Written by Phil Bruton Thursday, 28 October 2010 07:15
This is not the sequel you are looking for...
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 puts you once again in the shoes of Starkiller, Darth Vader's secret apprentice. This time around though, it's Starkiller that's running the show. If you haven't played the first Force Unleashed game, I suggest that you do before you give this one a spin. Feel free to read my review of it, right here on GoozerNation! The story is decent Star Wars fare, with Starkiller getting away from Vader and going after Juno, but it feels very one-note. There isn't any depth to the story as there was in the first game. Not to mention, it's short. Really short. The game from start to finish took me just a hair over five hours on Normal to complete. Increased difficulty might add to the game, but the increased difficulty of enemies doesn't add much to the re-playability of the game.
The game and story might be short and a little lacking, but they did do a few things right. First of all, the game is just beautiful. Starkiller is very fluid in motion and the different backdrops that you play in are all very well crafted. Kamino in particular is just spectacular to look at. The only issue is that there isn't much variance between locales. The game is just too short to have many locations. I would really liked to have seen them return to Hoth or even Raxus Prime from The Force Unleashed. The sound, just like the first game, is spot on. Sweeping Star Wars themes and lightsaber swings have never sounded so good. The voice acting is excellent, as it was in the original.
This time around, they have removed the level structure that they had in place for The Force Unleashed. Now the game flows in one long motion, connected only by cutscenes. Gone are the days of completing secondary objectives such as collecting a certain amount of force points. Now you just need to move from one level to the next without even knowing where the breaks are. Luckily, LucasArts added a very generous checkpoint system to the game so if you do have to step away for a while, you can return right where you left off.
Combat is what will make or break a game such as this and they got it right, but perhaps it's, "too right." New to the series are Starkiller's dual lightsabers and the new Jedi mind trick force power. These are alongside the usual force lightning and force push, among others. Also new is the Force Rage ability, where Starkiller goes completely berserk and annihilates everything in sight. During this time you get increased damage from lightsabers, huge lightning blasts and large bursts of force power in your push. It's exhilarating to completely unload on a group of foes with Force Rage. Herein lies one of the main problems with The Force Unleashed 2. From the very beginning of the game you are a lightning slinging, mind controlling, force pushing machine. Enemies don't give you much resistance as you toss them around. Now don't get me wrong, it's very satisfying. I never tired of the combat, I just felt as if I was too powerful for the enemies that I was facing. The original game let you ramp into more powerful skills over the course of the game, picking and choosing what you want to level up. The Force Unleashed 2 gives you all the tools from the get-go and it feels unbalanced.
In the Force Unleashed, you fought against numerous different types of enemies. Jawas, Wookies, Rancors even! You won't find this sort of variance in the enemies in this game. Stormtroopers of about four different flavors peppered with an AT-MT or AT-ST once in a while is the main resistance that you'll encounter. The bosses are very far and few between; numbering less than five. LucasArts decided this time around to go with less variance in enemies, thus each one would be unique and would have a specific purpose. But what it did to the game was make it feel like you never had a change in pace. The random droids and wildlife of the first game are gone as well, leaving the hallways and corridors feeling lifeless at times.
Gone as well is the leveling system from The Force Unleashed. You still gain experience (force points) to level up your skills, but it's much less involved than the first game. Each time you level a skill, the difference is significant enough to warrant the change. I do wish they had made branching skill trees or something of that ilk so you could customize your character the way you wanted to play. Being proficient in lightsabers while sacrificing your force ability would have made for different experiences each time you played through the story. Instead, we're given a cookie cutter, literal line of skills that you can spend points on. Visual customization does come in the form of lightsaber crystals and outfits. The outfits in the game are purely cosmetic, but there are some that look pretty spectacular. The lightsaber crystals on the other hand do each have added bonuses that they give to Starkiller when equipped and I can't deny that wielding a Black and White lightsaber looks pretty awesome.
Outside the main story, there are challenges that you can do for medals, which gain you achievements/trophies. Your scores are uploaded so you can compare yourself with others playing the game. Holocrons are back as well, but they just don't have the same impact this time around. Finding them all will take a little bit of time, but it's just an artificial extension of the game.
The Force Unleashed 2 is unfortunately just a shell of it's former self. Less enemy types, less skills to level up, removal of actual levels are all strikes against The Force Unleashed 2. The story will be over almost as soon as it began and you will find yourself wondering where the other half of the game is. I'm as large of a Star Wars fan as the next person, but I can currently only recommend this as a rental or a Goozex trade. Perhaps there will be some DLC in the future that will flesh out the game somehow, but as it stands right now, the Force is not with this one.