Blogger's note: Major Spoilers for The Force Unleashed 1. Minor spoilers for the Force Unleashed 2.
For those unfamiliar with Star Wars The Force Unleashed, here's a summary: Taking place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Lord Vader raises a secret apprentice named Galen (aka Starkiller) who hunts Jedi. However, certain events in the game force Galen to consider a new path.
Without going into too much detail, here are the reasons why I liked The Force Unleashed 1:
1) The characters-Galen is a character who has some great depth to him, easily more than any other character in the movie prequel series. When he's trying to be good, he has some deep emotional scarring (no doubt being raised by Vader would cause a few) and when he's bad, he is seriously bad-ass. Seriously, this guy can knock away TIE fighters, star destroyers, and big monsters with a wave of his hand. When was the last time we saw anyone, including Vader capable of doing that?
2) The plot: A little on the weak side, but it also avoids most of the star-wars cliches. No one ever appealed to Galen to be good-his constant companions were a jedi so drunk he spent half the game passed out in the cargo hold, and a droid programmed to kill him. It was actually exploring the galaxy and meeting someone he loved that forced him to change his mind. Plus, in the game you never really knew what Vader was planning. A huge chunk of the time Galen did exactly what Vader told him to do, and that usually resulted in him being smacked around or almost killed. Come to think of it, that might have helped him switch sides as well.
3) The visuals: The graphics are pretty cool to look at (well, except for the poor souls who own a Wii. Heh heh)
So how does Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2 fare? About the same as any other Star Wars film as soon as George Lucas realizes he actually made something good and tries to continue the story-sucky.
Where it really fails is the plot. Seven months after Galen heroically sacrifices himself for his friends (assuming you choose the good ending, anyway) Lord Vader thinks it's a great idea to create a clone army of Starkillers. Not surprisingly, one of them escapes and tries to recapture his former life.
I received my first clue about the game's quality when I went to the store on opening day for this game and found a used copy already there. Keep in mind that this is mid-afternoon. This game is very short-about five levels, and I was able to beat it within a day or two on normal difficulty. Most of the levels are repetitive, and it really feels like the difficulty level is turned way down. Even the inevitable boss fight with Lord Vader barely took away any health.
My second clue was the writer of the first game, Hadel Blackman, quitting. Plot-wise, it feels like all the characters lose a dimension. Lord Vader is not quite as compelling and manipulative, having no agenda besides kidnapping Galen's girlfriend in order to set up a trap for him. While still a bad-ass, Galen feels like more of a dick, easily turning away from saving the Republic multiple times in order to save his girlfriend. For all of the early talk of Galen's clone-'finding himself', it really does boil down to a 'save-the-girlfriend' plot and that's it.
But where the game loses the final points is in the ending-which is a cliff-hanger, of course. I could almost see George Lucas in the background, waving a bill in my face for the next potential game. An ending I can easily predict. Suffice to say I'm sure there is a reason why Galen isn't mentioned in the Star Wars movies, and it probably doesn't end happily for him. Which is a shame, because I think anyone who can beat Lord Vader and the Emperor in five minutes is a smidgeon more powerful than Luke Skywalker.
Star Wars The Force Unleashed 1: 4 stars out of 5. A great, solid Star Wars game.
Star Wars the Force Unleashed 2: 2 ½ out of 5. This game should have been longer, the plot felt lost and overall the game was a fan service. Rent this one!
Knowing George Lucas, we can expect three prequel films, a hundred books, and a cartoon series of the Force Unleashed very shortly.