Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is one of those games that I really want to love. It has lightsabers, fun Force powers, and a direct conflict with Darth freakin’ Vader. If it had a pod racing minigame, I might have been completely sold regardless of the other gameplay’s quality.
The sequel once again follows Starkiller (real name: Galen Marek), Vader’s secret apprentice. Developer LucasArts wanted to expand on the “darker” elements of the story presented in the first TFU, with more complex emotional themes. Central to the storytelling is Starkiller - he’s an empathetic character, and doesn’t gravitate exclusively to either side of the Force.
TFU2’s story functions as though Starkiller defied the Emperor it the prequel, though players had the option to side with the Empire. That renders your choice (if you played the first game) pointless.
Still, Starkiller is relatable, unlike his master General Kota - the general had a lot of screen time in the first game, and was painted as a very “Obi-Wan” kind of character, but he takes a backseat to the apprentice this time.
Starkiller’s motivation is to discover who he really is; this Starkiller is a clone of the original, but he shares the memories of Juno (from the first game) among other things. Vader dismisses him as a failure, and Starkiller spends the rest of the game trying to find Juno and exact his vengeance against Vader.
Unfortunately, the second installment of the series fails to impress, and ends up being another lackluster, unfulfilling action-adventure title. It brings quality elements to the table, but even those are marred. Cutscenes are gorgeous, and facial animations could almost rival L.A. Noire, but gameplay visuals are only par with other action games. There’s nothing on the few game levels that really feels spectacular, and that visual “wow” is one of the elements that a great Star Wars game must have. When there are lightsabers and blaster pistols in your game, you have to make their effects pretty. No exceptions.
Even forgiving the ho-hum visuals, the game is mildly entertaining at best. Usually, it’s just frustrating; seemingly random deaths and unbalanced enemy difficulties had me cursing at the screen a few times per level. Luckily TFU2 has frequent autosave points, so an aggravating death doesn’t often mean backtracking. That’s a great thing, because there are plenty of times Starkiller will die in five hits from normal Sith enemies.
This all boils down to a God of War clone with a Star Wars skin slapped on top. Except the God of War games were all pretty intensive and had tons of enemies, finishes, and puzzles - TFU2 has fewer than a dozen stages and grants maybe 10 hours of gameplay. You face the same enemies level after level.
The game just feels rushed - they used Kamino twice and called it two different levels! - because it only spent 9 months in development. I understand the desire to pump out a sequel to the fantastic Force Unleashed quickly, but the complete gameplay change added to the premature release destroyed what could have been a fantastic installment in the Star Wars franchise.
On the upside, it’s around $10 used depending on where you buy, and it’s worth that much if you’re a Star Wars fan or you liked Starkiller. LucasArts hasn’t killed the third game in the series yet, so we might get a proper sequel yet.
+ beautiful cutscenes
+ Starkiller is an empathetic anti-hero
+ Only $10 used
- gameplay is simple
- some random, glitchy deaths
- levels feel repetitive and linear
- story way too short