Posted on October 26, 2010, Phil Hornshaw Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Review
If the first Force Unleashed was A New Hope, a game that captured the spirit of the Star Wars saga, Force Unleashed 2 is no Empire Strikes Back. It’s much more akin to Attack of the Clones — boring, borderline incompetent, and completely out of touch with that which we love about the franchise.
For my part, I played the first Force Unleashed until the wheels came off, and looked forward to this sequel. But instead of fixing combat issues and adding more diverse enemies this time around, Force Unleashed 2 came out very short, very watered-down and totally unremarkable. If it didn’t contain some gorgeous visuals, I’d be hard-pressed to think of much good to say about it.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, Wii, PC, DS, IPhone)
Release Date: October 26, 2010
Full disclosure: I was going to let this game skate by with about a 70 for most of the time I was playing, because it was mediocre but not awful. But then I got to the endgame of FU2 (that’s what we’re calling it from here out — Eff You Too) and was so supremely disappointed, I dropped my score down significantly. This review would feel incomplete without discussing the final moments of Force Unleashed 2, and the first Force Unleashed by way of comparison, so there may be spoilers further on.
The core concept of The Force Unleashed — a video game in which players can go nuts with overamped Force abilities — remains in FU2, although LucasArts hasn’t fixed the first game’s problems, it just oversimplified almost everything for the sequel, and in almost all cases, made things worse.
Lightsaber combat, which was combo-based in FU1, has been so dumbed-down that it now is a coma-inducing button-mash. Slamming X or Square, depending on your console, has Starkiller doing all kinds of crazy lightsaber dance moves, none of which are particularly interesting or strategic, and all of which will eventually get you killed. One button push can leave you open to a missile or blaster fire in the back, because one button will often trigger five moves if it’s the right button in the “combo.” That’s four moves more than you actually need at any given moment.
There are still combos in this round, but they’re also simplified and not at all useful. One never needs lightsaber combos during the game, and in fact, most players will spend lots of their time abstaining from the overwrought laser sword altogether. There’s an achievement and trophy reward for going one whole mission without lightsabers, but it’s not a stretch to earn the achievement without even realizing you were going for it.
The combat itself boils down to assessing enemies and using the appropriate power against them. These enemies come in two varieties: can’t kill with Force, or can’t kill with lightsaber.
So you react accordingly: a flock of stormtroopers — Force Push them off the nearest cliff. Riot troopers — can’t use your lightsaber, so…Force Push them off the nearest cliff. Jetpack troopers — electrocute them with Force Lightning to kill them almost instantly with only the effort required to look in their direction.
Just about every fight in the game breaks down to various combinations of flying, running or melee stormtroopers, usually followed by a big droid that shoots either an ice gun or, later, a fire gun. Occasionally, guys with lightsabers would appear to give you pause and make you think, “Oh no, someone with a similar skillset!” But you would be wrong, because FU2 has a new grapple move, which allows Starkiller to grab any human-size enemy and throw them bodily, usually off a cliff: thus making short work of any Force- or lightsaber-users. It’s quick, easy, and totally boring.
You’ll find no challenge here, all the way through to the end. The few times that I died that weren’t the direct result of platforming that remains a little clunky from the last iteration, it was because stormtroopers gunned me down while I was busy or I was tag-teamed by a big group of Force users.
In both cases, the gameplay change was simple — get in faster, kill the guys faster. Almost any time you’re killed in FU2, it’s because you gave the stormtroopers time to unload on you. But the solution is always just to use the speed dash move a little more, get closer a little faster, and use Force Push a little more often. Scatter the troopers and suddenly the fight is no big deal.
One of the gameplay additions the sequel does add is Force Fury, a meter that’s charged during battle that the player can activate to supercharge all of Starkiller’s abilities. Basically, it amounts to invincibility — save your Force Fury for when you get to an enemy you don’t feel like fighting for real, then activate your power and blast it with lightning until it dies. There’s an achievement for activating Force Fury 10 times, but I used the ability half as many or less. Starkiller is already more than a match for everything the game throws at him; why reduce the game to holding down one button until everything dies?
While some have complained that in the first game, Starkiller wasn’t powerful enough to be the one-man army the developers had hoped, in the sequel is far too powerful, so much so that he’s almost never tested and no battle has the quality of a hard-fought victory. Starkiller doesn’t just crash TIE fighters this time — he picks them out of the air, bringing them to a dead stop with his insane amount of power. Most of the game is like watching Superman battle the crime of office supply theft. It’s totally underwhelming.
While FU1 had you fighting Jedi of various sizes and dispositions, huge monsters and aliens, and even bringing down a Star Destroyer — and that was a great moment, even if the controls barely worked — FU2 is almost devoid of anything memorable and barely has a boss battle to speak of. One major fight is interesting, although it centers on the completely derivative concept of battling a giant that tries to squash the player with just its hands. Much of this battle plays out almost exactly the same way in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow from a few weeks ago.
What it feels like is the major problem of Force Unleashed 2 is laziness in development. The campaign is very short, lasting maybe seven or eight hours at the outside. It also lacks originality. It contains a grand total of four locations, with the second half of the game containing huge revisited portions from earlier. While on the ship Salvation toward the back half, the game actually makes the circuit of every location twice.
And the one big set piece FU2 contains is used repeatedly. In the first moments of the game, Starkiller jumps out a window and falls for hundreds or thousands of feet, dodging debris and using The Force to clear his path. This sequence is repeated three different times during the course of the campaign, in three different situations. And it plays only slightly differently for each instance. It’d be kind of laughable if it wasn’t also sad.
In terms of story, FU2 falls well short of the very high bar set by The Force Unleashed. The sequel implies big themes, since the main character is supposedly a clone of the supposedly dead protagonist of the first game. Identity, love, purpose, memory, even insanity — all of these subjects are suggested by FU2, but no thread is ever tied off. In the end, this is a badly conceptualized plot that feels more like a weak, middle school attempt at fanfiction than a serious entry into the Star Wars saga, especially given its predecessor.
And the end. Oh, the end.
For those who don’t know and don’t mind reading it here, the first Force Unleashed title ended with Starkiller fighting, and defeating, his former master and betrayer, Darth Vader. It was an intense and difficult battle, stretching on a long time, and felt extremely rewarding when it was over. I, for one, felt the confrontation with Vader at The Force Unleashed’s end was the game’s shining moment, if for no other reason than that it was climactic enough to support the rest of the game that led up to it.
FU2 also ends with Starkiller fighting Vader, also fueled by revenge, but this is easily the worst final boss fight I’ve ever played. Even on hard mode, Vader is a sad, washed-up pushover. Spamming the lightsaber button (Vader, of course, is immune to Force attacks, so good thing the player is made to strengthen those up for the entirety of the game) is all it really takes for victory in a painfully long and uninteresting fight. It had absolutely no flare or love for the character that FU1 had. The whole thing lasts far longer than my patience could handle.
That uncharacteristically lame fight with Vader sums up all the problems with Force Unleashed 2, however: it’s extremely simplistic, far too easy, makes no sense, has nothing of the spirit of Star Wars, and is ultimately disappointing. The whole thing feels phoned-in, and is in no way worth the full price of a new Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game.
In fact, I recommend steering clear altogether, especially for fans of The Force Unleashed. In a few too many ways, this sequel is a disservice.
- Visually stunning
- Reuses a lot of the fun elements of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
- Unlockable Challenges add some slight replay value, though not much
- Half-baked, barely complete, totally disappointing story
- Repetitive in every way possible — it even rips itself off
- Combat can be fun, but is mostly mediocre and gets old fast
- A short, very unsatisfying campaign
- Weak sound effects really undercut the power of The Force and action
- Zero memorable moments
- Barely a boss fight to speak of
- Contains perhaps the worst final battle in video game history
- Totally fails to live up to its predecessor
Final Score: 60/100
Interested in a slightly different Star Wars game? Check out our Lego Star Wars III walkthrough!