Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II drops us back in control of Darth Vader's disobedient apprentice Starkiller as he searches for his love, the rebellion and himself.
This time around developers LucasArts promise us a game that's more about controlling a super-powered Jedi and less about finicky controls and an environment that was at times a bit too interactive. We take control of a powerful Jedi under the weakening-influence of Darth Vader. Starkiller this time around is a man who is told he is a clone, but doesn't quite believe it. One sucker Force blow into the opening sequence and we're free of Vader, once more trying to overthrow the Empire.
Gamers who love action, over-the-top powers and a chance to throw down with Darth Vader. There's not a lot of meat here, but there's also very little fat. So if you're up for a single-day, Star Wars-themed experience, this is a solid rental. Only the sort of Star Wars fans who like the second batch of Star Wars movies would like this game.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a broken game with a few pleasant surprises when it hit two years ago. It delivered spectacular Force-driven special effects, a chance to explore places only glimpsed in the movies and a neat tie-in to the fiction we grew up with. It also was loaded with glitches, a bad targeting system and some tear-inducing level design. With Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II LucasArts promises to fix all of that.
The ending of the original Force Unleashed wrapped things up nicely, how did they manage to create a sequel? Clones of course! And following in the footsteps of all Lucas movies, clones can only make things worse. The game opens with you being told you are the latest attempt at cloning Starkiller, but then you manage to catch Darth Vader off guard and break free of his space citadel. You spend the rest of the game mowing down hapless Stormtroopers, mechs and Sith-in-training as you try to "find" yourself and Juno, the love interest from the first game.
Does the story at least go somewhere interesting, like the first one did? There are two of endings. Neither are satisfying. One derails the Star Wars fiction and the other essentially highlights how unnecessary the entire game's story is.
OK, so the story didn't make the game worth playing. What about the settings? The first game let me explore some amazing places from the movies. Yeah, that was pretty great. Unfortunately none of those astounding, delightful moments are found in this sequel. Where The Force Unleashed had you playing through places like a still-in-construction Death Star, the Wookiee-infested lands of Kashyyyk and Tie Fighter factories, The Force Unleashed II has just four locations: the drab world of Kamino, the floating city of Cato Neimoidia, Dagobah and spaceship The Salvation.
Dagobah! That's right, Yoda is in this game! Yes and no. Yoda is in the game for less than a full minute. He's less interactive than is his hut, which you can at least look into. The entire planet of Dagobah, unfortunately, doesn't fare any better. The level is a linear dumping spot for power-ups and a chance to show off one terrific, but pointless cut-scene. There are zero enemies to be fought, zero puzzles to be solved. The five-minute-20-second Dagobah level is a walk through a swampy park, literally.
This sounds like a train wreck. There are things to recommend about the game. The decision to tweak the Force power targeting and cut down on how interactive the levels are does make for a much more enjoyable play through. (Though the game tends to hold your hand a bit too much) And those powers, those wickedly devastating powers, are still a joy to use. You can still combine your lightsaber attacks with lighting and Force Push and this time you wield twin blades. You can still grab Tie-Fighters out of mid-air and crush them into a ball. This time around you can also do things like decapitate Stormtroopers and sever their arms with twin lightsabers. The Jedi Mind Trick allows you to turn enemies into temporary allies or drive them insane so they run into the nearest deadly hazard. Power, especially Force Power, is always fun.
Is that all? The game is also spectacular to watch: The Force sending enemies skittering across floating cities, lighting chaining between Walkers and Sith, using your mind to bend open doors and grab rockets in mid-flight. Visually, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is a stunning game. But that's about the only way it's stunning.
The original Force Unleashed took quite a hit for not having multiplayer or a lot of replayability. How did Force Unleashed II do? Unfortunately this sequel manages to offer even less reason to play through the game. There is still no cooperative play at all and the difficulty settings do little to make the game more challenging once you've played through it once. Even on the highest, Unleashed, setting I found the game to be an uninteresting reminder of level flaws my second time through. The game's challenges, which at least allow you to compare scores with friends, are a boring mishmash of button mashing, insipid level rehashes. At least the Wii version has multiplayer.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II does manage to fix many of the issues that plagued the first game, but it also introduces a slew of new problems. The story I found so captivating in The Force Unleashed, is dragged back into life for the sequel, undermining much of that epic tale's original take. The level design, while not broken, is something far worse: Bland. Even the voice acting, which I loved in the original game, started to grate on my nerves halfway through the surprisingly short jaunt. Viewed as a Force-powered sandbox, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II gives you a chance to have fun decapitating Stormtroopers and tormenting Sith to suicide, but that's not worth a purchase.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II was developed and published by LucasArts for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on Oct. 26. Retails for $59.99. The Wii and DS versions were developed by another studio. A copy of the Xbox 360 version of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the single player campaign and both endings on the Xbox 360. Played some of the challenges. Experimented with costumes and lightsaber crystals.
Correction: The ability to grab and electrify objects and toss them across the screen like a bomb is not new to Unleashed II as I originally stated in the review.