Sequels in games work much like sequels in movies. There are those rare exceptions that really add something to the first and yet retain significance on their own. Then again there are plenty of sequels that are either trying to cash in quick or try to pay homage and just go wrong.
So what kind of sequel is Force Unleashed 2? Hoth hath no fury like a sequel scorned and that is exactly what this game feels like.
Star Wars Force Unleashed 2 seems promising at the very start. The story begins with Darth Vader entering the cloning facility on Kamino where we are re-introduced to Starkiller, the protagonist from the first game, albeit his clone. Darth Vader has resurrected Starkiller because he wants him to execute the captured Jedi Master Kota as this would be demoralizing to the newly formed Rebel Alliance. He has gone through many clones and some of the cloning process is still evident as Starkiller experiences visions from the past. Regardless, Vader puts Starkiller to the test against Proxy drones in an attempt to get him to kill Juno and destroy any vestige of good he might still have. Starkiller fails to do so and, seeing the writing on the wall, he blows a whole through the wall to make his escape. The game begins here as Starkiller attempts to reconnect with Juno and find out where he fits in the universe.
Visually the game is much improved over the last. Players are treated to upgraded character animations as well as gorgeous views of the each locale you visit. However, this all fades quickly as you traverse the same visual scheme over and over. You may cross a bridge into a hub area only to find that you are crossing a similar bridge into another hub area a few minutes later.
Combat takes an eerily similar turn. TFU2 sets you up with the most dynamic force powers and then sets you against wave after wave of Stormtroopers and robots. You will face other force users but they are basically broken into two camps: ones you can use force powers against and ones you cannot. In fact, you are given instruction as to how to beat each enemy you come up against. To hold your interst, there is dismemberment or you can always make a Stormtrooper leap to his death using the Jedi Mind Trick.
Character progression is still a matter of collecting experience for defeating enemies. You can also collect Jedi Holocrons, which give you experience or lightsaber crystals, as well Bacta Tanks or Force Cubes. However, the ability to wield dual lightsabers and use force rage leaves you wondering if any of this matters.
This is also where the troubles with the story line begin. It makes sense what Starkiller does initially, he hunts down Jedi Master Kota as he is his link to the past, but it crumbles after that. There is a brief mention of Dagobah and Starkiller is off on a jaunt there, where Yoda throws in a few lines. Boba Fett is hired by Vader to hunt down Juno Eclipse to lure Starkiller into a trap. Why would Vader not personally get involved himself and why would the Emperor even entertain this plan when they were so close to being beaten by Starkiller at the end of the first game? Additionally, they are in the process of building the first Death Star. Remember it, the space station that can annihilate a planet?
After the award winning story in the original Force Unleashed, a story which added to the accepted Star Wars cannon covering the span between Episode III and Episode IV, it seems as though the developers wanted to take every opportunity to throw in well established characters who are fan favorites. Instead of relying on a good story they essentially counted on cameos to carry player interest.
This is one of my major issues with games that deal with movie or comic licenses. There are so many different angles to take yet many times developers limit themselves to what is already established. A game that I really enjoyed that came out relatively recently was Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Game play followed not only the well known Spider-Man but also various Spider-Man personas established in other “alternate” timelines (Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Man Noir, and Ultimate Spider-Man). Guaranteed that Force Unleashed takes place during a relatively unknown period of time but it is still dealing with source material that it must remain true too. Why not do an alternate timeline or focus on material well outside the norm?
The one thing that will hold your sanity together is the relatively short time it will take to beat the game. One could easily wrap the game up on Normal in the better part of an afternoon. I appreciate the brevity of games at times but to some this may seems a bit too short.
While I am sure that there are many hardcore Star Wars fans out there who would find merit with this game, I am not one of them. I enjoy many elements of the Star Wars universe and was excited by the chance to immerse myself in it again, but this four hours of shoddy story telling proved to be a disappointment. While I found the first game enjoyable this appears to be simply an attempt to cash in. Rather than take the reigns on a project that could have revealed something new in the vast Star Wars universe, the developers decided to create an imperfect sequel that diminished the experience of the first game.
3 out of 5