloved. It's at this stage in proceedings we get hands on with the conversation-shy hero, and it's quite the change from FU1.
Having torn a hole through Vader's quarters (one forgets how downright cool Force powers are), we leap into our escape route - straight down the windswept shaft of the cloning facility.
Hurtling towards our escape, we toss out wing-bending force to any TIE Fighter that dare cross our path, whilst smartly avoiding obstacles strewn in our way. It's one man versus many machines - and whizzes by at a rate of knots. It's also fantastic fun - if a bit elementary.
Departure achieved, Starky makes his way to Dagobah, to meet up with old wrinkly eyes himself. Correct, you are - that means Yoda's in on the game. A bit of green-fingered-training-slash-soul-searching in the Cave Of Evil later, and you visualise Juno. She's stuck on some Rebel outpost with your old mucker Proxy - and it's time to go and ask her some very telling questions.
Only problem is, Vader knows exactly where you'll be heading - and has just the man for the job on speed-dial. When the camera pans up to reveal Boba Fett's emotionless visage fixed eye-to-eye (slit-to-slit) with the Sith Lord, we know we're in for a treat.
Rain shatters down on Darth's glistening dome (*snigger*) as he and Fett share malevolent nods and clipped anticipation on a blustery, inhospitable ledge of the cloning compound. "Find me the woman," Vader barks. She has a name, you brute.
Starkiller arrives at Juno's location - scything his way through anticipatory Stormtroopers as he goes - only to find her vamoosed and Proxy battered. His droid companion gives a perfunctory description of Fett's reign of terror, and our hero all-of-a-sudden knows what he's up against. It's time for the mandatory angst. The camera swoops in and his eyelids crumple. The battle is about to really begin.
CVG is fed all this via in-game video and some very tasty character art. All we get to play of it, however, are Starkiller's initial descent out of Vader's chamber and his subsequent on-foot fleeing - enough to test out more than a few bonus additions to the first title's gameplay.
The most satisfying of these is the Jedi Mind trick - which sees Stormtroopers overcome with confusion and - just occasionally - prone to jumping to their doom.
Then there's the all-new dual lightsaber - just the ticket to take out the noticeably cleverer enemy AI. Stormtroopers now dodge your attacks far more readily - especially when you've merely tossed your hand weapons towards them. It makes for a more strategic combat challenge, something that continues into the mini-bosses we take down.
A giant droid has to have his shield removed via Force Grip so that we can smash his vulnerable insides to pieces, via one of the first game's hallmarks - the QTE. (It's worth noting that these seemed much quicker and less finicky than in FU2's predecessor). There's also a neat new Force Fury mode activated by the dual sticks, which just sends Starkiller a bit crazy.
Improvements in terms of camera angle are also noticeable - and not once do we Force Grip something we don't mean to, indicating that controls have been tightened up. Which is just as well, as anyone who was caused unnecessary brow perspiration by that bloody Star Destroyer from FU1 will agree.
The look of the game had been given a polish rather than a makeover - yet environments are definitely on a grander scale than we remember from FU1 - and although the number of Stormtroopers we tackle dips under the waves of enemies from the first game, they're better animated and it's much easier to tell classes apart, even during frantic combat sessions.
We're also given a sneak gameplay peek of a triple-hard new challenge mode - in which we have to hop from platform to platform - and the crowning glory of the day, a God Of War-esque battle against a mighty giant Gorog. It's here that The Force Unleashed 2's speed and scale really begin to impress - as you tempt the elephantine hulk into swiping, and ultimately annihilating, his concrete fortress. Quick thinking is vital, and QTEs don't interrupt the flow of what promises to be a truly epic encounter.
Our time with the Gorog is cut anti-climatically short, but it's enough to leave us with the impression that the Force Unleashed 2 is very much evidence of a studio playing to its strengths. LucasArts has opted to add genre standards and remove irritating foibles to the impressive first game - hung on a story that promises to offer some of the dark Star Wars magic we haven't seen since Empire Strikes Back.
Less charitable analysis would, predictably, accuse the game of being something of a 'clone' in itself, then. But, just like Starkiller, experience has taught The Force Unleashed well - and this time, both look like they really mean business.