Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Review
The Force Unleashed 2 is, without a doubt, one of 2010's biggest disapointments. The sequel to 2008's good but very imperfect The Force Unleashed, TFU2 falls short on just about every count. This isn't just a mediocre game, unfortunately. This is a game with a bucket load of unrealised potential, and bearing witness to just how close LucasArts have come to a real gem is incredibly frustrating.
The story continues the saga of Starkiller, Darth Vader's secret apprentice, recruited under the pretense of overthrowing the Emperor but ultimately betrayed, forming the Rebel Alliance in the process. The game follows the “light side ending” from the original, meaning Starkiller never actually survived the first game. Obviously that's a slight issue, considering an entirely new game is being built on his story arc. LucasArts evade this by introducing Darth Vader's efforts to clone Starkiller. As is mentioned, cloning a Jedi has never been achieved, but you play as the galaxy's first example that it can be done. Unfortunately, in all previous cases, subjects have lost their minds within months: will your Starkiller Clone suffer the same fate?
It's an interesting prospect, one that's given precisely no further examination. Like most of TFU2's story elements, the fascinating concept is presented, with its promises of great drama and storytelling unfulfilled by the end of the game. Take, for example, Juno Eclipse's storyline. Starkiller Clone has memories and visions from his past life, including feelings for Juno. The idea of somebody being in love with someone they've never met is utterly fascinating, truly tapping into one of the defining themes of our times; through the internet, people can fully know each other inside out and never even meet. This is a prospect unique to now, and the discourse surrounding it is intense. So, TFU2 has a fascinating, unique and, importantly, incredibly relevant theme running through it. Unfortunately, again, by the end of the game the idea hasn't been mentioned, let alone explored, at all.
It's not just the story's themes that feel unfinished. The story itself seems like it ends just as it starts: this is a very, very short game. Even the much touted appearances of Yoda and Boba Fett are so brief as to be utterly pointless. Surprisingly, for such a short game, the levels feel very stretched out. Over the course of the game, there are only really four seperate environments, one of which you'll spend all of 90 seconds in. Two of these environments, Kamino and Cato Neimoidia are initially stunning. The level of graphical detail and imagination truly brings these worlds to life. It's just such a shame that you're forced to spend so long in each area, especially seeing as the combat is so uninspired.
It all starts well enough: you have a few lightsaber attacks and force powers, and they're fun to use. There's more to unlock later, as well as more enemies to come. You'd be forgiven for thinking that with the addition of new moves and enemies, the game would develop some depth. You'd be wrong. Different enemies require different approaches to defeat. Large groups of disparate enemies should provide an interesting challenge, yet, in short, they don't. You'll just defeat each enemy individually in order of threat. Or, like me, upgrade your lightsaber throw skill and annihilate everyone in a few seconds before they get too close. It's a real shame, because the combat and force power system is varied, accessible and authentic. Like most of TFU2, it just hasn't been fully implemented. Even the progression system from the first game is undone here, as the game is so short you'll be up to “monstrously powerful” before you know it.
So, the story is underdeveloped, and the gameplay is underdeveloped. Luckily, this is one stunning looking and sounding game. The cutscenes are nearly CG movie quality, an enormous step up from the first game. Gone are the dodgy facial animations and occasionally clunky framerates. The game runs smoothly and looks great, except for some bland and repetitive corridors. The PC version of the game has been reported as being full of bugs, including everything from texture glitches to full crashes. The soundtrack is barely worth mentioning: it's a Star Wars game, therefore it's top notch. The voice acting is thoroughly believable, Sam Witwer in particular excels as Starkiller, fully inhabiting the character and making the most of the thankless task of bringing this half-developed story to life.
The Force Unleashed II is, more than anything, disappointing. Despite looking and sounding great, the technology is wasted on a few bland environments, an uninspired combat system and a completely undeveloped storyline. The worst part of all is seeing how much potential there was here for a truly great game. There are some standount moments, especially involving the new freefalling mechanic (one in particular involving an especially creative way of dealing with an energy field). Overall, it's worth a play for die-hards, and casual gamers who get a kick out of lightsaber combat may want to give it a try, but the five hour campaign is definitely not worth full price.