Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Review

By Matt Keil - Posted Oct 26, 2010

Starkiller (or his clone?) returns in the sequel to the smash hit Star Wars brawler. Boasting improved combat and beautiful visuals, The Force Unleashed II should live up to the promise of the flawed original. But all is not as it seems...

The Pros
  • Much improved combat system and level design
  • Top quality voice acting and the beginning of an interesting story
  • Beautiful graphics and art design that capture the Star Wars look
The Cons
  • Incredibly short
  • Story is unfinished, ends in cliffhanger
  • Some stuttering when lots of stuff is happening at once

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 Review:

It’s no secret that I was not a fan of the first Force Unleashed. As a tremendous Star Wars fan, I really wanted to like it, but instead found a clunky, buggy mess of a game that lacked in nearly all departments aside from storyline. It was tremendously successful, though, so LucasArts would have been well within its rights to simply make the same thing again without tweaking anything. Thankfully, this isn’t what happened, as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II plays substantially better than its predecessor; however, something happened to make this sequel almost as unsatisfying as the first game.
 


 
Now there are two of them!
 
The Light Side ending of The Force Unleashed is taken as canon here, in which Starkiller sacrifices himself to delay the Emperor long enough to allow the fledgling Rebel Alliance to escape. Force Unleashed 2 begins with Vader training a clone of Starkiller (or is he?) but losing control over the situation. The clone can’t shake the memories of the original Starkiller, and breaks out of the facility on Kamino to escape and look for Juno Eclipse, the love interest from the first game.

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“Will he finish what he begins?”
 
The strange thing about the story in this game is that it’s unfinished. Some would call it a cliffhanger, but it ends at a very awkward point that feels more like the end of Act 2 than anything else. The game is extremely short, and will take most about five hours to finish. If you could bypass the unskippable in-engine cutscenes, you could probably do it in four. As was the case in the first game, the story is interesting in places and opens up intriguing doors, but this time none of those interesting things are explored. Starkiller rages for the length of the game and has no real character arc, just the beginning of one. After my first play session I believed I was about a third of the way through the game due to the story progression, only to discover I was two-thirds done.
 
There’s an oddly abbreviated feel to much of the game’s presentation and narrative. The much-touted Yoda appearance and Dagobah level are merely a few throwaway lines and a cutscene with no actual substance. Early PR boasted of Boba Fett’s presence in the game, but he appears for a few seconds at most in cutscenes and you never interact with him. Slave One gets more screen time than Fett, in fact. Finally, the fact that the game ends on a cliffhanger is mind-boggling. Repeated rumors state that The Force Unleashed III may have been put on “indefinite hold,” meaning the end of this tale will either never be told or else we’ll be paying through the nose for DLC to see the end of a story we already paid $60 for.
 


 

Faster. More intense.
 
Thankfully, the actual gameplay is a vast improvement. The clunky and repetitive nature of the combat and enemy design is mostly gone now, replaced by smarter foes who fit better into the Star Wars canon. No more stormtroopers with magic anti-Force bubbles here, now you have Sith apprentices who are good at defending against Force attacks but are weak to your dual lightsabers. Other troopers have anti-saber staffs as seen in Episode III, and must be dealt with using the Force. The game does a good job of mixing and matching enemy types to force you into using your entire arsenal, something the first game was dismal at. It’s worth noting that the previously weak lightsaber is now much more powerful, and is able to remove enemies’ limbs and/or head. The trick is getting in close without being torn up by blaster fire. To the game’s credit, there is no “best” ability in The Force Unleashed II, and while it’s certainly not operating on the level of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry 3, it’s a solid brawler with good balance.
 
The controls are much the same but slightly more responsive, particularly the Force Grip. Targeting what you wanted to grab and what you wanted to subsequently throw the grabbed object at was a serious pain in the first game. It’s still not perfect, but you’ll likely get Starkiller to do what you want 90% of the time. Response time is still a bit lower than it should be thanks to a few overly elaborate animations, but the interface frustration is largely gone in Force Unleashed II.
 
Level design and pacing, two more big issues with the first title, are possibly the most improved things here. Levels are expansive but don’t get dull, and a handful of boss battles break up the action right when it needs variety. Due to the short length of the game, you only go through three environments (four counting the ultra-brief Dagobah stage), and I definitely wish there had been more. Quality trumps quantity, I suppose. 
 


 

Impossible, even for a computer
 
Euphoria and Digital Molecular Matter are used to good effect, boasting an incredible level of detail. The use of water is particularly impressive, especially in the Kamino stages. The Xbox 360 version did have an issue with repeated stuttering when large amounts of particulate matter was being thrown around. Using Force Repulse on a crowd of enemies is almost guaranteed to cause the action to chug or freeze in place briefly. In a heavily timing-based game like this one, that pausing can absolutely ruin a combo or a missile deflection. I have not had the chance to test out the PS3 or PC versions of the game to see if this issue affects them as well.
 
Ten challenges are available to tackle in addition to the campaign, complete with leaderboard support. They’re short but tough, and achieving platinum medals on them will tax even the best players. In theory, this could make up for the short length of the campaign, if you find this kind of challenge mode engaging.



Eff you, too, FU2
 
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II remains a step up, but is held back once again by inexplicable shortcomings. The story is abbreviated and unsatisfying, and the length is unforgivably short for a full-priced title with no multiplayer to extend its play value. As the final scenes unfolded, I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. The story is simply unfinished, and the game itself is over just as it’s getting into a groove. If it felt like a full game, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II would be one of the most improved sequels I’ve ever played. The base gameplay is unquestionably a refinement of what was loose and clunky in the first game. It’s worth a rental, but be prepared to wonder where the last third of your game went as the credits roll.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?