Game Corner: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (Xbox 360)


Released: October 2010
Developer: LucasArts
Also Available For: iOS, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and PC

The Background:
Despite its flaws, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (ibid, 2008) was a commercial success; as a result, LucasArts rushed into production with a sequel to what was, at the time, the official bridge between the events of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Lucas, 2005), and Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (ibid, 1977). My experience with The Force Unleashed was mired by the game’s dodgy camera, wonky physics, and repetitive levels and combat. When the game shined, it shined pretty brightly but even its best moments couldn’t overshadow the flaws in the engine and execution. The story, while interesting, had a few issues as well (even more so considering the games have long since been rendered non-canon by Disney), and was pretty well wrapped up with Darth Vader’s turncoat secret apprentice, Starkiller, dying a martyr to inspire and rabble the Rebel Alliance. But the franchise made money so, armed with the lamest excuse possible, LucasArts came back with this sequel but does it improve on its predecessor’s failings or is it more of the same?

The Plot:
After multiple failures, Darth Vader has finally perfected a clone of his secret apprentice, Starkiller. However, haunted by the memories, feelings, and motivations of his predecessor, the clone sets out to uncover the truth of his identity and reconnect with his lost love, Juno Eclipse.

Like its predecessor, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is a third-person action title in which the player controls a clone of Vader’s secret apprentice, Starkiller. If you thought Starkiller was a damaged, edgy character torn between his divided loyalties, this clone ramps it up to eleven as duplicating Starkiller’s prowess with the Force also meant duplicating his memories and emotions. Nowhere is this more evident in the fact that Starkiller now wields duel lightsabers, holding them both behind him like an absolute bad-ass. As a result, the already frenetic combat of the original is dialled up in this sequel; whereas you could just mash away at the X button in The Force Awakens to cut down foes, it was also encouraged that you time your strikes to unleash an impressive flurry of damaging attacks. Here, though, the combo system is literally as simple as successively hitting X to turn Starkiller into a laser-sword blur of blades and attacks; regular enemies no longer have their own health bars, meaning you’re literally encouraged to just mash away until they’re defeated.

Starkiller’s Force powers are back, stronger than ever.

Most of Starkiller’s basic Force abilities make a return; you can fry Stromtroopers with Force Lightning, push or toss them (and objects) with Force Push and Force Grip, or blast them away with Force Repulse. The game also places far more emphasis on pressing Y or O during a lightsaber combo to deal additional damage with Force Lightning or Force Push, which is extremely useful for clearing out waves of enemies or dealing additional lightning damage. While the life-sapping Force Shield is absent, Starkiller can now use a Mind Trick to convince his enemies to turn on their comrades or leap to their deaths which, while handy (and pretty much mandatory in the game’s final battle against Vader), can be clunky; I found it either wore off too fast or enemies just shrugged it off when I applied it. as you cut down enemies, you’ll build up a meter in the bottom left of the screen; once fully charged, pressing down the two analogue sticks will send Starkiller into a “Force Rage”, which increases his attack power and resistance to injure for as long as the meter lasts (which, to be fair, is quite a while). As you cut down enemies, you’ll earn points that can be used to upgrade each of Starkiller’s abilities, similar to the last game but much simpler and more streamlined. Gone are the multiple of combos you had to purchase and you have no need to buy new Force abilities as Starkiller either remembers them or learns them as he progresses, meaning its far easier to power-up Starkiller’s abilities.

The Force Grip is now, thankfully, much easier to pull off.

Also like in the first game, you can acquire crystals to customise the appearance and abilities of Starkiller’s lightsabers; you can mix and match the different blades for added effects and bonuses, though, unfortunately, there’s no way to customise your favourite blade colour with your preferred buff. While Force abilities are still a vital part of the game, and the combat system, I found they were mostly relegated to opening doors (which I still find difficult due to the game’s physics and hit detection) and tossing objects. Thankfully, gripping TIE Fighters and lobbing various bits of the environment at your enemies is much easier here; in the original, it felt like I was always fighting to get a grip on passing TIE Fighters and that they would just go flying wherever they wanted but, here, the system is much improved.

Grapple enemies to deliver massive damage.

Yet, for the most part, the game’s combat is focused almost exclusively on lightsaber combat. Perhaps because the clone is so emotionally unstable, combat is fast, brutal, and frenetic; Starkiller can grapple his foes to deliver either an instant kill or massive damage; he also lops off Stromtrooper’s heads and limbs this time around and can once again leave enemies open to a devastating parry with a well-timed press of the block button. Starkiller can still hurl his lightsabers at his enemies to cut them down from a distance, too, but I actually found myself using this far less in combat as it leaves Starkiller vulnerable as he waits for his weapons to return; instead, the game mostly focuses on using this ability to cut down platforms.

Don’t let enemies overwhelm you or you’ll have a bad time.

In addition to attacking with more power and proficiency than before, Starkiller also seems to be noticeably tougher; he can still lose health rapidly when pinned down or subjected to multiple attacks but his new combat style allows him to quickly cut down those before him to refill his health and force meter. You’ll need these skills as well as the game’s enemies seem much tougher and smarter this time around; snipers blast at you from the high ground in the distance or behind waves of regular Stromtroopers, who hunker down behind cover or buzz around on jetpacks. Even the bog-standard Stromtroopers can take a beating as well, meaning you should always go for overkill when engaging with hallways filled with enemies. Speaking of which, while the game is far more linear in its environments and level layout than its predecessor, I find it amusing, then, that the game ditches a traditional map and, instead, allows you to “sense” the way you need to do with the directional-pad as it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get lost in the game’s straight-forward environments. You’ll still be tasked with performing some mandatory platforming; Starkiller can double jump and dash on the ground and in the air to cross gaps but, more often that not, you’ll probably have to use the Force in some way to create makeshift bridges.

The Force Unleashed II loves these free-fall sections.

While platforming is light, it is mostly okay; Starkiller is nowhere near as slippery and janky as before and the game’s engine doesn’t seem to be struggling to render everything this time around, meaning you’re far less likely to slip or glitch off a ledge. The game does suddenly through a whole mess of tricky platforming at you when you storm Kamino’s cloning facilities in the final chapter, however, so it’s best you work on perfecting those jumps. Also as before, you’ll be tasked with performing a number of quick-time events (QTEs), especially against largely enemies and during boss battles. While these aren’t anything too complex beyond either pressing or mashing a button (or two buttons) at the right time, I found that the QTE indicators were harder to spot on the screen as they often appear at the edges of the display. There are also numerous moments where Starkiller dives through the air at high speed, dodging obstacles or blasting them (or enemies) with his Force abilities; while these are fun and exhilarating, the game maybe uses them a few too many times. Luckily, the poorly-conceived Star Destroyer section of the original is turned on its head here where Starkiller has to clear a path for a ship that is crashing through Kamino’s atmosphere, which is much improved.

My game glitched out on me, wouldn’t load this boss, and then crashed.

Luckily, the game’s stability has been noticeably improved over its predecessor; enemies no longer turn into stupid ragdolls when you defeat them or toss them around and I encountered far less glitches and issues with jumping or interacting with the environment. However, I did experience a few issues with slowdown, stuttering, and instances where the game didn’t load in the required environment or boss battle. This may have been because of the condition of my game disc, however as, after I cleaned it, the game continued to run fine but it was noticeable.

Before you know it, you’re facing off with Darth Vader and the game is over.

What really lets the game down, though, is its length and variety; I was annoyed that you revisited the same levels in The Force Unleashed and that, while the game evoked the spirit and aesthetic of Star Wars, it didn’t really do much to show us more of this sprawling, multi-cultural galaxy. For the sequel, you’ll battle through hallways-upon-hallways in many grey-coloured environments, whether it’s on a starship or the facilities on Kamino. The game tries to mix it up with some puzzle elements involving you powering up doors and visiting Cato Neimoidia (which is little more than a reskinned Geonosis) and briefly stopping by Dagobah but the majority of your time is spent exploring very similar-looking environments. Additionally, the game seems much shorter than its predecessor; I blew through the main story on the “Medium” difficulty and only missed one lightsaber crystal and with only a few Force abilities left to upgrade (easily remedied with a quick replay of some of the game’s other levels). The game’s length is so noticeably short, and its environment so conspicuously limited, that it almost feels like an extended add-on to the first game, like they took an idea for downloadable content (DLC) for The Force Awakens and simply padded it out to fill four to six hours of repetitive combat and gameplay.

Graphics and Sound:
Graphically, The Force Unleashed II isn’t much of an improvement over its predecessor, either; the cutscenes are of about the same quality and the in-game graphics only seem like they have been slightly tweaked and improved. I’ll give it this, though: the game really knows how to render the interior of a starship and the storm-swept landscape of Kamino; while this may mean that the game’s overall stability and quality is noticeably improved as the game isn’t trying to render or process loads of different elements all at once, it does make for a far blander and less interesting aesthetic experience as the game never reaches the heights of the original’s run through the Death Star laser cannon.

The game looks pretty decent, for the most part.

Once again, one of the best elements of the game is the incorporation of John Williams’ iconic Star Wars tracks. While you don’t get the same exhilaration as cutting down Wookies as Darth Vader while the Imperial March plays, the use of familiar Star Wars tracks once again works extremely well with the game’s visual fidelity to the movies to make it feel as though the game and its characters are deeply entrenched in Star Wars lore.

Enemies and Bosses:
For the majority of The Force Unleashed II, you’ll be cutting your way through swathes of Stromtroopers; we’ve got the generic minions, sniper and jetpack-wearing variants, and staff-wielding Riot Troopers. Despite the ease at which you can cut through these guys (the jetpackers, especially, go down much easier than in the first game), it does feel as though their intelligence, durability, and aggressiveness has been tweaked slightly to make them a bit more of a threat. Thankfully, the annoying Purge Troopers are no longer present; in there place, are a series of robotic enemies. The large variants wield shields that you must wrench off them with the Force and can attack with explosives, flamethrowers, or even carbonite sprays. You’ll also battle AT-MPs and AT-STs, both of which require to you reflect missiles back at them and, like these larger robots, can be destroying using QTEs.

The battle against the Gorog just keeps going on and on!

The game also brings back Force-sensitive and lightsaber-wielding foes, who are resistant to your lightsaber attacks and Force abilities, respectively, though the new grapple move is very useful for breaking through their guard. You’ll also battle spider-like terror droids (who can swarm you in an instant and must be destroyed en masse with Force Repulse) and enemies who are invisible and intangible until you stun them with Force Lightning, but, beyond Stormtrooper and droid variants, that’s about it for the game’s enemies. The Force Unleashed II is also a little thin on the ground when it comes to its bosses; at one point, it seems like the game is building up to a battle against Boba Fett but this never actually occurs, which is a shame. While the first game had far more boss encounters, though they were generally all variations on the same thing but, here, there are as few bosses as there are levels. The game tries to make up for it by making the few boss battles you do have to contend with last a long time; when battling the gigantic Rancor-eating Gorog, for example, you’ll have to dodge its massive claws, charge up its shackles with Force Lightning before attacking them with your lightsaber, and then mash the B button to Force Push the creature back into its restraints. Once you sap its health, you’ll then have to blast it with Force Lightning and attack it (and a few waves of Stromtroopers) from a higher gantry in order to sever the structure holding it in place and then you’ll dive after it at high speed, zapping and slashing at it before it can crush your ally, all of which can be an extremely exhaustive experience.

Eventually, the battle is decided by a QTE.

This exhaustion continues with the final bout against Darth Vader; unlike in the first game, where you could choose to battle Vader to the death or take on the Emperor at the end, The Force Unleashed II ends on an annoying multi-stage duel with the Dark Lord himself. Being so thoroughly bested by his apprentice in the first game must have really pissed Vader off, too, as he’s much more of a threat in this sequel; your Force abilities are all but useless against Vader here, requiring you to unleash your best combos against him on the rare occasions when his guard his down. Like the final duel of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (ibid, 1999) and the battle between Yoda (Frank Oz) and Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) in Revenge of the Sith, this finale takes place on a vertical plane, with Starkiller and Vader having to leap to platforms across a bottomless chasm deep in Kamino’s cloning facilities. As the fight progresses, you’ll have to send debris and objects back at Vader to damage him and then use your Mind Trick to convince flawed Starkiller clones to distract and damage Vader enough for you to really open up on him. Finally, the fight ends out on a rain-soaking landing platform, similar to the fight between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), where your Force Range will be fully powered and you’ll have to win a few QTEs to finally best Vader in combat and be able to, once again, choose between a Light Side ending and a Dark Side ending.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
as in the first game, you can pick up Jedi and Sith Holocrons hidden throughout every level; these will either give you a bunch of additional points to upgrade Starkiller’s abilities or provide you with a crystal to customise your lightsaber. These Holocrons are far easier to spot than in the first game and there’s even two additional variants, green and blue, which expand Starkiller’s health and Force meter respectively. While you can no longer acquire in-game buffs that make you invincible or the like, the different lightsaber crystals allow you to drain health from enemies, increase the replenishment of your health or Force meter, or earn more points from combat. You can also customise the lightsaber to deal additional lightning damage, possibly set enemies on fire, or even have a chance to disintegrate them entirely with the mythical Darksaber. As you play through the game, you’ll unlock additional costumes for Starkiller; you can also unlock further costumes by succeeding in the game’s “Challenge” mode and, if you have a save file from The Force Unleashed on your hard drive, you’ll gain access to three additional costumes (including the awesome Sith Stalker costume).

Additional Features:
As in the first game, you can unlock concept art and data files by playing the game; you can also input various cheat codes that allow you to save you having to unlock costumes and skins such as Boba Fett, though most of the game’s best costumes are restricted to DLC. Also present is the aforementioned “Challenge” mode; as you play the game, you’ll unlock new maps and challenges to take on in this mode, which generally require you to survive against waves of enemies while staying on a platform or collecting Holocrons, all against a clock. Depending on how well you do, you’ll receive either a bronze, silver, or gold medal and unlock additional costumes. DLC is far less extensive in this game; unlike the first, there is only one additional mission available in DLC. This non-canon extension of the game’s Dark Side ending sees players assume the role of the dark clone of Starkiller, who is sent to kill Princess Leia (who has become a Jedi in this timeline) during the Battle of Endor and winds up drop-kicking Ewoks and killing both Han Solo and Chewbacca for good measure.


The Summary:
For everything Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II improves from its predecessor, it has a near-equal number of failings as well. The game is far simpler; the interfaces are cleaner and easier to navigate, the plot is much more simplifier, and the combat has boiled down to a simply button masher. While this makes the game fast-paced, frenetic fun at times, it comes at the cost of the game’s length, difficulty, and replayability; the environments are even more limited than its predecessor, the plot is paper thin is the bare minimum excuse to produce a sequel, and it largely adds little to the first game or the overall Star Wars lore. Unfortunately, there’s probably less appeal in The Force Unleashed II than in the original; at least in that game, we got to see some familiar characters return and the formation of the Rebel Alliance be fleshed out but, here, we’re not really learning anything new. All this sequel shows us is that it was foolish for players to be emotionally invested in Starkiller and his new allies as even PROXY, who was clearly destroyed in the original, returns here (adding nothing to the narrative) and Juno, for all the importance the game places on her in Starkiller’s life, is little more than a damsel in distress and is never interacted with until the last moments of the game. Overall, The Force Unleashed II is far less frustrating than its predecessor but still an average gameplay experience. The developers definitely tidied up the combat and the physics but it doesn’t change the fact that this sequel is little more than an shameless cash-in n the success of The Force Unleashed. Were this game’s story condensed into a piece of DLC and its improvements and tweaks placed into The Force Unleashed, we could probably have had a really good Star Wars game but, instead, we got two lacklustre titles that, for all their potential, fail to really provide a coherent gameplay experience between them.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think abouy Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II? Did you consider it to be superior to its predecessor or were you just as unimpressed with the game’s length and variety as I was? What is your favourite Star Wars videogame (or movie, or show, or book, or whatever), if any? Either way, drop a comment below and let me know.

Game Corner: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360)


Released: September 2008
Developer: LucasArts
Also Available For: iOS, J2ME, N-Gage, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo Wii, PC, and Mac

The Background:
Before Disney bought the entire Star Wars (Various, 1977 to present) franchise and decided to reboot it with a bunch of questionable sequels, George Lucas was still firmly behind the wheel of his signature series. Development of a new Star Wars videogame began in 2004, around the time that Lucas was finishing up Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (ibid, 2005), and, eventually, the developers decided to work in close collaboration with Lucas in bridging the gap between that film and the seminal Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (ibid, 1977). The decision was made to introduce the idea that Darth Vader had secretly been training an apprentice, known as “Starkiller”, to not only hunt down and destroy any remaining Jedi but also to assist him in overthrowing Emperor Palpatine. In service of this, Vader would use Starkiller to form the fledging Rebel Alliance, thereby effectively creating his own downfall. While these events would later be rendered non-canon after the Disney buyout, for a time they stood as the established origins of the Rebel Alliance. Personally, I haven’t really enjoyed a Star Wars videogame since Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (Factor 5/LucasArts, 1998) and have only dipped in and out of subsequent titles as the franchise has dabbled in almost every conceivably genre. I’d heard, however, that The Force Unleashed was a pretty decent title, if mired by some frustrating controls and gameplay elements. Nevertheless, distrustful of Electronic Arts and their shameless loot crates and being unwilling (read: poor) to shell out for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Respawn Entertainment, 2019) yet having a Star Wars itch, I decided to take the plunge with The Force Unleashed and see if it holds up after all this time.

The Plot:
During his mission to hunt down and destroy the remaining Jedi, Darth Vader stumbles upon the son of a Jedi, whom he takes as a secret apprentice. Trained in the Dark Side of the Force, Vader’s secret assassin, Starkiller, is sent out into the galaxy to purge the Jedi and lay the foundations for Vader’s coup against the Emperor.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is, like many Star Wars videogames, a third-person action title in which the player controls Starkiller, a troubled and damaged young man who is strong with the Force and well-trained in the Sith arts. As a result, Starkiller wields a lightsaber and can use the Force in a variety of ways to strike down those before him. Combat is largely built around the execution of combos that string together successful lightsaber strikes with Force abilities. Starkiller can blast foes with Force Lightning, push or toss them (and objects) with Force Push and Force Grip, blast them away with Force Repulse, or envelop himself in a life-sapping Force Shield. As he cuts down Jedi and Stormtroopers alike, he earns experience points which can be used to unlock additional combos and improves his abilities. Luckily, there’s no crafting system and the skill tree is ridiculously easy; you can acquire crystals that will allow you to customise the look and abilities of Starkiller’s lightsaber and can improve the strength of his various attacks or regenerative abilities by spending Force Points.

Starkiller holds his lightsaber like an absolute bad-ass.

Speaking of Starkiller’s lightsaber, you know he’s a bad-ass not just because he has a no-nonsense buzzcut or a near-permanent scowl but also because he holds his lightsaber backwards! What a rebel! Holding down L2 will allow Starkiller to block incoming blaster fire and attacks (and pressing it at the right moment will also allow him to parry), though he can also automatically send bolts back to his foes as he runs along. Lightsaber combat is simple and fluid; hitting X at the right moment will initiate a fancy flourish that can be chained with subsequent attacks to deal massive damage, and Starkiller can even hurl his lightsaber like a boomerang to take out ranged foes and charge it with his Force Lightning to electrocute his enemies. It’s not all combat and tossing fools to their death with the Force, though; you’ll have your reaction time tested in more than a few quick-time events (QTEs) and Starkiller generally navigates through a limited number of largely limited, if relatively-well-realised environments, jumping and dashing his way to a series of objectives. There’s some light platforming here that requires the use of a double jump and dash, and a few extremely basic puzzles that pretty much always boil down to using the Force to move something to either cross a gap or open a door (or, sometimes, both!)

While impressive, this part is a pain in the ass.

While Starkiller controls very well, what will mess you up is the game’s wonky physics engine, unreliable camera, and janky controls; I struggled endlessly with the Force Grip, which either allowed me to suspend objects uselessly in mid air or sent them careening futilely against a wall and, as many have commented. This becomes a massive source of frustration during what should have been the game’s crowning achievement: pulling a Star Destroyer from the sky. While pulling the ship down wasn’t actually that difficult (though it is frustrating having to angle it into the right position), it’s the wave-upon-wave of TIE Fighters that make this so aggravating. Starkiller can’t deflect TIE Fighter fire and the only way to destroy them is to grab them with the Force and, I swear, it’s damn near impossible to get a grip on them.

Levels are very Star Wars but not very inspiring.

Compounding the matter is the fact that Starkiller is actually quite weak; you can upgrade his health and Force meter and the damage he can receive and dish out, but he bounces around the place like a puppet when he’s blasted with heavy weaponry and sometimes takes so long to jump back up that he can get blasted to death with very little effort. As a result, you’ll be constantly jumping and dashing about cutting down the regular Stromtroopers to refill your health and allow you to pummel away at the game’s tougher enemies. While the game is a decent length and tells a pretty engaging story about Starkiller’s eventual redemption and sacrifice, the level variety leaves a lot to be desired. Every environment feels very Star Wars and you’ll battle through a TIE Fighter factory, the woodlands of Kashyyyk, and even through the Death Star itself but the problem is that you basically revisit the same environments twice over. You begin the game as a fully-powered Vader slaughtering Wookies on Kashyyyk and later revisit this planet as Starkiller; Starkiller journeys to Raxus Prime to assassinate a Jedi and later returns there to rescue key figures of the Rebellion. Other environments, like Tatooine and Coruscant, appear as downloadable content (DLC) but it would have really helped to increase the game’s visual variety to have these levels be a part of the main story.

Graphics and Sound:
Graphically, the game is…okay. The computer-generated cutscenes are well-produced but, while the in-game graphics do a serviceable enough job of rendering the game’s handful of levels and environments, they don’t make for very attractive in-game cutscenes. It also seems like the developers were desperate to cram as many different physics engines into the game as possible, from Havok to Euphoria, in order to make the game “state of the art”. However, while the enemies have relatively decent levels of intelligence (Stormtroopers just blast away but the Purge Troopers and Felucian’s systematically attack you with blocks and co-ordinated attacks) and the environments are largely intractable and destructible, the game is riddled with rag-doll physics, glitchy platforms (Starkiller is just as likely to slide off a ledge as he is to land on it), and dodgy graphical elements (the backgrounds are teeming with life and action but then some barriers and trees just disintegrate into dust and fade away).

You’ll really feel as though you are Darth Vader…for about ten minutes.

Yet, the game is filled with familiar Star Wars music and compositions based upon the works of the great John Williams. There’s something incredibly empowering about cutting Wookies down as Darth Vader while the iconic Imperial March plays and the music definitely lends a level of professionalism and quality to the game that is, generally, matched by the game’s recognisable environments.

Enemies and Bosses:
The Force Unleashed is filled with all manner of enemies; while you’ll wade through legions of Stormtroopers who go down with relative ease, you’ll also come up against some of the Empire’s more advanced troops who make use of cloaking technology, gatling guns, blast you with concussive bolts from jetpacks, or erect Force-resistant shields. Then there are the enemies who use energy shields or weapons to block and parry your attacks, the likes of the Purge Troopers who grapple Starkiller and want nothing more than to bash his brains in, or the always-annoying Sniper Troopers who pick you off from a distance. Starkiller will also battle Force-sensitive enemies, like the Felucians, or those like the Emperor’s Royal Guard who wield lightsaber-like staffs and weapons and require you to break through their defences to land a combo.

Larger enemies require a bit more strategy.

Sometimes you’ll have to target a specific enemy in order to “demoralise” the other troops; this is essential as, when your enemies are bolstered by these bastards, they can kill you in short order. Starkiller will also frequently come up against AT-STs and Rancors as well; these larger enemies are often flanked by waves of smaller enemies and can whittle your health down to nothing in no time with their powerful attacks so you’ll have to make use of Starkiller’s ranged Force abilities and combos and then win at a QTE to put them down for good.

One boss battle takes place right next to a Sarlacc pit!

As for boss battles, these are pretty much all against Jedi, Sith, or similarly-Force-empowered individuals. While each of these encounters is largely the same (block or parry attacks while you wait for an opening, cut down cannon fodder to refill your health, use your Force powers to throw objects at the boss, and win a QTE), each takes place with slightly different environmental and additional hazards. You’ll duel with Shaak Ti beside a Sarlacc pit, for example, have to contend with Maris Brood’s Bull Rancor, and will have to battle simulations of not only the Jedi you’ve defeated before but also a recreation of Darth Maul when facing off with Starkiller’s droid, PROXY.

The Emperor will try your patience.

The finale of the game obviously sees you butting heads with Starkiller’s former master, Darth Vader; this is a three (or four, depending on your choice) stage fight that begins in a narrow hallway, progresses to a room where the floor is (almost literally) lava, and ends in the Emperor’s observation deck. Ironically, I found Vader to be less challenging than some of the game’s other bosses as, while he has a powerful Force blast and will choke you out of the air, it’s not actually too difficult to weather his attacks and wail on him with your best combos. After besting Vader, you’re presented with a choice to finish him off in a battle to the death (thus earning the Dark Side ending) or going one-on-one with the Emperor to achieve the Light Side ending. Rather than attacking with a lightsaber, Palpatine uses his Force Lightning to roast you alive, shields himself from your attacks, and throws lightning-charged objects at you (that also explode). This battle is more annoying than difficult as, with careful timing, you can bounce Palpatine’s lightning back at him and whittle him away with your combos as long as you can avoid or block his other attacks.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned, you can acquire, upgrade, and purchase new combos and abilities as you play through the game and level up; by the time you confront the Emperor, you can take quite a bit of punishment, your Force meter will refill faster, and your attacks will dish out far more damage thanks not just to being upgraded but also to the new combos available to you.

Upgrade your abilities with Force points.

As you explore your environment, you can also pick up Jedi Holocrons, which will refill your health and Force meter, award Jedi points, and yield other awards (like new lightsaber crystals). With the right lightsaber crystal, your lightsaber can deal more damage or suck health from your opponents, and you’ll also unlock additional artwork, costumes, and other bonuses by finding all of the Holocrons. Starkiller can also increase his odds with one-time buffs by picking up Sith Holocrons; these will grant you with limited invincibility, refill your meters, bestow you with an aura that will drain the health from enemies, or give you an unlimited Force meter for a brief time. Against some of the game’s tougher enemies and mini bosses, these can be essential so make the effort to pick them up and take out the more annoying enemies.

Additional Features:
As mentioned, you can unlock a bunch of concept art and data files by playing the game and collecting Jedi Holocrons. There are also a large number of additional costumes available for use; none of these offer any benefit beyond being cosmetic changes but they do allow you to play as other Star Wars characters, including Obi-Wan Kenobi and even C-3PO! There are three DLC missions you can also play if you bought the extra content (or the Ultimate Sith Edition); one sees Starkiller undergo a series of trials in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant while the other two take place on Tatooine and Hoth and present an alternative scenario where Starkiller replaced Vader as the Emperor’s assassin and battles some familiar faces. As standard, there are a number of Achievements to unlock; most of these are earned through regular play, while other require you to kill a certain number of enemies in different ways or play on higher difficulty settings.


The Summary:
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is, ultimately, an average experience; the combat is fast and frenetic and it’s fun to fry Stormtroopers with Force Lightning or cut AT-STs in half but the game quickly runs out of depth and steam and it isn’t long before you’ve experienced everything it has to offer. Starkiller was an interesting protagonist but the story of his redemption is, honestly, nothing we’ve never seen before in Star Wars movies or other media. It doesn’t help that he has to constantly travel through the same environments, fighting variations of the same enemies, and battling against some really dodgy physics and a camera that just loves to get stuck behind objects or jitter about the place at crucial moments. The game’s more frustrating elements really hamper the thrill of fighting through the Death Star laser cannon; battling Jedi and the iconic Sith duo is fun but also a laborious experience that generally comes down to dodging an attack and just mashing away at X like a madman until you win. Despite the fact that the game carries a large degree of sensory fidelity to the Star Wars movies and offers perhaps the best lightsaber combat I’ve experienced so far, it seems to be lacking a real polish to bring together is disparate elements into a cohesive and consistently engaging experience.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What were your thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed? Did you also struggle with the game’s wonky physics, camera, and controls or do you consider it to not actually be that bad? What is your favourite Star Wars videogame (or movie, or show, or book, or whatever), if any? Either way, leave a comment below and let me know.