Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 is immediately engaging. It’s strikingly beautiful, with fantastic vistas and superb character animations. Sadly though, its pretty face can only carry it so far when the rest of the game is comparatively weak. Repetitious combat and level designs, a shoe-horned in story, and a lack of depth to the experience overall keep this from being anything more than an adventure for the most hardcore of fans.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Video ReviewThe core of the experience is the same as last time: it’s the Force like you’ve never seen it before, with supercharged versions of the powers we’ve all seen in the films. The result? The experience goes from a typical hack ‘n slash to a Force-embued beat ‘em up where your character causes unbelievable amounts of destruction. Over the course of several levels you’ll cut enemies to pieces (yes, there’s dismemberment this time around), move vast objects with the power of the Force, and take on situations that would be impossible without your exaggerated Force abilities.

TFU2 places you once again in control of Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who died at the end of the first game. According to Darth Vader you’re a clone of the last game’s hero, and after failing his tests you break out of captivity before he can kill you. Your mission? To seek out and find Juno Eclipse, your lost love interest and ship’s pilot from the first Force Unleashed.

The story has an acceptable premise (cloning and what have you isn’t out of line with Star Wars canon), but it’s underdeveloped. In general just doesn’t go anywhere, bumbling along to allow the reintroduction of hit characters from the first game for fan service and concluding just when it starts to become interesting. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but suffice it to say the story is comparatively boring to other pieces of Star Wars fiction, and feels contrived for the sake of making another game, rather than filling in an important piece of Star Wars canon like the last title.

Larger enemies are often killed through quick-time events like this. The levels themselves are beautiful and immediately capture the same sense of grandeur and scale that Star Wars has done so well with the environments in the films, but the stages quickly feel redundant. Each level feels like it’s been artificially extended, with repeated buildings and environmental portions that make it feel like a copy/paste job. I understand and appreciate the need for a world to feel coherent, to have environments feel uniform in theme and look, but TFU2 takes it past this point and right into generic territory after just a few moments in any stage. It’s a shame, too, because the artists responsible for the worlds are obviously passionate about capturing the look and feel of the Star Wars universe.

The Force Unleashed’s combat is fun at the start, but begins to feel very uninspired as the hours go by. I mean, look, the inclusion of dismemberment is awesome, and the first few times you blast some Stormtroopers off a ledge with Force push, or send a trooper to his doom by convincing him to kill himself with Jedi Mind Trick are exactly what I’m looking for in this sort of game. It’s just that there isn’t enough outside of the combat to break up the pacing. Starkiller is always just mashing into wave after wave of soldiers, and it gets surprisingly mundane kicking so much ass all the time.

Variety is something LucasArts attempted to address in combat, and the developers accomplish this to an extent, but it doesn’t go deep enough. The first Force Unleashed had a ton of enemies who were varied in appearance, but not in how they fought, and LucasArts sought to address this by having fewer, more differentiated enemy types.

Unfortunately, though, this too is underdeveloped, with combat mostly boiling down to realizing "enemy X can be killed only with lightsabers, while enemy Y can only be killed with the Force." They combine these enemies in ways that occasionally present a challenge, but eventually they repeat this formula over and over again that it becomes more tedious than new and exciting.

Not that any moment in The Force Unleashed 2 lasts all that long, as it’s surprisingly short. I’m not one to complain about length normally, as I think games can be short if the experience is tight and consistently inventive, but despite taking less than six hours to complete on Normal, TFU2 manages to be demonstrably repetitive. The world’s that Starkiller visits in the game are beautiful, and make me want to know more about the cultures they represent, so it’s a shame I don’t get anything more than a cursory look at them.

This is awesome looking, but a little too good for killing groups of enemies.Other problems arise from TFU2′s brevity as well, namely it doesn’t feel all that rewarding or make your character progression feel as worthwhile. Your character starts out with a lot of the powers he had to earn in the first game. The end result is that Starkiller is a bit too much of a badass too quickly, and that leveling up your force powers – done by spending experience points you earn via combat – doesn’t feel anywhere near as important or as game changing as it did in the last game.

Starkiller can take on anything and everything with ease on the Normal difficultly, with most enemies serving little purpose other than to go sprawling from endless waves of Force push. I understand the need to empower the player, and yes, I certainly felt empowered, but the lack of skill made me less like a Jedi Master and more like wandering, overpowered monster.

Closing Comments
Reviewing The Force Unleashed 2 breaks my heart. As a rabid Star Wars fan who’s gone so far as to tattoo symbols of the franchise on my body, I wanted to jump into another epic story that better fleshes out Starkiller’s story. It’s disappointing that The Force Unleashed 2 not only fails to tell an interesting yarn, but also somehow manages to make the cool combat mechanics feel relatively pedestrian by failing to have enough variation in combat, or enough outside of combat to break up the pacing. Hardcore Star Wars fans should still check this out, but, as Master Yoda might say, “a good game The Force Unleashed 2 is not.”

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