Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 Review

Posted on November 4, 2010 by

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I’ll be honest with you. I hate Star Wars. I despise everything about it, except Han Solo, who is made of awesome. And I say this as a massive fan of Star Wars. I say it as a man who owns not one, but two Force FX lightsabers, all of the movies (By which I mean the original trilogy) and a large number of (but far from all of) the video games. Why do I subject myself to so much Star Warsy action if I hate it, you wonder. Well, it’s because while I hate everything it has become over the years, the stupid prequels, the boring cartoons, the always canon except when it contradicts itself Expanded Universe literature (And I use the word Literature advisedly), I love the idea of Star Wars, and I love the way it makes me feel. It makes me feel like a little kid again. Like that little kid who got the Special Edition trilogy on VHS for christmas and watched the tapes until they wore out, who ran around in the garden with an X-Wing going “Whoosh! Neeeeown!” and suchlike. Because there are very few things in this world that evoke feelings like that, I am willing to put up with everything that is evil and corrupt about Star Wars. Fortunately, Recent Star Wars Video Games have proved to be (more or less) consistently brilliant.

Now, I’m not talking about KOTOR here, that game’s brilliance is undisputed. The Jedi Knight games were equally epic. Battlefront? Sublime. But the Star Wars game that divided critics and gamers and fans alike was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Because while it looked and played like the prequel movie trash it followed on from, it felt like the original movies, and it got being a Jedi almost as spot-on as Arkham Asylum got being the gosh darned Batman did.

I’m not here to talk about that, though. My review for it can be found here in case you want to hear more from on the subject, but for today I am talking about the sequel. Now, sequels are always tricky. Temple of Doom, while still a good movie, is undoubtedly the worst Indiana Jones movie (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull DID. NOT. HAPPEN), while The Empire Strikes Back is by a long way the best Star Wars movie. So, does Force Unleashed 2 live up to the good (sort of) name of Star Wars? Let’s find out.

Well (first game spoilers ahoy, folks) things start out six months after the end of the first game, with Vader on Kamino, training/testing a new clone of (the still preposterously named) Starkiller, the protagonist from the first game who died at the end. Vader still hopes to use Starkiller’s incredible force power to his own ends and maybe depose the Emperor or something, I dunno, his motives are totally impossible to gleam this time around. That said, I had no idea what the hell Vader was planning in the first game either, so not much has changed there, at least.  This newest clone of our ex-hero, who has all the memories of the original, decides to go find his vaguely Australian love interest Juno instead of doing evil or whatever, because being the good guy worked out so well for him last time.

He proceeds to break out and escape Kamino, and it’s here that you get to see how things have changed. Starkiller now wields not one, but two lightsabers (both still held gangsta-style) and lightsaber combat is much more fluid and useful than last time around, when I just spammed force lightning for everything, although you only have to use lightsabers because the game cheats. That’s right, it friggin’ cheats. It throws bad guys at you who have resistance to lightsaber attacks, or immunity to force attacks, or can fly, or have shields, or can teleport (where in the name of mighty Cthulhu was all this tech in the original trilogy, exactly? The alliance wouldn’t have stood a damn chance!), forcing to mix up your fighting style, which would be fine, except it decides to throw all these guys at you at once, and they don’t politely wait their turn to take shots at you, making you feel less like the most powerful force user since Darth Revan and more like a desperate and seriously outnumbered guy who is getting through each and every fight by sheer luck. This bizarre feeling of weakness is only compounded by set-pieces where Starkiller hauls starships out of the way of his crashing cruiser and wrecking up massive arenas to rescue one of his old buddies. The only times you ever feel particularly unleashed is when you have next to no actual control of Starkiller.

Force powers are all the same, Grab, Push, Lightning and Repulse, although he has learned how to perform mind-tricks, which are about as useful as a rape alarm on Anne Widdecombe, and which feel frankly weaker than in the original game, though maybe that has something to do with there being a huge amount less stuff you can bend, break and generally obliterate with your mighty powers this time around.

Something that confuses me at this point is the canonicity of this game. While Star Wars games, and indeed, everything with the Star Wars label, is generally in canon, both endings of this game left me feeling somewhat ‘wait, what?’. While I was willing to accept the first game could fit into canon (if just barely) the sequel introduce plot holes that would be better termed chasms. Possibly Canyonous. Yes, it’s a word now. The existence of a guy like Starkiller is something I really would have thought the Rebellion would want to tell Luke Skywalker about the second they found out he was force-sensitive (then again, Luke being the dick that he is, I don’t recall him telling anyone in the movies until Return of the Jedi…)

Force Unleashed 2 feels less like Star Wars and more like God of War with Lightsabers, right down to spamming you with repetitive enemies, pitting you against massive set-piece bosses and even having bits where Starkiller is plummeting downwards at high speed, avoiding obstacles, which feels suspiciously similar to that bit in GoW 3

Graphically, it’s on par with the original. The lines are smoother, but everything seems to look a bit more… cartoony. The soundtrack basically recycles old music from the six movies and previous game, so while it’s not bad, it could be better. Gameplay is generally improved on the original, tightened up, better controls, targeting is vastly improved, but the total lack of any boss battles against Jedi (or sith) like in the original was a major let down, as was the teased confrontation with Boba Fett (Yeah, I know Starkiller kicked his ass in that Infinities DLC for the original, but it’s non-canon) that never happened. The game was too short, didn’t have enough (any) memorable fights and feels kind of rushed. Then again, based on the blatant sequel hook at the end, I can only assume they’re working on cranking out a third as soon as possible. While it’s not as brief as Modern Warfare 2, this game took me roughly six hours to beat on normal difficulty, and probably would have been shorter still on easy.

It’s an interesting dichotomy of a game. So much has improved, and yet I can;t say it’s a better game than the first. A star Wars fan will buy it and play it anyway, and it’s certainly good. But it also feels like a lot of wasted potential to be great. If you’re not a big Star Wars fan but you want a competent brawler, you should consider maybe renting this. If you are a Star Wars fan, I recommend playing it just to get a halfway decent Star Wars fix, because god knows that Clone Wars crap isn’t doing it for anyone.

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Posted in: Games, Review