STAR WARS CV: THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 Hands-On Preview

STAR WARS: FORCE UNLEASHED 2 Hands-On

At Star Wars Celebration V, LucasArts, the video game division of the venerable franchise company, had a surprise for fans- a playable demo for the first time anywhere of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. We got our hands on the game after show hours in an exclusive demo alongside Matt Omernick, the Art Director on the game, and somehow, this game is more explosive than the first.

The first obvious difference is the use of two lightsabers instead of one. Still held in the signature "Shien" style of Starkiller, the main character who had apparently died in the first game, the two blades offer more combos, more vicious multiple enemy attacks and some very cool dismemberment. During our time with the gam, we saw heads, arms, and legs come off, we threw both sabers into an arc around a group of enemies, slicing and dicing them all in one attack, and impaled flying stormtroopers with two through the chest. In short, the game's new mechanics allow for more over-the-top than ever, and that's just in the melee. The close-up grapple attacks are also much more varied, with some zoomed-in stabbing cracking and cutting that shows Starkiller means business.

But how about that Force? Well, the core Force powers are all there, with push, lightning, and grab. How they're applied is expanded far beyond the first game. According to Omernick, we were one of the only players all day who found one new Force move- Ball Lightning. The ball or sparking electricity cuts through the level as far as the eye can see, sending bolts through every enemy it touches along the way. The combos also offer much more explosive force powers, as you're now channeling pushes and lightning  through two lightsabers instead of one.

As far as the more behind-the-scenes improvements, you don't have to be an eagle-eyed daily gamer to notice the much improved graphics. Character models have such a huge increase in realism, some close-up shots look like we're on a new generation of platform. The lighting effects have been keyed much tighter as well, with lightning reflecting on the ground, multiple sources accurately tracking across every body on screen, and more. It's a much tighter, more-polished looking game, and that helps you focus even more on the pulse-pounding action. Targeting auras, showing who you're locked onto for Force powers, are much less garish, making the game look more cinematic.

The other things that are tighter are the controls and the camera. I noted to Omernick that the Camera had been my number one complaint in my review of the 2008 and he told me "Yeah, we noticed that too." They actually focused on improving the camera so that players didn't get that sudden backed-into-a-corner "forehead view" before doing much of the lighting and model improvements. When actively trying to get the camera to mess up, I couldn't at all during the demo, which took place both indoors and out. The controls felt smoother and more responsive, and the timed button-pressing sequences for huge enemies have been much reduced; the heavy armor and AT-STs we took on in the demo only had a 2-button sequence each, something that is much welcomed to most gamers.

In trying to search for a complaint, based on this demo, well, that's the one thing that comes up short. The graphics, sound, controls, attacks are all improved. The pace is even faster than the first, which admittedly had its slow portions. There are more "oh s&#t" moments in this demo than in most action games full playthroughs. There was even a straight-vertical dive with full powers and attacks, making it even more satisfying  to knock TIE Fighters out of the sky. Yes, The Force Is Strong with The Force Unleashed II and I can't wait to get my hands on it again.

What do you most want out of Force Unleashed 2?

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