Sometimes, you get what you pay for. The first premium downloadable content for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, the Endor Bonus Mission, will set you back 80 Microsoft points ($1), which seems about right for this short bit of Force-flinging bluster. The add-on's highlights are its environments, which contrast nicely with each other and make it easier to overlook how tight and linear the levels they dress up really are. And perhaps like so many Star Wars fans, you've always dreamed of jamming a lightsaber into the torso of a yammering Ewok, in which case, you'll be glad to finally get that chance many times over. Unfortunately, this brief mission pack is on the sloppy side. The appearances of several beloved Star Wars characters are soiled by poor character models and terrible animations. The two boss fights are too easy, as is the basic (but entertaining) combat surrounding them. Fans will appreciate the price, but this mission doesn't improve upon its disappointing foundation. (Please note: The following text includes a mild spoiler for those who haven't played Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.)
The tidbits of story seem pulled directly from mediocre Star Wars fan fiction. Like the original Force Unleashed's DLC, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II -- Endor Bonus Mission assumes you concluded the full game by aligning with the dark side of the Force. As a clone of series protagonist Starkiller, your duty is to protect a shield generator on the planet of Endor from attacking Rebel forces. Given the content's 40-minute length, it's not surprising that most of the narrative comes by way of the expository scrawl that opens your adventure. What is so surprising is just how cavalier your encounters with a few well-known characters are. The dark turn of events that ends the first confrontation is treated with the same lack of loving care George Lucas gave the special-edition DVD releases of the original Star Wars trilogy.
It's the final meeting with another fan-favorite character that is the most disappointing, however. A character that should not be wielding a lightsaber at this stage is suddenly a Jedi knight and speaks a line of dialogue as if to explain away this incredible twisting of Star Wars history. The final cutscene, featuring a previously powerful Star Wars icon gone suddenly submissive, is the bizarre end to this narrative. In the past, this series' downloadable content has always presented alternate-history scenarios to more or less positive effect, given that the premises seemed reasonably plausible. This twist isn't amusing or fascinating; it's just odd and out of place. The low quality of the animations speaks volumes about the lack of care given to the appearances of these characters. In cinematics, they move as if they're missing every third frame of animation, and jarring camera transitions further emphasize the lack of fluidity. Furthermore, poor facial animations and hair that looks pasted on (among other visual factors) make it look like PlayStation 2 character models were thrown into this attractive modern-day game. And don't expect the voice-overs to match their film counterparts; in one case, it's not even close.
The Ewoks you battle in the first half of the mission pack have some problems of their own. Killing one might cause it to zoom directly into the air and fall back to earth, for example. Yet the action here, while easy, is more enjoyable than that in the full game and has a fair bit of variety considering its length. Ewoks fling projectiles at you with their slings, bombard you from above in gliders, and charge directly at you, giving you plenty of chances to silence their annoying cries. There are a few puzzles and platforming bits to break up the pace as well, including a well-developed series of timed dashes requiring you to use Force push. The two lovely environments you do battle in also enhance the fun. Endor's forests are easy on the eyes, while an abundance of glowing red lights and crackling electricity enliven the facility featured in the second half of the adventure. It's too bad the two boss fights aren't very challenging. The change of pace to focused one-on-one fights is nice, but these aren't taxing battles, so if you are a Force Unleashed II veteran, plan on increasing the difficulty level straight away. The second boss in particular is too predictable, which dampens the potential joy in emerging victorious.
The Endor Bonus Mission is a missed opportunity to enhance an unsatisfying game, yet the low-low price tag takes the edge off the drawbacks. This add-on is no more creative than the various downloadable missions bolted on to the first Force Unleashed game. The story takes the alternate-history approach beyond the limits of taste, and a few careless aspects intrude on the otherwise attractive visuals. Nevertheless, you still get some good-looking locales, some entertaining action, and the chance to send squealing Ewoks to an early grave for only a buck. The low cost doesn't make this content good, but it does make it a worthwhile consideration for anyone hoping to practice their saber swinging.