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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 review: Not the sequel you're looking for


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 is a desperate cash grab. For whatever minor improvements were made to the combat for this sequel -- and, boy, are they pretty basic -- the story is an insult to the original's award-winning narrative. While the first Force Unleashed tied up a compelling piece of Star Wars canon in a nice bow, the sequel has no aspiration to be a major part of lore or to be nearly as epic. It simply cobbles together glorified fan fiction for what amounts to an unexceptional subplot as it abruptly ends in the second act screaming, "SEQUEL GOES HERE!"

The story begins with a revived Starkiller, locked up in a cloning facility on rainy Kamino, being told by Darth Vader that he's just the latest iterative test tube creation in some cloning plot ... or is he? No, really, or is he? We never find out. That's not so much a spoiler as it is the type of writing one should be prepared for. However, that's not the main plot. At its core, the story is about the shackles of love, as our sad clone (... or is he?) desperately tries to reconnect with his love interest from the first game, Cpt. Juno Eclipse.

You could make an argument that with his overabundance of power, Starkiller's character in the original Force Unleashed was a "Mary Sue," but the first story was handled with such respect and (at the time) finality, it wasn't a real problem. For the sequel, let that Mary Sue criticism fly proud: Our hero tosses TIE fighters like crumpled paper, survives an impossible fall in the wake of a starship's detonation and is basically the most ridiculously powerful user of The Force the galaxy has ever known. If Darth Vader had one of the highest concentrations of midichlorians ever seen, Starkiller is a midichlorian.

Gallery: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 | 11 Photos

There are situations that border on being bad Star Wars camp. If things aren't laughably ridiculous enough early in the game, it definitely settles in by the time bottled clones start popping out wielding dual lightsabers. Seriously, these clones were bottled with lightsabers. I know the empire has the cash to fund the creation of a Death Star, but so many lightsabers must have been getting produced by Wookie slaves on Kashyyyk that the options for the glowsticks came down to selling them at the dollar store or bottling them with clones.

The story taking a dive in the sequel wouldn't be so bad if the mediocre gameplay of the first title soared to new heights here. Short version: it doesn't. It's better, for sure, it's an improvement. However, with similar, more precise action games in the third-person like God of War, Batman: Arkham Asylum and, even, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow available, the Force Unleashed 2 just feels inelegant. You'll spam whatever button activates the power that the specific enemy you're fighting at the time is weak against and watch the same close-combat grab animations hundreds of times. There really isn't a need to change up the combat routines for specific enemies because they are weak to such specific things. Thankfully, when frustrating deaths do occur -- typically during a boss fight or because you didn't kill enough enemies to sap their life -- the checkpoint system won't set you back far at all.

The cycle of combat involves hammering the dash button to get in close, using the aforementioned "best move" on the enemy and then watching those yummy experience and health orbs fly into Starkiller. The XP points are used to upgrade one of seven force powers, with each segmented into three levels. Leveling up lets Starkiller either use the ability on more enemies at once, like Force Lightning or Mind Trick, while abilities like Force Push or Saber Throw increase in damage. It's pretty basic and you'll likely find yourself dumping those points into whichever power your enemy of the moment is weakest against.

If Darth Vader had one of the highest concentrations of midichlorians ever seen, Starkiller IS a midichlorian.

Health is given out by the bucket for killing the variety of Stormtroopers and Droids that are tossed at Starkiller like eggs at a window. Worrying about health isn't a huge concern in the game, except when the arachnid drones won't stop jumping and breaking the flow of battle or when being blindsided by rockets from AT-STs.

Playing on normal, the game is easily under eight hours. There are only nine levels (eight, if don't count one glorified walk that takes two minutes) spanning two worlds and a starship. A jaunt around the galaxy this is not. Also, if you're aware of the cameo appearances in this game, that's exactly what they are. Showing up for a cutscene and poof... they're gone.

The 'game' part of The Force Unleashed 2 isn't bad, but everything else is so dumb it's hard to enjoy the experience. Some elements, like controls and technical work, are passable. But as a follow-up experience to the original game, it's one I can never wash off, wish I could forget and don't plan to acknowledge ever existed.

Anyone looking to turn off their brain for several hours and spam some buttons as a ridiculously powerful Force user will do fine. Those who respected the first game for its story, or are looking for quality presentation, combat variety and the feeling like they didn't just get two-thirds of a full-priced product can find better games now in a galaxy much, much closer.

This review is based on an Xbox 360 review copy provided by LucasArts.

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