Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 had so much potential. The first game had the rare characteristics of being an amazing experience while being riddled with problems. That presented the unique opportunity to create a sequel to fix the shortcomings and make something special, something Star Wars fans have been dreaming of for over three decades. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
The Force Unleashed 2 tries to expand on the first game with a more focused story. Starkiller, who was killed at the end of the first game, is awoken in the cloning factory on Kamino. Darth Vader says he is one of many unsuccessful attempts to clone the original secret apprentice; however, Starkiller himself is uncertain of the truth. Nevertheless, he and his master fail to see eye to eye when Starkiller 2.0 refuses to kill a droid impersonating his former love interest Juno Eclipse. Realising the Dark Lord would destroy him for failing the task, Starkiller hits Vader with a quick blast of force lightning and flees the planet. Caring for nothing else, Starkiller is determined to save the real Juno amidst an intergalactic war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
The more streamlined story focuses on Starkiller’s desire to be reunited with his true love, but feels like it’s missing sizable chunks. Everything is immensely under-explored and crucial moments are skimmed over in what turns out to be a very short game, clocking in at around 5 hours. The narrative follows Star Wars ideals and takes place in the relatively ignored time period between the two film trilogies, but it never feels like it’s going anywhere. The Rebels are preparing to launch a final attack against the Empire, something that could have comprehensively explained their dire state in A New Hope, but alas, it’s overlooked for the relatively boring story of Starkiller and Juno, and even that is hardly convincing. In the end, nothing memorable happens; it’s like there is an epic history-in-the-making event happening off-screen, but we’ve been sent to report on the boring subplot.
Combat is fun to begin with but quickly becomes stale and repetitive. Starkiller has an array of powerful attacks combing the best of the light and darkside of the Force. Starkiller’s behind-the-back dual lightsabers are back and as deadly as ever. Combined with a number of combos that make use of force lightning, push, grip and mindtrick, Starkiller is one badass dude; if anything a little too badass, as he starts with all of the abilities that had to be unlocked in the last game. Convincing Stormtroopers to jump to their demise or blowing them up with an almightily blast of the Force is still awesome and a treat to power-hungry Jedi wannabes. That’s the best of The Force Unleashed 2. Taking weaker enemies and dispatching them using everything in Starkiller’s repertoire.
That’s where it all goes horribly wrong for The Force Unleashed 2. I would have been happy dominating Stormtroopers all day, but it attempts to inject boring droids and other enemies with half-assed reasoning as to why they are immune to force or lightsaber attacks. Fighting anything besides a horde of stormtroopers is tedious. Larger enemies are not consistent with Starkiller’s power and are strangely tough and opponents that require a specific tactic, of which there are many, are dull and boring. Towards the end of the game enemies that can only be killed with force attacks and others that are only susceptible to lightsabers appear together. It’s an awful cheap tactic and makes for terrible gameplay. Even worse are the poor attempts at boss battles. These are essentially even bigger annoying enemies that require you to follow a pattern of attacks and then finish them off with an action-sequel of button pushes during the final cut-scene. Combat goes from fun to “when will it be over?” in a matter of minutes.
The biggest probably with The Force Unleashed 2 is its laziness. The gameplay is basically a copy & paste of the first game and the story is boring. Enemies and tasks are repeated constantly and areas are either reproduced several times in each level or they look so similar, everyone is going to think that anyway. There are only so many times you can deflect a missile at an AT-ST and still have fun, but you’re guaranteed to fight at least 30 of them, and each plays out exactly the same. Gameplay, then, becomes a matter of “and repeat.” The first 30-60 minutes are quite entertaining, but the subsequent 4 hours are just a matter of repeating it all again.
The most disappointing moment comes when Starkiller finally confronts Vader. Sorry if I’ve spoiled the moment for anyone, but the boss battle that ensues is not worthy to attach itself to the Star Wars name. It makes The Phantom Menace look like a piece of literary genius. The battle is split into two parts. The first becomes super repetitive as Vader sends his minions on you, despite constantly reassuring everyone that he’ll easily defeat Starkiller. That goes on for way too long. During that time the game enters short action-cinematics where Vader and Starkiller exchange words and the player has to press the corresponding button when it appears on screen. Even these are repeated. Vader told me I was “a fool to fight him alone” about four times in our lackluster battle for supremacy. The whole thing was an absolute disgrace and will exist only to disappoint every Star Wars fan on the planet.
Credit where credit is due and The Force Unleashed 2 looks fantastic. Starkiller’s acrobatics have him twisting and turning all over the screen and he never misses a beat thanks to some wonderful character design. The weather effects are next to none and close to the best I’ve ever seen in a video game. The characters look realistic and the levels and backgrounds are about the only fan service the game offers. The only downside once again comes from repetition. One level has four windows next to each other that are likely to break during the heat of battle. They all break in exactly the same places, leaving mirrored debris. It’s small things like this that hold back the otherwise brilliant visual design. The music draws on a wealth of Star Wars tracks and sound effects and plays its part to a tee.