The Star Wars franchise is probably one of the most expansive in the entertainment industry. There are a plethora of books, TV/film productions and of course, video games. Most of the Star Wars games in the past stayed to the tried and true, but when The Force Unleashed hit back in 2008, this changed. It looked at just how destructive the Force could be and told a bold story about Darth Vader's secret apprentice. We're now two years on, but The Force Unleashed II struggles to tread the same ground. Its story is much more tame and many of the other elements just don't feel as inspired.
The story once again revolves around Darth Vader's secret apprentice, Starkiller. However, we aren't really sure if it's the real Starkiller or not. Darth Vader claims that he's a clone, but he doesn't fully believe it and so escapes from the Imperial base on Kamino. He then has a brief visit to Dagobah, sees a vision and tries to prevent it from happening. And that's pretty much the entire plot in a bite-sized chunk. The fact it's so easy to summarise says all it needs to say about its depth, or indeed, lack of depth.
By the end of the game, you may be wondering what just happened. Not because the ending is bewildering or witty in any way, but because you'll literally be wondering if you saw any content that was really worth your time. You probably didn't.
Weak plot aside, The Force Unleashed at least stays true to its name. You have control over The Force and can use it to devastating effect. Throwing Storm Troopers around using Force Grip is still a charm, and crushing them is even more satisfying.
There are five different Force powers in total and they all have their own uses. Lightning is great for taking down troops quickly or for taking down machinery. Grip is very useful for manipulating objects, while Force Repulse can clear crowds effectively. On top of this, there is Mind Trick and Saber Throw. While they are all very fun to use, many of them are quite situation based. Repulse, for example, doesn't have many practical applications aside from fighting against Arachnids, while Saber Throw is quite cumbersome and its main application comes in context sensitive situations.
It doesn't stop the game from being fun, far from it, but it doesn't feel like the game is designed so that it's necessary to use an array of Force powers to succeed. But when it does try, it feels far too forced. The variety of the enemies is very weak; you have the generic Storm Trooper, but then, aside from the machine-based enemies, every enemy is designed to counter an aspect of Starkiller. You have the anti-light saber gang, the anti-Force Power gang, or the anti-everything gang. You can understand why they did this, to make players think outside the box a little, but it becomes a bit tedious, especially when fighting various types at the same time.
The machine-based enemies also suffer from tedium because they're used far too often and their attacks follow very limited patterns. It's nice that they included an enemy that can turn people into carbonite, but the frequency that they appear makes them boring to fight. Take their shield, spam them with Force Lightning and finish with a Quick Time Event, which is the same every single time and displays the same death sequence every single time.
That's probably The Force Unleashed II's biggest problem, there isn't really enough variety and while you can really unleash The Force sometimes (especially using the new Force Fury), it just doesn't feel like it's that big of a focus. It's a real shame and in many ways it feels like the game hinders itself. When the object of the game is to show off the awesome destructive power of The Force, why have the majority of enemies hinder that?
There are some great set pieces throughout the campaign, but they don't seem to reach the same heights of those in the first game. Now, they're more about escaping a situation than anything. They compliment the game though and Starkiller's new situation in life. There are also some boss fights, but they're quite underwhelming - especially the end boss fight, which is unfortunate. It loops the same quick-time events far too often, with characters often repeating their lines, thoroughly ruining the moment.
Overall, the presentation is pretty slick. Some of the locations are truly fantastic, although the best one is probably Kamino, with the ocean and all of the rain. There are some brilliantly put together cutscenes throughout the experience too. The voice acting is also of a very commendable quality and the music fits the Star Wars billing very well, even if some of the original tracks sound a little similar to iconic pieces from the past - although this might perhaps have been intentional.
The main campaign clocks in at around the five hour mark and it feels a bit unrewarding because it's over before it really gets going. Fortunately, the game has some challenges to extend the experience. They do offer decent challenges too and they aren't all focussed around killing enemies. Some of them are about quick platforming, some of them are about counter attacking and another is about a King of the Hill scenario. It's nice that they included this, but it doesn't make up for the weak campaign.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is a disappointment. It still promotes the powerful, destructive nature of The Force, but in many ways, it also tries to hinder its usage too. The enemies are bland and the boss fights are rather tedious. There are some nice set pieces and the graphics are at times, stunning, but with such a short campaign and a poor story throughout that campaign, The Force Unleashed II fails to match the achievements of the first title.