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The Force Unleashed 2 by Mark Griskey

The Force Unleashed 2

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The Force Unleashed 2 (Soundtrack) by Mark Griskey

The Force Unleashed 2
Composed by Mark Griskey
Promo (2010)

Rating: 8/10





Music used by permission from LucasArts

“The action sequences are a truly fun and fantastic experience - as a video game should be…and, truthfully speaking, as anything Star Wars should be. ”


The Clone Strikes Back
by Christopher Coleman

Introduced to fans in 2008 was a new chapter of the ever-expanding, Star Wars universe; one that would shed some light on a brief, yet widely unexplored era of the Star Wars timeline. No. I'm talking about THE CLONE WARS here, but rather THE FORCE UNLEASHED. Instead of a feature film or television series, we are introduced to the anti-hero-turned-hero, Starkiller (aka Darth Vader's secret apprentice) via the video game medium. Accompanying the first chapter of this saga-connecting-tale, was MARK GRISKEY's adventurous score. Of THE FORCE UNLEASHED, I wrote in 2008, that it "was the best Star Wars score since RETURN OF THE JEDI" and to that I hold. While other current incarnations of Star Wars tales have opted to go in a different musical direction (drifting all the further from its classical origins), THE FORCE UNLEASHED provided a satisfactory musical bridge from the Prequels to the Original Trilogy; gracefully returning the franchise to its musical roots.

Fast forward to 2010 and THE FORCE UNLEASHED remains LucasArts fastest selling game to date and while having some minor, star-destroyer-flaws, was an adventurous joy to play. With those kinds of sales , it was almost a forgone conclusion that at least one sequel would be coming our way. This time; however, the stakes are higher as expectations are higher. Star Wars fans can hardly wait to continue Starkiller’s journey and for the Star Wars music fan, ears tremble with anticipation at the potential that lies in the expansion and variation of existing ideas as well as the introduction of new themes into the Star Wars canon. With such lofty goals and heavy expectations comes STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2.

As part 2 of, what we hope will be at least a 3-part story, one could assume that THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 might repeat tone and thematic ideas found in the second-installments of both film trilogies. One would be right. Things take a turn for the darker in this game sequel. Starkiller’s journey takes us to familiarly menacing settings like: Kamino and Dagobah and crosses paths with characters such as Boba Fett and Yoda. The argument rages to this day whether THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is the best of all the Star Wars scores, but few argue that Williams’ ATTACK OF THE CLONES score is anywhere in that conversation. So then, with commonalities with both second-act-films, where does THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 fall in terms of it’s score?

Before answering that question, I (as other reviewers have) must sadly say that the game itself is a far cry from its predecessor. Advances in the character animation and new force powers are among the best points of the game, but story, script, and even voice acting pale in comparison to the first. And those those elements always have some influence on one’s appreciation (or lack thereof) for the associated original score, but we’ll be giving it our best shot at looking at the music on its own here.

Once again MARK GRISKEY returns as lead composer, which was certainly a good move in keeping musical consistency from the first game to the second. The in-game score is comprised of music from both the prequel and original trilogies and also thematic elements from the first game. With so much musical history to draw from, the end result could be a disjointed mish-mash of notes and ideas. Instead, I believe the original score in THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 to be even more cohesive than its predecessor.

As we know, JESSE HARLIN penned the games title theme - and a good theme it is; however, on its own it didn’t “feel” exclusive to the Star Wars universe. Even some of Griskey’s original themes for the game didn’t exude an overall connection to the whole that we can sense here in the sequel. A shorter game with less varied environments (which The Force Unleashed 2 definitely is) likely contributes to a more taught feel to the score, but, on the flipside, doesn’t give opportunity for as much musical diversity.

Thematically, Griskey and Harlin bring back the energetic title theme, now associated with the heroic, Starkiller; still counterbalanced by the dark apprentices’ motif. THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 has given Griskey and company the opportunity to better integrate the main motif into the personality of the score this time. Representation of the hero’s theme is fairly economical on this promo release. We hear it just after an unusually pensive introduction to a Star Wars score, in “Main Title and Test Chamber” (1). (In the game, we hear the famous title crawl music first, of course). We get a fuller, more action-oriented adaptation in “Fighting the Gorog” (5), a slower, more dramatic presentation early in “Discovering Dagobah” (6), and perhaps most interesting of all, a clever variation of the title theme commingled with Darth Vader’s Theme/The Imperial March in “Assault on Kamino” (7). All in all, the original title theme for The Force Unleashed and likewise the character of Starkiller are more deeply and smoothly grafted into Star Wars' musical galaxy.

THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 makes ample use of musical elements found in second chapters of both the prequel and original trilogies. As mentioned, we occasionally get The Imperial March, but there’s much more. From ATTACK OF THE CLONES, Griskey integrates Williams’ mysterious “Kamino motif” and rightfully so, as much of this game takes place on the water-covered planet of those Cloners. “The Hanging City” (4) is ripe with dark strings that are no far cry from Williams’ musical depiction of the sandstorms of Tatooine in Episode 1. In “Discovering Dagobah” (6), we are treated to that rare yet wonderful dissonant element that we first heard back in 1980, as we followed Luke into that “slimy mudhole” of a planet and right into the dark cave of testing. This time we follow Starkiller and his experiences there are depicted in a diverse piece ranging from hellish shrieks of dissonant strings, brass and percussion to the heavenly, flute-lead, inclusion of the game’s love theme (ie. Juno’s theme). Griskey Connects the Juno theme to Attack of the Clones further as he puts an “Across the Stars” spin on the theme in “The Reunion of Juno and Starkiller” (9). Lastly, as we reach the conclusion of the game and this promo release, Griskey has one last Imperial connection for us. After the romantically climactic segment of track 9, it’s final measures tease with a quote of Boba Fetts motif. 

As with any franchise with so much history, the musical analysis could go on ad nauseum (and perhaps I already have), so before this review concludes, it must be said loud and clear where MARK GRISKEY’s work truly excels in THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2. The action sequences are a truly fun and fantastic experience - as a video game should be…and truthfuly speaking as anything Star Wars should be. Albeit, during gameplay, it is seriously difficult to appreciate Griskey’s efforts. As a gamer, one is likely doing more running and fighting than listening to music at such times, so being able to step aside and just take in the music is quite an experience on its own.  Five of the nine promo tracks, are, what I’d consider, action pieces; each one having it‘s own vibe - averting listener fatigue and going beyond just about any single action piece you can dig out from Williams‘ prequel scores. “Escape from Kamino” (2) is constructed in the tradition of the first game with pulsating orchestra, fast string runs and a segment used in “Approaching Felucia” from the first game. “Fighting the Gorog” (5) might be the most memorable set-piece from the game and to accompany the larger-than-life-enemy, Griskey delivers an onslaught of percussive and low brass blasts that is as relentless as the big, beast you face. The climactic “Assault on Kamino” (8) delivers the most classic Star Wars action cue of them all. Beginning pensively, the track bursts into The Imperial March/Starkiller arrangement and then quickly moves into a segment right out of the final action scenes of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as Leia, Lando and company seek to rescue Han Solo from that bounty hunter. It’s a wonderfully timed and integrated homage that, while playing the game, goes virtually unnoticed, but listening to such tracks on their own turns out to be equally entertaining.

Almost as intriguing as what Griskey and Harlin decide to include in the score, is what they choose to reduce or NOT to include at all. I believe the in-game music does include a nod or two to the theme for the Rebel Alliance, but it’s nowhere to be found as an integrated motif of one of the promo tracks. General Kota’s theme is highly diminished from it’s original prominence - only noticeable in “Arrival on Cato Nemoidia” (3), “The Hanging City” (5) and "Reunion of Juno and Starkiller" (9). Proxy’s playful, droid motif is  nowhere to be found on this promo either; likely due to his similarly diminished role and unsuitability given the story’s more somber tone. 

As it stands, the future of THE FORCE UNLEASHED franchise is cloudy at best. As the Dagoban saying goes, “Always in motion is the future.” The standard that the first game, and even it’s DLC, set was evidently too high for a fast-turn-around-sequel to match.  Who knows what the future holds for the franchise, but the success of the first game alone warrants a completion of Starkiller’s story arc. Regardless of the level of success THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 ultimately obtains, music fans can certainly find solace in composer MARK GRISKEY’s original score - as it remains a true highlight of the game once again.  THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2 offers a greater cohesiveness than the first, but sadly, the brevity of the game negatively cascades into fewer environments, fewer characters; hence, fewer opportunities to expand the scores scope.  That said, there is no doubt that this is another effort worthy of an official soundtrack release.  Hopefully, we'll get just that.

Rating: 8/10

 

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Main Title and Test Chamber 4:48  ****
2 Escape from Kamino 5:38  *****
3 Arrival on Cato Neimoidia 3:20  ***
4 The Hanging City 6:20  ****
5 Fighting the Gorog 5:44  *****
6 Discovering Dagobah and the Cave 6:58  ****
7 Aboard the Salvation 6:52  ****
8 Assault on Kamino 5:36  *****
9 The Reunion of Juno and Starkiller 4:21  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 50 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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