Its shocking brevity undermines all improvement over the original
Ever since I watched Star Wars for the first time I wanted a light sabre, I mean who didn’t? It has to be one of the greatest fantasy weapons ever, unfortunately, humanity doesn’t seem to be very close to containing super heated plasma inside a magnetic field so Star Wars games are the closest we can get to actually wielding one. The original Force Unleashed really didn’t nail the feeling of wielding a light sabre nor did it really maximise the potential for the force powers, it was a pretty average third person action game. The Force Unleashed 2 addresses these problems directly, the combat is much smoother, the controls are much more responsive, force powers feel more unique because of the new enemy design and boss fights are no longer an exercise in sheer repetition. Unfortunately, there is one huge problem that brings all these improvements down, the game is less than three hours long! Now, putting aside the fact that due to your skill, your time with the game will vary, but make no mistake, even if you are really bad, this is still a criminally short game.
The only way in which this game does fall short in comparison to the original is the story, it’s not horrible and the voice actor for Starkiller puts in a very good performance but it’s just not as interesting as in the previous game. So it’s a damn good thing that the gameplay has been improved significantly, the controls are much more responsive and the combat is far much faster paced and fluid. The force powers are handled much better this time, a big problem with the first game was that too many enemies were simply immune to force powers. Which forced you to rely on the light sabre combat, which was a bit like driving a car around in a bowl of jelly that had no wheels. Suffice to say, the light sabre combat was pretty clunky.
This time around you’ll encounter enemies that are invulnerable to a particular power, so if you can’t pick up enemies with force grip, you can just zap them with lightning or dismember them with your twin light sabres. There are also enemies that block light sabre attacks unless you stun them first, or you can get up close and grapple them instead. This is a simple system but it prevents any one power from becoming over-powered while at the same time not making you rely on your light sabres as heavily as the first game did. Boss fights are handled much better this time around too, they’re just a lot more reliable than they were in the previous game and it makes them far less frustrating. There is also a particularly great set-piece confrontation which is easily the best boss in the game.
The upgrades system has also been improved greatly this time around. You’ll collect sabre crystals that give you certain buffs while playing. You can assign one to each lightsabre (or both if you find both crystals), these add a nice layer of customisation as they also change the colour of the blades. Your force powers are handled via a simple experience point system, by defeating enemies and destroying the environment you gather XP that can be used to upgrade your force powers. Each one has three levels and the final upgrade grants a special ability. For example, when you level up force grip fully, you’ll be able to pick up and throw three objects simultaneously. In addition to the story mode there is also challenge mode, you’ll unlock these as you progress through the game and this mode has some nice variety to it and can get pretty damn hard if you’re going for the platinum medals.
The Force Unleashed 2 improves on literally all but one area from the first game and when judged purely by its mechanics, it’s actually a pretty good game. However, all of the improvements are completely negated by the fact that the game is so short. My first run clocked in at just under two and a half hours, what’s worse is that you can’t shake the feeling that two thirds of the game is missing. The game essentially has two levels that are split up into 8 very short levels. It is a real shame that The Force Unleashed 2 is such a shallow package because the improvements that have been made to the core mechanics should leave it in much higher regard than the original. The Force Unleashed 2 is definitely worth playing, but you can easily see everything on offer in much less time than a typical rental.