I loved the original Star Wars: The Force Unleashed when it came out, but it was not without its issues.
There were problems with using the force to grab the object you wanted to grab, a deep upgrade system that was perhaps a bit too complicated and some infuriating level design. But I played through the entire game, my son watching on in rapt attention, because at its heart it was terrific fun.
With Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, LucasArts hopes to bring back that fun, force-unleashed sizzle of the first game and combine it with tweaks meant to iron out some of those original game's problems.
The game also continues the storyline, having you take on the role of the clone of the first game's anti-hero, Starkiller, as he struggles to come to grips with his identity and fights Darth Vader's corrupting influence.
The first thing I noticed while playing through a level of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II at last week's GamesCom is how the team has added a bit of auto-locking to how you grab objects with the force. It's nothing over-the-top, but helps you quickly grab objects and enemies with the force and fling them where you want.
I found this most noticeable near the end of the demo when I had to grab Tie Fighters as they sped by, something that was always a bit tricky for me in the original.
The way the team solved the issue was by having the force lock on to the most sensible thing, but still allowing you to guide that if you're trying to grab an object that may not be front and center. Assistant producer Cameron Suey said the team also cut down on the amount of objects that you can interact with.
I was a bit disappointed when he pointed this out, but the reasoning, that too many interactive and destructible objects can clutter the play, makes a lot of sense. Once I got into the game, I hardly ever noticed it.
The game also added some new Jedi tricks. Force Sense, which you activate by pressing up on the controller's directional pad, draws a faint and disappearing line on the ground to show you where you need to be going next. It's subtle, but very helpful in some of those levels where you might be in a big area or forced to backtrack.
They also added the ability to use Jedi Mind Tricks on your enemies. The ability impacts enemies in a number of different ways. It can cause Stormtroopers to grab their head in pain and then suddenly run to their death in a laser shield or by jumping from a platform. It also can cause an enemy to turn on his friends and attack them. When you use the ability you can hear your voice faintly echoing in the area, letting you hear what things you're telling to the bad guys to make them lose it. It's a cool little touch.
Once you're powered up, pushing in both thumbsticks at the same time puts you in a Force Fury mode that significantly powers up your moves and blends them together, like allowing you to grab an AT-AT with the force and crush it into a ball, all while lighting shoots out of it.
The game includes a number of new enemies and giant enemies as well. The first of these was the Carbonite War Droid, a giant bot that carries a shield and can freeze you solid with a stream of carbonite and then shatter you.
While these giant enemies can take a lot more damage, and require a bit of creative thinking to get rid of, they're not too time consuming. Once they are stunned, for instance, you just need to approach them and tap a single button to do a cinematic kill.
Battles are, as always, an amazing thing to behold: Blending force powers and taking on waves of enemies while wielding dual light sabers never gets old. And this time around you can actually do quite a bit of cutting damage. During my battles I decapitated enemies, sliced off arms, legs, all of the above. While the game lets you do the damage, the instant cauterizing effect of the light saber means there's still no blood or gore.
Other changes to the game include a streamlining of the upgrade system, which means less choices, but also less time tinkering and more time playing. And you can customize your character and still collect saber crystals to change not just the color, but the effect of the weapons, like adding a disintegration ability to a blade.
In a typical play through of the game, you should be able to get about 75 percent of the content unlocked, Suey said.
And once you finish playing the single-player you can check out the Challenge Rooms, a collection of different areas that have you platforming through sections, solving puzzles, fighting and combining the three all with a timer.
After my time with the single player, I checked out a Domination Challenge, which was essentially a king of the hill match. My character started out in the center of a square platform with a large green circle in the center of it. The object of the match was to keep enemies from going into the circle for 45 seconds. As soon as an enemy got into the circle the countdown would stop.
The platform I was on had four bridges, one on each side, attached to it and throughout my play session a variety of enemies would come running down the different bridges and toward my platform. It took me a bit under three minutes to have the counter hit zero. Achieving a platinum award for the challenge requires doing in in under 55 seconds.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, even free of the story which I didn't see much of, looks like the perfect type of sequel to a game that shouldn't have sold better than it did. The team recognized what people loved about the game and added to it, but they also made the adjustments necessary to fix the minor flaws without making the game feel different.
I can't wait until October 26 when this game hits.