Really, who doesn’t dream about wielding a lightsaber and using Force powers?
Well, in “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II,” you totally can, stepping into the shoes of Darth Vader’s hyper-charged secret apprentice, Starkiller.
Starkiller’s return, however, is somewhat controversial considering he died at the end of original “Force Unleashed,” the best-selling Star Wars game of all time, proving that money trumps narrative integrity.
Given that the story of Starkiller was put to such a conclusive ending in the first game, the story here is actually surpringly engaging. It picks up six months after Starkiller’s death, with Darth Vader attempting to clone him. You play as the latest failed clone of Starkiller, having just escaped being aborted by Vader and now hell-bent on warning the Rebellion of Vader’s plans. Visions of the original Starkiller plague him and doubt is cast on whether he even died at all.
Yoda and Boba Fett make overhyped cameos that are disappointing at best, in and out with no real impact at all. The game is just far too short for their appearances to be anything meaningful and are instead just a gimmick.
Though the game ends with an interesting turn of events that promises to bring about some awesome happenings in the future “Star Wars” canon, it’s still incredibly irritating to be left feeling as though the game ends in its second act before anything truly incredible can happen or offer a sense of real closure.
The gameplay of “The Force Unleashed II” is absolutely identical to that of the original. Players make their way across various planets and starships, navigating rough terrain, making daring leaps and slaying enemies with impressive lightsaber combat and amped up Force manipulation.
Players can pull off exciting finishing moves on enemies, executed through “quick-time events” similar to Sony’s “God of War” games where players are tasked with specific, simple button presses that translate to extremely choreographed sequences on-screen.
There are some significant gameplay changes however. For instance, “Force Unleashed II” has Starkiller dual-wielding lightsabers, resulting in mesmerizing, acrobatic combat. There’s also the grim yet highly satisfying addition of dismemberment of enemies. While in the first game the iconic Jedi weapon hit enemies more like a baseball bat than a true lightsaber, in “Force Unleashed II,” limbs fly and heads roll.
Another really cool new feature is the Jedi mind trick power that allows the player to turn enemies against one another and even prompts stormtroopers to jump off of buildings or into incinerators in a darkly entertaining display of mind-over-matter.
But as exciting as the gameplay can be, it will definitely grow repetitive quickly to those who are not irrationally in love with it. Most enemies are vulnerable to either lightsaber or Force attacks that make extremely quick work of enemies again and again.
Even the impressive finishing moves quickly lose their appeal after the third or fourth execution. The repetition is only lessened by the unforgivably short game length.
While the addition of challenge levels offer little in the way of a consolation prize for the campaign’s abrupt end, they are a welcome addition. The game includes 10 challenge maps that are unlocked throughout the main campaign, but it’s almost a given that more will be offered as paid downloadable content in the future.
These maps challenge players to execute lightsaber combos, traverse difficult environments and run the gauntlet through hordes of enemies. The challenge mode’s online leaderboards help turn a decidedly single-player experience into competition between friends.
The lack of groundbreaking gameplay and its minute length hold back “Force Unleashed II” exponentially and will undoubtedly keep it from topping anyone’s best of the year lists (though it may end up being one of the year’s biggest disappointments for some) it is still a very fun game that offers a brief foray into the excitement of the “Star Wars” universe.
While I was agitated that the game came to an end so quickly, I’m still anxiously hoping for its inevitable sequel to complete yet another “Star Wars” trilogy.
3 out of 5 stars
[Photo credit: videogamesblogger.com]