Aside from those drones (which come in regular and somewhat-smarter-than-regular varieties), The Force Unleashed II has just a handful of basic tricks up its sleeve. There are the bad guys who are immune to your lightsaber, and the bad guys who are immune to everything but your lightsaber. Toward the end of the story, the game starts tossing these two out side-by-side. Enjoyment does not ensue. I understand the fast-paced chess match that the designers were trying to set up, but here it simply plays out as bland frustration. It's a clumsy tactical element that takes the most satisfying thing about The Force Unleashed – dancing on the edge of berserk with crazy combinations of powers – and neuters it.
Then you have the huge droids, which you are supposed to whale on until you get the opportunity to slay the beast with a quick-time event. You know quick-time events; they're those moments where the game flashes an "X" on the screen, and you get a mini-cut-scene as a "reward" if you press X in time. The Force Unleashed II is packed with 'em. Is this the best that the medium can do? The game tells us which button to push, and then we push that button? Star Wars deserves better than this tired old crutch.
One of the promises made by the developers was that they would improve the all-important 'Force Grip' controls used to manoeuvre impossibly large objects in mid-air. This seems like a strange claim now, as I perceived minimal change in the Force Grip part of the game. That's fine with me, as I never had much of a problem with it in the first place. It had a bit of a learning curve, but once it was in my fingers, there was no end to the thrill of grabbing enormous chunks of the scenery and flinging them around.
If anything, Force Grip is a tad worse in The Force Unleashed II. To the developers' credit, once you toss an object, it does seem to home in on enemies a bit more reliably than in the first game; the hard part is picking something up in the first place. The Force Grip targeting flickers all over the screen with no apparent rhyme or reason, so it can be maddeningly difficult just to make Starkiller grab the crate that's sitting right in front of him.
More problematic is the game's use of space. The Force Unleashed gave players wide-open spaces where they had plenty of room to manipulate objects in three dimensions. Too much of the sequel takes place in relatively cramped corridors, such that using Force Grip is a clumsy affair, like working your recliner sofa through a narrow doorway.
On one seemingly airy level, The Force Unleashed II even commits that most egregious sin of level design: invisible walls and ceilings. I found myself wondering, why can't I rocket that stormtrooper into the great beyond? The answer was: because the developers said so, that's why.
It's hard to imagine a game that squanders its opportunities more than this one. The Force Unleashed was not just a very good game; it also had plenty of room for improvement. That translates into a rare chance to make something phenomenal. This sequel should have been like Mass Effect 2: a triumphant success that makes good on the original vision.
Instead, we get a game that feels like it was created out of obligation rather than inspiration. The Force Unleashed was Haden Blackman's baby, yet he left LucasArts a couple months before the sequel was released. In retrospect, that may have been a sign of trouble. The game industry's obfuscating wall of public relations minders and non-disclosure agreements will keep us from knowing the story behind The Force Unleashed II for a long time, but the final product certainly has the whiff of a creative process gone awry.
Whatever went down behind the scenes, the result is a game that sometimes resembles a flavorless tech demo for The Force Unleashed – not a worthy successor. While there are certainly pleasures to be had in The Force Unleashed II, they come off as the dregs of a concept that has run its course. The series was bound to exhaust itself someday, but the fact that it happened this early is a brutal disappointment.
5 / 10