Starkiller is back and as far as the story goes, I didn't find a whole lot was added. So let's jump right into the game-play, of which each element seems to have a positive and a negative.
Most of the game will have you running into rooms where you'll slice and dice Imperial soldiers. It's fun to watch the limbs and heads go flying as you whip your dual lightsabers around at food processor speeds. The action picks up quickly in the game and you'll get lots of combat practice since many of the common enemies you'll be facing along the way are all exposed to you at the beginning of the game.
Thankfully the occasional glitch came up less than reused enemy skins. One occurrence was during a cut-scene before a boss fight. The sound went quiet, and for the entire fight, all I could hear were the ambient noises. At least the glitches were few and far between and, like this one, they didn't impede progress.
The controls were another sticky point for me, and I mean that in a literal sense. I didn't feel that you could easily flow between saber combat and using force powers and pulling off combos. The game felt like it wanted very specific timing (as a ho-hum speed mind you) and very specific conditions for things to happen. I often fond myself wanted to move from hammering down with my lightsabers to using my force-grip move. But to do that it seemed like I had to stop pressing square, wait a second for the animation to stop to let Starkiller catch his breath, then press R2, and hope he decided to grab the storm trooper in front of me, and not the little box beside me. The controls just didn't feel dynamic or fast enough to keep up with what I wanted them to do.
It's too bad because there is a nice selection of attacks to pull off. Many recurring favourites are back, like the Sabre-throw, force push, lightning attacks, etc. They're all upgradable by cashing in experience points gained by killing enemies and destroying the environment around you. You can also find hidden saber crystals, each giving you special abilities such as increased experienced earned, faster health regeneration, continuous damage on hit targets, and many more. What feels weird is how the powers are inconsistent. I mean why can I stop a tie-fighter mid flight and crush it like a soda can using Force Grip, but it has no effect on an AT-MP?
What you can do with some of the bigger foes is get their health down enough which will allow you to perform a little quick-time-event take-down. There's also button combos that will allow you to cause big damage to the various storm troopers. When performed you can rest your fingers for a few seconds while a mini cut-scene plays. The problem here is that it gets really boring doing this move after seeing it a few dozen times. It's cool at first, it's effective, but they could have rendered a few more animations to play so it's not so monotonous.
A couple of enjoyable boss fights helps mix things in terms of both game-play and pacing. The final fight was a little tiresome for my tastes however, especially when the mid-battle conversations repeat themselves. I mean, could they not have recorded enough dialogue to outlast the fight? Thankfully, unlike some games that require your to start the entire adventure over from scene one, this game makes it easy to replay just the final stage if you want to watch both endings available. One of the bonuses is how easy it is to not only go back and replay any of the levels, but replay them individually on different difficulty settings. I always like that feature in a game.
Replay value is one thing that a game of this length should have. And once you're done the main campaign you can go back to collect hidden holocrons to unlock new bonuses, or build up experience points to max out Starkiller's powers. There's also a plentiful number of challenges to aim for completion, if timed bonus levels are your thing.
Some people will no doubt find the game ending far too soon. It is a short game, and you can complete it in a little over 4 hours. I'm okay with short games, as long as there's a trade in quality. Nowadays if a game is only a few hours long it better be a polished and exceptional few hours. In this case, I didn't see that trade happen.
A lack of variety in general, not a lot new to the mix, level design that isn't overly engaging, controls that are sluggish, and weird glitches and signs of laziness. Sure the sound is great, but it's Star Wars; if they haven't gotten the sound and music down by know there's a serious problem. The game-play is fun, but I can't see it bringing any new fans to the Star Wars universe. I feel that you have to already want to swing a lightsaber around to bother playing.
As fun as the fun stuff is, as a whole it feels incomplete; especially when compared to other Star Wars games I enjoyed far more and pulled me in much more effectively in the past (the eight year old Jedi Knight 2 for example). Not only does the Force Unleashed 2 barely bring anything new to the table, it doesn't even use everything good that was already kicking around and available. Maybe that's part of the problem. It has a lot of Star Wars gaming history to live up to, and the possibilities could have easily plateaued by now.
I had a good time with it, but I had a better time with the first one. It'll be a great title for fans of Star Wars that I would recommend to pick up, if it achieves a more representative "Greatest Hits" price tag.