Sequels are a divisive topic, not only in the world of movies, but video games too. Just look to titles such as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, or even Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ as shining examples of how a successor can overcome and surpass the stellar standards set by its predecessor. Although, for every exceptional heir, comes a multitude of not-so perfect iterations, with Resident Evil 6 and Duke Nukem: Forever instantly springing to mind. Sadly, The Force Unleashed II falls into the latter category, and while it doesn’t do wonders for George Lucas’ brand, it also doesn’t do it justice, either.
The plot of The Force Unleashed II expands on that of the first game, but now follows a clone of the first game’s protagonist, Starkiller. From the opening scene, we’re shown that our clone is plagued by the indecision between good and evil his original faced, and so is deemed unworthy by his master, Darth Vader. This opening confrontation sets the plot and tone for the rest of the game; escape Vader, seek out the Rebels, and most importantly, find yourself. This is all well and good, and would even be relatively interesting, were it not the exact plot for the first game. The storytelling comes across somewhat contrived, and one gets the feeling that the introduction of already known characters such as Boba Fett or Princess Leia only serve to remind the player that they’re in the Star Wars universe. The Force Unleashed II can boast some degree of interactive storytelling, in that in the final moments of the game, you’re offered a ‘Light Side’ and a ‘Dark Side’ choice. This choice is forceful in nature, as the story up until this point has been liner, and this sudden introduction of choice feels as if it’s there, only so the devs can boast of their use of multi-faceted storytelling.
The gameplay is what one would expect; you play as an all-powerful Force user who, in addition to his ever-expanding arsenal of Force abilities, also wields dual light sabers. These give the player an immense sense of power, as you hack and slash your way through countless Stormtroopers and various other soldiers. While TFU2 builds upon its predecessor through the addition of the extra saber, increased force abilities and a now-destructible environment, it gets repetitive after the first level. The grunts you face offer little to no resistance along your path to redemption, and the enemies and bosses that don’t succumb after one hit are laden with the dreaded ‘quick-time events’ that we all shudder at the mention of. Unlockables return in TFU2, and as you collect more Holocrons, you’re granted new abilities, different costumes, and even a chance to customise the colour of either of your twin blades, with each colour offering a different stat boost. Green and white blades? Yes please!
The visuals in this game are, for the most part, gorgeous, and even hold up relatively well over 6 years after release. The cutscenes are beautiful, and offer the player a chance to immerse themselves in the story, taking a break from the (sometimes) mindless slashing. Sam Witwer returns to the role of Starkiller, offering both his likeness and his voice for the role. He portrays the role of a tormented and anguished hero well, but ultimately in my book, is too similar to the first game for my liking. The level-designs range from planet to planet, and while they are exhilarating at first, they quickly become banal and repetitive, and I personally found myself slogging mindlessly through the levels, eyes glazed over and waiting for the next cutscene.
In all honesty, I kinda wish I hadn’t reviewed this game. I adored the first game, and found it to be a fresh air in the rut of RPG’s and dog-fighters the Star Wars video game franchise had found itself in. It was a new story in the vast space that was the Star Wars canon, and proved that an unsullied, unestablished hero could make an impact. Now, nostalgia aside, the second game just doesn’t have the same effect on me. It’s fun at first, but that sense of excitement quickly wears off as you begin to realise that you’ve done this all before.
A good sequel improves on its predecessors virtues, not repaints and re-administers them. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and, dare I say it, 22 Jump Street both explore the nature of sequels, but do so in a way that forces the player/watcher to really think about how they themselves mindlessly yearn for and consume sometimes unnecessary sequels. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is hugely reminiscent of this for me.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I’ll admit it was fun to be in control of such exhilarating and overwhelming powers, but paired with a drab and uninteresting story, they’re truly wasted. I think I’ll just stick to the Jedi Knight series instead.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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