Star Wars: The Force Unleashed had its share of flaws, but it still provided a healthy dose of saber-slicing, Force-flinging action that made it fun to destroy the Wookiees, Jawas, and stormtroopers that got in your way. The Force Unleashed II provides similar delights on occasion, but overall, this sequel is less enjoyable, less varied, and shorter than the game that came before it. The art design, while less diverse than that of the original, is still impressive, and the story, while less emotionally convincing, is still dotted with poignant moments. But the frustrations of the original haven't been improved in any meaningful ways, and an incredibly bland final boss battle brings a decent action game to a limp conclusion. In many ways, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is more of the same, which might be fine for Star Wars fans looking for a new excursion into the stars. But it has none of the spark or diversity of the first game, and a handful of extraordinary cinematic moments aren't enough to compensate.
6283024Starkiller proves why he lives up to his name.None
The story is The Force Unleashed II's first notable element. On the watery planet of Kamino, Darth Vader hovers over a familiar figure. It looks to be Starkiller, the original game's leading man and Vader's unauthorized apprentice. But is it really Starkiller--the one said to have sacrificed himself for the Rebellion? Thus, you step into this man's shoes and begin your search for the truth, not to mention the search for Juno Eclipse, Starkiller's former pilot and lover. Excellent voice acting and facial animations give cutscenes emotional impact, and a sequence near the end of the game in which you are plagued by visions is a great touch that melds storytelling with gameplay. It's unfortunate that a lengthy central stretch that focuses on the combat needs of the Rebellion brings the narrative to a halt. In general, you spend less time getting to know Starkiller (or is it Starkiller?) and the supporting cast this time around, so the story arc isn't as fulfilling as it might have been. Yet while the sequel may not boast a story as substantial as The Force Unleashed's, it's both fitting and fulfilling. This is in part because it harks back to the original Star Wars trilogy, in which the action was not gratuitous but was granted context by human emotion and complicated relationships.
The game's art design is the other standout facet. On the world of Cato Neimodia, a rich color palette of gold, orange, and red makes an opulent palace come alive. In the final hour, the lights of looming edifices punctuate the murk. As in the first game, striking lighting and painted textures give many of your surroundings a warm, lush look. It's unfortunate that the drawn-out middle section squanders The Force Unleashed II's good looks as much as it squanders the story. The hangars and hallways capture the Imperial vibe, but the lack of diversity will have you missing the temple on Coruscant, the junkyards of Raxus Prime, and the fungal jungles of Felucia--all beautiful and prominent locations featured in the first game. A visit to an important planet in the Star Wars canon may have you excited to explore its humid regions, but there's little gameplay here, and you end up flying away to far less interesting places. A great deal of artistry went into making these locales leap off the screen, and it's regrettable that many of them are so similar that one bleeds right into the next.
There are a number of breathtaking vistas.
The lack of variety extends beyond the game's environments. While The Force Unleashed featured Jawas, Wookies, Felucian skullblades, Rodian rippers, drones, scrap creatures, and more (in addition to the expected troops and walkers), this sequel relies heavily on the same few enemies, repeated over and over again. Armed with your dual sabers and some of the same basic Force powers of the original, you leave behind a trail of stormtroopers, AT-ST walkers, and other trooper and walker variants. You do so by slashing them with your dual lightsabers, zapping them with Force lightning, flinging them back with Force push, and using Force grip to fling objects and enemies around. The powerful physics are still impressive to behold as you toss around barrels and grab TIE fighters out of the air, as is using Force repulse to clear away a crowd of menacing robotic spiders. However, like in the original, the targeting is still imprecise, though less maddeningly so. You can now lock the camera on to a particular enemy, but this pointless addition is of absolutely no help. You still grab objects other than those you intend, and you still fling junk in directions other than that of your target. And as before, the camera might insist on an unhelpful view in linear environments, of which there are more in this outing.