Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 can briefly be described as a Star Wars fans wet dream, having you in full control of one of the coolest Jedi in the franchise’s history and leading him through brilliantly over the top encounters that blow sensibility away. The Force Unleashed 2 is big, bold and at times beautiful, although falling a little on the short side.
Upon loading the game you are given the choice between starting the game’s story mode or playing eight challenges (unlocked as you progress through the story). With little room for choice I jumped right into the game’s story, ready to embrace something that attempts to compare with the introduction to the game’s first instalment, which had you playing as the overpowered Darth Vader throwing enemies aside like flies. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed as after a short introduction to the characters, followed by a dull tutorial, I found myself falling through the sky down the side of a grand structure, trying my best to avoid pillars and platforms. Right away the engine had already impressed me, as the motion effects of having the air appear to be pushing past me at a great speed is stunning and truly immerses you in the scene. Your great descent comes to a swift end as you come smashing through a glass roofed structure and land with a crash. Bang! The structure, housed in glass, smashes all around you to the force of the impact having shards splinter in all directions. This over the top action of awesomeness is littered throughout The Force Unleashed 2, and rarely fails to impress.
Gameplay in The Force Unleashed 2 feels very much like the first with a little more polish placed on top. Running around in a third person viewpoint, you’ll be focusing on agile platforming and melee based combat, with the aid of ranged force powers. Wielding two Lightsabers this time around you’ll have a flurry of attacks that you can combine with a handful of force powers particularly force push and lighting, the two most used abilities at your disposal. You can also perform sabre tosses, force repulsions and mind taps that allow you to manipulate an enemy into helping you or simply killing themselves. Bound to the shoulder trigger for easy access is also force grip, an ability that allows you to grab characters, or environmental objects, quickly and easily allowing you to fling or place them wherever you like.
The developers promised the best Jedi gameplay experience in any Star Wars game to date, and I can agree with that. The force powers feel magnificent, brimming with the potential to cause chaos. When you have killed enough enemies you can trigger an awakened state that’ll cause all attacks to become unleashed which allows you to take down a small army of enemies with a few button presses, and it looks absolutely stunning to witness and brilliant to control. There are also a few new additions to the game’s enemies (and a few losses), with one particular group that protect aggressively against force powers, needing more focus in needing to use the correct combination of attacks and counter blocking in order to take particular enemies down.
The game’s largest problems come with lack of variety and a sensation that has you feeling that you’ve seen it all in the first hour. Being an extremely short game there are very few levels, so that translates to very few environments for you to explore. Equally in combat everyone loves to slash Storm Troopers to pieces, but the game’s ‘unique’ enemy encounters such as the new force resistant enemies are tiresome to encounter and begin to get predictably placed amongst every encounter. The same goes for larger enemies that need you to beat them with gimmicky gameplay, such as reflecting rockets fired back or pulling away a defensive shield. Many of these larger enemy encounters prompt for a quick time event finisher, that whilst looking fantastic quickly becomes apparent that there is a single quick time event finisher for each enemy type, no matter the button presses you are prompted with. This sensation of repetitive gameplay isn’t helped by boss encounters that drag on for what feels like an eternity, with the game’s finale lasting longer than most levels repeating what at its core is no more than five minutes of unique gameplay.
The game’s story is a bit of a gamble, instantly making me groan in fear from the unimaginative concept. Since the last outing in the series Starkiller, the game’s protagonist, superstar Jedi and prior apprentice to Darth Vader, has gone missing. He is assumed dead but somehow stands once again ready to take on all for the games sequel. How you ask? Clones of course (and there is the groan)! Starting in a cell Darth Vader informs you that you are nothing more than a clone of the original Starkiller, who then attempts to break your spirit and use you, once again, as his apprentice for the Dark Side. Unfortunate for our friend Vadar you have been created with the memories and thoughts of the original Starkiller and before long take the righteous path.
From here on out you are on a mission to reunite yourself with old colleagues (or would they be considered new), in particular the games love interest Juno Eclipse (I absolutely love the naming conventions in Star Wars). At the same time the Rebels are preparing an all-out assault against the Empire thanks to the inspiration that you have bestowed by still simply still being alive (kind of), with a goal set on taking over the cloning research that spawned you. It‘s quite surprising but it somehow all manages to come together and form a surprisingly enjoyable and coherent story.
As briefly touched on previously, the game’s engine is a stunning piece of work. The game looks and plays like a Star Wars film! The realistic movement of the NPC’s that grapple onto objects and one another add realism to their actions. The environments are breathtaking with their detail and draw distance, particularly in the grander levels that have you viewing colossal structures from a distance or height. Starkiller’s animations are fluid and filled with attitude, particularly when using force powers that’ll have him contorting his entire body to contribute as much force as possible. All minor examples in what delivers a technical and design masterpiece, only aided by the typical Star Wars music that fits like a glove, and the game’s stellar voice acting that makes you feel as you are playing as Samuel Witwer (I still find it uncanny how close they resemble one another).
The game’s other mode, Challenges, will have you needing to set a score in eight challenges that are absolutely brutal if, like me, you like to attain the most prestigious award (this case being platinum). The mode reminds me heavy of Batman: Arkham Asylums similarly named mode, in which I also had a great deal of frustration in trying to achieve what seemed like impossible time/score targets. Unfortunately with only eight challenges, most of which don’t last more than a few minutes, there isn’t a lot of substance here.
Any objective loving gamers out there looking at games with easy achievements/trophies favourably will find The Force Unleashed 2 to be a mixed bag. If not concerned with completion percentage you’ll be able to grab the majority within five hours (yes, short), but the last few will be far more time consuming – to the point where you need to recomplete the game on a new obscenely hard difficulty. Thankfully the bulk of the achievements/trophies are good fun to chase, having you needing to complete such things as killing enemies with your force powers X number of times or with X different environmental objects.
To summarise if you liked the first game then you’ll love the second. Whilst the game is extremely short (having me finish it in a single sitting), quite repetitive in places and the mere eight challenges do little to add the much desired replay value, it’s a blast whilst it lasts.