I Think I’m a Clone Now…
The Force Unleashed was a rare title when it was released in 2008. Instead of going the usual route and giving fans a mediocre story with a predictable cliffhanger ending, the game told a solid story that had a beginning, middle, and end. Though the ending is somewhat tragic (spoiler alert: Starkiller kicks the Jedi bucket in the “official” ending), it fit with the Star Wars canon overall and made for an entertaining one-shot in set before the original trilogy.
However, when the title sold extremely well (to the tune of seven million units), it seems LucasArts got the sequel itch. While The Force Unleased II definitely improves upon The Force Unleashed’s gameplay, the sequel’s ham-fisted plot really hampers the game’s overall effectiveness, and those who were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the first game will be disturbed by some of the wrong turns made in the sequel.
I won’t spoil the game’s entire plot for you, but the first five minutes really tell you all you need to know about how the rest of the story is going to go. Darth Vader struts in to frame and looks upon a shacked Starkiller clone, who is given some congratulations, since he made it past fourteen days without going crazy. Once unshackled, our clone protagonist wants to see the girl of his dreams (no, really). When Darth Vader summons a Juno-bot for cloned Starkiller to kill (to conquer his mushy-gushy feelings), he refuses. At this point, his clone senses (no, really) tell him that Vader is about to kill him and try again with another clone. Fortunately, this clone is smart and jumps out the window and goes into a super-force freefall, crushing structures and tie fighters along the way. And it is here where our adventure beings.
If this sounds awesome to you, then you’ll really appreciate the plot developments from here. If this sounds a little cheesy to you, I’m sorry. It does get worse. Though there are some interesting moments (as well as some interesting cameos), the story is weak overall. Normally I wouldn’t complain so terribly about a weak story (a paper-thin plot in a video game isn’t always a criminal offense), but it is particularly disappointing in this case because the original’s storyline was so good. I really liked Starkiller’s character, and it was one of the last remaining things in the Star Wars universe that didn’t feel done to death. But now with infinite clones and all sorts of shoehorned plot points injected in (along with the requisite cliffhanger at the ending), The Force Unleashed II starts feeling like every other sequel-ready franchise, which is a shame.
But enough about the story. Let’s talk about what The Force Unleased II gets right: gameplay. Even if you don’t care at all for Star Wars, you couldn’t deny that the combat system in The Force Unleashed was a ridiculous amount of fun. Force-pushing, electrocuting, and tossing enemies around each stage proved to make for awesome gameplay mechanics, and I’m happy to say the formula holds up well here. There have been some improvements to the combat system, including new upgrade paths and better force meter management. You’ll also be privy to some new powers, the most notable of which is a Jedi mind trick that makes enemies either commit suicide or turn on each other. Though not practical in every instance, this power certainly makes for some humorous moments when used. Another change to the battle system comes in the form of revamped lightsaber dueling. For some reason, Darth Vader thought it would be a good idea to give cloned Starkiller two lightsabers (no reason is ever given for this…maybe he just had a spare?), but this actually works out rather well for the player, as lightsaber combat is much quicker and more fluid with the dual wielding. Blocking and counterattacking is also a lot easier with the more powerful lightsabers, which is definitely handy when you are facing a level filled with AT-STs firing rockets constantly at you.
The only issue I see here is that the game is a single-note affair, and after you finish its six to eight-hour story mode, there isn’t much to bring you back into the fold except some unlockable costumes, an “unleashed” difficulty level, and the promise of some DLC in the near future. For some, that could be an issue, as a $60 pricetag on an experience that can be completed with a single day seems a little steep. Still, if you were a fan of the first and don’t mind the more ridiculous elements of the plot, this one does a good job of earning your $60, especially if you crave single-player focused experiences.
Dispatching enemies is ridiculously easy, and on the game’s normal difficulty settings, it is easy to blast through each level using your powers. The game is full of enemies that are weak to one of your powers but can be devastated by another, so often combat is mindless. However, this isn’t a bad thing, as the massive scale of carnage you are able to cause is both exciting and delightful, and I was never bored with the action in the game.
Likewise, the game doesn’t disappoint on a technical level. Although the level design is strictly linear in most instances, the different planets and locales are rendered in excellent detail, and the game does a great job capturing the feel of the Star Wars universe. The audio in the game is equally impressive, with a sweeping original score and some outstanding performances from the voice cast.
The Force Unleased II is a good game. However, I would be hesitant to call it a good Star Wars game. The original Force Unleashed did a good job building on Star Wars’ mythos in a way that was interesting but non-intrusive. It presented a simple story that featured plenty of thematic elements seen in both the original and prequel trilogy. However, the follow-up just doesn’t capture the original’s spirit, and that is what ultimately holds this title back from being something great. The action may have been amped up, the cameos may be even more surprising, but the clone-focused plotline just doesn’t do enough to live up to its predecessor’s legacy. Sure, the game is fun. But it could have been meaningful too.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
The Star Wars universe is lovingly rendered in great detail. 4.6 Control
Combat is amazingly fluid, and combos are easily executed with both lightsabers and force powers. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Original score sounds great, and the voice work is expertly executed. 3.7 Play Value
The game’s six to eight-hour story mode is satisfying enough, but the poor story and lack of meaningful unlockable content make this a journey you’ll only take once. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.