Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II -- The Force Is Not Strong With This One

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So it may not have seemed like it at the time, but I promise, I did like the first of the Force Unleashed games.  The PSP version was, in fact, the first video game review I ever wrote for this blog.  I may want to revisit it someday and re-review the game.  Maybe I'll do it for my five-year anniversary (mark your calendars, folks: December 14, 2013).

This sequel pisses me off.  First of all, it was released for every system on the market... except the PSP.  The original game was a Greatest Hit on the PSP, so why wouldn't they release a version of the sequel for it?  Damn you, Lucas Arts!  You keep doing this to me!  I have the first five Star Wars movies on VHS... and I was forced to get Episode III on DVD, since there was never a VHS version.  Now I can't even review this game properly because I have to compare a PSP game with a game for a completely different system!

The first thing I noticed about the Xbox 360 version of the sequel, other than the pretty graphics, was that the quick time events the industry seems to love so much make more sense than in the PSP version of the original.  I don't know if this is a valid observation, though, considering the vast differences between the PSP and the Xbox 360.  I do know that the developers decided to balance the Force this time around, and make it so that you need to use the whole range of your powers.  In the first game, all I had to do was walk into a room and extend my arm like I was saluting the Third Reich and my lightning powers would kill everything, then I'd repeat the process in the next room, and so on.  My Force power regenerated so quickly that I could start a level by going, "Force Lightning!  Force Lightning!  Heil Hitler!  Force Lightning!"

To appear in this, pay me enough they did not.

This time around, I enjoyed exploring what I had available to me, especially my new Jedi Mind Trick power.  It was fun to watch one of the enemy soldiers get brainwashed and start attacking his own people.  Then his own people were forced to kill him.  It was even more fun to plant the urgent suggestion to run in their feeble minds.  The hapless victim became convinced that the only safe route was to jump off a bridge.  It was a long way down to the bottom and I'm pretty sure he snapped out of his spell long before he hit.  Sucked to be him.

I was very much impressed by the way achievements were integrated into the game this time around.  Sure, there were the standard achievements for finishing the game on the light or dark side of the Force.  But achievements were also earned for killing enemies in a certain way.  Making a certain number of them willingly pitch themselves over the side of a bridge and die earned an achievement.  Throwing a number of them over the side earned an achievement.  Causing some of them to get caught up in the architecture in certain levels earned an achievement, and so on.  Everything about the game urged me to experiment with my Force powers.

It's a good thing it did, because the game was short.  Honestly, it's a blink and miss it kinda short.  There were maybe three or four levels in the game broken up with occasional bits of whining (why must every Star Wars story have to star a whiny Jedi?).  Each level consisted of running around, occasionally using the Force to kill things and manipulate the architecture to allow passage, and then there was a boss fight at the end.  It was like Too Human except they forgot to include the terminal case of dying-all-the-time.  It even ended like Too Human: after a certain boss battle, there was nothing left except an epilogue and the end credits and it all ended abruptly with a cliffhanger that ruined the Star Wars canon entirely.  I could accept the Jedi ending of the first game since it led right into A New Hope.  Except, wait, just kidding, it led right into this game instead, and neither the Jedi nor the Sith ending provides a smooth transition to the live action movies.  I got the feeling that there was supposed to be more to this game, that the final boss of The Force Unleashed II was really only supposed to be the mid-boss.  It's like they decided to cut it in half and everything that didn't make it into this game has been held back for the third- hey, wait a minute.

George Lucas, I see what you did here.  This is your third Star Wars trilogy.  You must have realized you can't make any more films.  The actors from episodes 4, 5 and 6 have all aged quite a bit, and unless you're planning on episodes 7, 8 and 9 taking place years ahead in the future and/or starring a different cast of characters entirely, you're kinda screwed.  Instead, you've turned to the video game medium and you've created episodes 3.25, 3.5 and 3.75.  We've received the first two, and the third is inevitable.  There are quite a few loose ends you need to tie up.  There was no mention of any Jedi clones in episodes 4, 5 or 6, so the Jedi clones in The Force Unleashed II have to be dealt with somehow.  Depending on which ending is considered the canon ending this time around, either Star Wars canon is broken in regards to how many Sith there are in the galaxy, or the gap between the video games and the original trilogy is widened considerably.  At least in the first game, killing Darth Vader was obviously not the canon ending.  Oh, and speaking of breaking canon, there still seems to be some Jedi left in the galaxy other than Obi-Wan and Yoda.  You're going to have to deal with that loose end, too, Mr. Lucas.  Unfortunately, I don't have much faith in this trilogy coming to a good enough end, considering how botched the end of Revenge of the Sith was.

Oh no, they sent four Stormtroopers after me!  I thought I asked for four hundred!

While I'm in a highly critical mood, I feel like I should also point out how badly the game handles Cutscene Power, specifically the power to fall from great heights and survive one day, only to die and fail from a twenty foot drop the next day.  Which is it, Mr. Lucas?  Either Starkiller can fight giant behemoths while falling for miles, or he can't handle a short drop measured in tenths of a mile.  You can't have it both ways.  This annoyed me the most when I was fighting the final boss.  If Starkiller fell from the platform he was on, he would usually end up tumbling to his doom (obviously not shown, since it would take a while thanks to the elevated architecture that seems popular in the Star Wars universe).  But occasionally, he would land safely on another platform.  Didn't matter, the game still booted me to a loading screen and reset back to either the beginning or the midway point of the fight.  It didn't make sense.  Earlier in the game, Starkiller willingly jumped from great heights and survived.  What happened, did he suddenly forget he could fall with style?  Did he get his gravity license revoked?  Can he only take a dive once a month or something?

And don't get me started on the ending itself.  When it came time to decide whether I was going to show mercy to my enemy or not, a menu appeared on the screen offering two options.  I'm not exaggerating: I was told to press one button to see the Jedi ending and another to see the Sith ending.  Yes, not only was the game short, but it ended like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  If you want to break the disk in two, go to page 137.  If you wish to defenestrate it instead, go on to the next page.

I think that this game is only good for a rental, really.  It's too short to justify paying full price, especially since there's nothing to do after the game's over, other than play some of the special levels that're unlocked during the game, and maybe see both endings.  I don't know if I want to wait and see what happens in the inevitable Force Unleashed 3.  It'll end poorly no matter what they decide to do.  If it's given a happy ending where the protagonists all survive, it's obviously not canon since there were only three Jedi left in A New Hope.  If the bad guys win and slaughter the protagonists, the target audience will hate it even if such an ending fits with Star Wars canon.  It's a hell of a corner to paint yourself into.

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