*WARNING SPOILERS BELOW*
(References made to the ending of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed)
The original Star Wars: The Force Unleashed made a lot of promises… and while it lived up to some of the hype, other seemingly cheap and sloppy design decisions ultimately ruined the experience. Being granted the ability to wield the Force as never before was pretty mind-blowing and the action was fast and (for the most part) fun. The story, while fairly obscure, fit well into the overarching canon of the Star Wars universe. Then it was announced that Lucas Arts was working on a sequel. I, like many other disappointed yet fanatical fans, felt my inner Padawan swell with hope. Surely they would make up for their past misdeeds? But as has been the case far too often in recent years, we are once again let down by the franchise we love more than any other. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II reminds me a great deal of the prequel movies… flashier certainly, but supremely disappointing overall, a mere husk of it’s superior predecessors.
The game begins with Darth Vader descending to the planet of Kamino. Inside a massive cloning facility he opens a chamber revealing Galen Marek, also known as Starkiller. But wait… huh? If you played the first game and did the "good guy" ending then you know Starkiller died. He sacrificed himself, allowing his friends to escape and thus creating the Rebel Alliance and setting in motion everything that was to follow. So this must be… a clone? Can they clone Jedi? If you know the canon of Star Wars outside of the movies you know this subject has been explored… but it never worked. The subjects would go mad after a short time (otherwise, why not make the Clone Army out of Jedi clones? D’uh!).
Starkiller the clone has one thing on his mind, finding the beautiful Juno Eclipse, the only good and pure thing in a life tormented by Vader, the only person who brought him peace. He’s haunted by visions of her, by dreams that can’t be his own for he is just a clone… or is he? Go ahead and cue the dramatic music (*rolls eyes*)...
And that’s pretty much it… the story never develops beyond that point. It’s weird... the plot is based on a flawed premise, never goes anywhere, and doesn’t resolve anything in the end. There is no satisfying conclusion explaining the mystery of Starkiller’s origins, nor does it answer any of the questions it poses. Now, I know I shouldn’t expect too much considering the drivel that has been coming out of Skywalker Ranch since the middle of Return of the Jedi, but come on! I don’t think a cohesive plot is too much to ask for... this borders on insulting your fanbase. Even cameos by Yoda and Boba Fett can’t save it. And the sad truth is that it actually pisses me off more that they were included because it just means that they were trying to placate their audience.
While the story is a waste, there some improvements to the gameplay that make The Force Unleashed II a bit more bearable. Starkiller now wields dual lightsabers. Plus, he has a new Force power, the famous Jedi mind-trick, at his disposal. But apart from these minor additions not much has changed from the first game.
The dual lightsabers are pretty much just a cosmetic upgrade; your combo options are still pretty limited. It looks cool though:^) However, you can now dismember Stormtroopers as you slash your way through them by the hundreds. It’s not as gory as say Ninja Gaiden 2, but it is pretty satisfying.
Starkiller’s Force powers are still amazing; you'll feel invincible once you get used to using the controls. The Jedi mind trick is cool, but obviously isn’t going to be employed in huge areas and on multiple enemies. Why not? Well, because while all the good aspects of gameplay are back, so are the bad ones. The camera is still awful and the targeting system is still rubbish. Trying to target a particular enemy to attack his brethren ends up being an exercise in frustration. I’m really surprised by this considering the fanboy outcry after the first time around... I’d have thought the good people at Lucas Arts would have paid more attention, or at least made more of an effort.
But I always try to give credit where it’s due, they did decide to move the prompts for the ‘Quicktime’ events out to the periphery so you can at least enjoy Starkiller’s Jedi awesomeness in action. Oh, and it seems like they gave you slightly longer this time to react, which is also welcome.
I loved the fact that you could customize your lightsaber in the first game, and now that you have two in the sequel; well it’s twice as nice. The crystals now combine color with a different property like sapping life force from your enemies or improving your health regeneration. The only downer is you can't mix and match color with a particular attribute this time around. Oh, and I’ll mention that the infamous black lightsaber is back, but now there is a white one as well! Equipping both at the same time looks pretty awesome… but then I’m a pretty huge Star Wars nerd so take that with a grain of salt.
A word about the graphics… the cutscenes look absolutely fantastic. I can really only think of one or two other titles that can compare. The actual game itself looks as good as it did before, with stunning environments and good animations. The water effects in particular are impressive, rain swept Kamino looks amazing.
All of the classic Star Wars sound effects along with John Williams legendary score provide the authenticity we have come to expect. But then the dark side rears its ugly head… the voice acting this time around is just awful, as in almost laughably bad. I don’t know if the writing is just that limiting, but Starkiller in particular puts in a performance that would make Hayden Christensen wince.
One last thing to mention about The Force Unleashed II… it’s short. I was actually surprised how quickly it ended. Sure, the first game wasn’t particularly long either and revisiting each level was a cheap and tawdry trick to drag it out, but at least it lasted a little while... otherwise you just feel ripped off, especially if you paid full price.
I don’t know… I think I need to learn to temper my expectations when it comes to anything Star Wars related. As it was, my annoyance with The Force Unleashed II was almost palpable. While there were some minor additions, none of the major problems from the first title were really addressed. The story was crap; based on a flawed premise that adds insult to injury by not going anywhere and not answering the fundamental question it was based upon. As a result, while it’s essentially more of the same with a slight makeover, it actually turns out to be a bigger disappointment than the first… and that’s saying something!
Oh well, at least you didn’t have to try and pull down a Star Destroyer in this one…
Score = 7.0 / 10