Star Wars: The Force Unleashed had its share of flaws, but it still provided a healthy dose of saber-slicing, Force-flinging action that made it fun to destroy the Wookiees, Jawas, and stormtroopers that got in your way. The Force Unleashed II provides similar delights on occasion, but overall, this sequel is less enjoyable, less varied, and shorter than the game that came before it. The art design, while less diverse than that of the original, is still impressive, and the story, while less emotionally convincing, is still dotted with poignant moments. But the frustrations of the original haven’t been improved in any meaningful ways, and an incredibly bland final boss battle brings a decent action game to a limp conclusion. In many ways, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is more of the same, which might be fine for Star Wars fans looking for a new excursion into the stars. But it has none of the spark or diversity of the first game, and a handful of extraordinary cinematic moments aren’t enough to compensate.
The story is The Force Unleashed II’s first notable element. On the watery planet of Kamino, Darth Vader hovers over a familiar figure. It looks to be Starkiller, the original game’s leading man and Vader’s unauthorized apprentice. But is it really Starkiller–the one said to have sacrificed himself for the Rebellion? Thus, you step into this man’s shoes and begin your search for the truth, not to mention the search for Juno Eclipse, Starkiller’s former pilot and lover. Excellent voice acting and facial animations give cutscenes emotional impact, and a sequence near the end of the game in which you are plagued by visions is a great touch that melds storytelling with gameplay. It’s unfortunate that a lengthy central stretch that focuses on the combat needs of the Rebellion brings the narrative to a halt. In general, you spend less time getting to know Starkiller (or is it Starkiller?) and the supporting cast this time around, so the story arc isn’t as fulfilling as it might have been. Yet while the sequel may not boast a story as substantial as The Force Unleashed’s, it’s both fitting and fulfilling. This is in part because it harks back to the original Star Wars trilogy, in which the action was not gratuitous but was granted context by human emotion and complicated relationships.