It's always a bitch when things don't go as you planned, and "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2" marks the second time that Darth Vader's plans don't exactly fall into place for him and his secret apprentice. While it is really just another example in a long line of ill-conceived plans for The Dark Lord of The Sith, at least this one results in a fairly enjoyable, albeit short, video game documenting the second journey of Vader's apprentice, Starkiller. Things could have been worse, as we all know from "Episodes I" through "III."
In the time since "The Force Unleashed" ended, (SPOIELERS: assuming the ending where Starkiller died), Darth Vader has managed to figure out how to clone Jedi, and has made a perfect duplicate of Starkiller, complete with left over memories, in hopes that he will, once again, do his bidding. However, much like in the original game, this clone betrays the Dark Lord and sets out on a quest to save Juno Eclipse, the pilot of Rogue Shadow, and the object of the original Starkiller's affections. Beginning on the planet of Kamino, the Starkiller clone ventures throughout the "Star Wars" galaxy, taking him to a small handful of familiar destinations, where he runs into characters that will be recognizable to anyone that has played the original, as well as long time fans of the movies.
Think Of It As The Second Deathstar
A lot of people had problems with the first "Force Unleashed," from the controls to the bugs. The team at Lucas took some of these gripes into consideration and updated a few core mechanics of the game, making "Unleashed 2" a better-presented package. First off, the combo moves no longer require upgrades, with all of them being available at the beginning of the game. However, the Jedi skills still require a certain amount of Force Points to upgrade, which can be done twice for each of them. While it may be minor, "Unleashed 2" also offers a refined interface, making things more easily accessible, while prettying up the game at the same time.
As you hit certain major points in the storyline, "Unleashed 2" rewards you by unlocking challenges where you can test your Jedi skills. With ten in all, they're a great way for you to sharpen your use of Starkiller's various abilities while unlocking experience, costumes and bragging rights. Plus, they can add hours upon hours of gameplay, since attempting to complete them with a platinum rating is just as hard as trying to argue that Greedo shot first.
It's Definitely 'Star Wars'
From the opening cinematic to the closing battle, it's evident that "The Force Unleashed 2" is, for better or worse, a "Star Wars" game. It plays out much like many of the other facets of the intergalactic soap opera that fans have come to love (and hate). There are familiar faces, places, and themes that run throughout the game that do their best to tie together the series' loose story lines while introducing game changing ideas with little explanation (I mean really, mastering Jedi clones before "A New Hope." That would have changed everything!). Whatever your feelings, "Star Wars" fans will eat this stuff up for breakfast.
Vader Went Down Quickly
"The Force Unleashed 2" feels like it's over in less time than it takes Jabba the Hutt to strangle a slave, coming in at just six or seven hours. The game tries to pad it out with the option to replay it on a harder difficulty setting (while retaining your character upgrades) or to play through the challenges until you drive yourself mad, but it still feels short.
Recycling In A Galaxy Far Far Away
It's always disappointing to see a major developer take the age-old shortcut of recycling levels, but "Unleashed 2" does it shamelessly. Without spoiling too much of the plot, it becomes fairly apparent about midway through the story that there's a chance you may be heading back to a planet that you've already visited...and then you do. The developers change up the level a bit, but the fact remains, it's a lazy way to pad out your already-short gameplay experience.
Force Grip, You've Failed Me
For the most part, "The Force Unleashed 2" is a smooth gameplay experience, and that says a lot given the vast range of skills that Starkiller can master throughout the game, but there's one big exception: the force grip. One of the most menacing moves of both the Light and the Dark side, the force grip just doesn’t ever seem to work like you want it to. Sure, it's easy to pick up anything from a giant rock to a Stormtrooper, but best of luck correctly directing where you plan on throwing them. As a defensive move, Starkiller can catch oncoming rockets and is supposed to be able to throw them back at the droids that fired them, but, in all likelihood, they're just going to go straight up in the air. Force grip was a problem in the first game, and it apparently remains one. Your best bet in combat is to stick with the force lightning or your dual sabers.
Overall, "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2" isn't a bad game, with an epic battle or two, and plenty of service to keep fans happy. But, once you blow through the game in a few hours, there's not much left to enjoy. The story isn't as memorable as the first game it just seems like the title is missing the attention that "Star Wars" fans demand from LucasArts. It's hard to shake the feeling that the game was looking to cash-in on the astonishing success of the original, without bringing too much more to the table.