Gameplay – 8
Graphics – 9
Controls – 8
Plot – 5
Replay Value – 6
Overall Score - 7.2
In the inevitable follow up to Lucas Art’s hugely successful title, The Force Unleashed, we continue our revenge-driven hero, Starkiller’s story through the mildly short epics of The Force Unleashed II. For Starkiller’s return, however, Lucas Arts obviously deferred to jump start the story line with hi-the-ground-running tactics instead of stopping for any focus to character development. The title’s story line starts off with an immediate confrontation with the infamous, Darth Vader, and before you know, Starkiller is on the run for his life to escape his ultimate purpose as the Dark Lord’s slave puppet, only to find himself eventually returning to where he started to save the helpless starlet of his affection, Juno.
One thing the player discovers very early in the game is the its excitable game play through smooth graphics and controls. Although, you can’t actually utilize all of Starkiller’s powers until at least half way through the gameplay, his character is by no means a weak presence from the get-go. Right off the bat, Starkiller’s powers are a force to be reckoned with, and through force pushing, lightning charges, and force grabs, the elements of game play are nearly limitless in the number of ways you can pummel your enemies. These factors do a superb job of hiding the fact that the game is actually a hack-and-slash, button smasher, since when a hack-and-slash is being performed by a dual wielding, lightsaber force master, the fun factor instantly pushes through the roof. There’s just something about the slick acrobatics of a well trained Jedi and the hum of his sabers arcing through the air that can easily trick your mind into forgetting that all you’re doing is smashing buttons. Once you’re done slicing through a mob of stormtroopers, then grab a TIE-fighter out of mid air, crush it with your mind, heave it at another squadron of incoming fighters, and call it good in the name of a hard day’s work. The point being, when it comes to the non-stop action in this game, you’ll be salivating in your seat. Charged with the excitability of the fast pace action sequences and the well developed cinematic cut scenes, and the gameplay alone is probably what saved this title from becoming an overly-hyped flop.
As any avid gamer can tell you, however, gameplay alone can’t always save a title. Gameplay will only keep a gamer entertained until the novelty of the action sequences wears off. In the end, what really keeps the gamers’ hands glued to their controllers is a well developed plot, and the Force Unleashed II’s ‘hit-the-ground-running’ story line definitely came at the cost of… … well… a story.
Lucas Art’s clearly intended for Starkiller’s character development to transfer from the title’s prequel, which had clearly focused more on plot development, and unfortunately leaves any new comers to the series with a feeling of disappointment. The ultimate story line boils down to our protagonist’s burning love for a woman named Juno, who becomes the ill fated damsel in distress. Although, his unyielding desire to rescue her at all cost is the epitome of romantic heroism, Starkiller relentlessly turns a deaf ear to the pleas for help from the Rebel frontline who inevitably become overwhelmed by Imperial forces. It actually leaves the player with a sense of bewilderment as to why any rational individual would willingly allow thousands to be slaughtered for the possibility of saving just one. Again, maybe return players from the prequel would have a better understanding as to why his passion for one woman goes so deep, but the sequel’s lack of any prominent story line or character development does little to clue in any new comers.
After all is said and done, maybe it was actually good planning that the game’s campaign is only four levels long. If gameplay is what you’re banking on to carry a player to the terminal end of your story, then you better not have an Elder Scroll’s game design to force gamers to play for days to reach the end. You would be especially irate if you were to dump a hundred hours of your life into a game and discover that it ends the same way The Force Unleashed II ends, and for those hoping to plow through a lackluster story line in the hopes that they might be saving all the bang for the finale… don’t kid yourself. Without ruining any surprises, the game’s ending is more disappointingly attuned to watching a great movie only to discover that the protagonist was dreaming all along. I’m not saying that’s how the game actually ends, but you might still walk away from the game with that sickening feeling that all your hard work was for nothing.
So, in the end, I give The Force Unleashed II a 7.2 out of 10. The graphics and gameplay are full of entertainment and potential, but the fun factor quickly dwindles without a strong plot to support the weight of its hype. Combined with an overly short campaign, unnecessarily long boss fights, and one rather irritating bug in the game that prevented a platform from appearing and hindering my progress through the final level until I restarted my console… I’d recommend caution before purchase. The gameplay itself is at least worth a play-through at some point in your life, and in fact I would say this title is a win for any fans of thoughtless button-smashers. However, for those craving a deeper intimate connection with the characters under their immediate control, I’d wait for a substantial price drop before investing in the full cost of this fan title.