In Replaying the Classics, StarWars.com revisits Star Wars games of yesteryear, examining why we loved them then and why they stand the test of time.
In 2010’s Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, actor Sam Witwer reprises his Legends role as Darth Vader’s mighty apprentice, Starkiller, the son of a Jedi slain during the Dark Times. After helping to spark the Rebellion alongside heroes like Bail (Jimmy Smits) and Leia Organa (Catherine Taber) in the original Unleashed, Starkiller fell in battle against the Sith Lords overseeing the Death Star’s construction. So when the martyred hero awakens before Vader in the sequel, he’s imprisoned in a facility on the ocean world of Kamino, where the clone army of the Republic was born.
“You have served your purpose well, my apprentice,” Vader (Matt Sloan) tells him in the opening cinematic. “But I have no further use for you.” The Dark Lord orders his stormtroopers to execute the would-be Jedi. This, it seems, is a glimpse into one possible future.
After a traditional opening crawl, we find the clone of Starkiller being kept in isolation. Vader’s been telling him about the original Starkiller’s rebel legacy, and mentions that the Jedi general who aided him in the previous game, Rahm Kota (Cully Fredricksen), is being held prisoner on the planet Cato Neimoidia. The apprentice’s first task, Vader says, will be to eliminate Kota. Still, the clone’s been having visions through the Force — “memories of a dead man,” Vader insists. And Starkiller’s doppelgänger can’t bring himself to follow the order to strike down a training droid made to resemble Juno Eclipse (Nathalie Cox), the pilot his clone template fell in love with not so long ago.
Remembering Vader’s betrayal of the original host, this new Starkiller makes the fateful decision to escape Kamino. He unleashes a devastating burst of lightning from his fingertips, staggering Vader, and dives out the window, plummeting toward the rain-slicked walkways below.
Starkiller’s new journey takes him to worlds evoking the prequel trilogy and classic films alike, showing the Neimoidian race under Imperial rule. Players also encounter the fan-favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett (Dee Bradley Baker) and a world-weary Yoda in exile (Tom Kane), who offers a few words of wisdom without wanting to get involved in another Sith war. It’s a more intimate, personal story than the first Unleashed, but brought us closer to feeling like we were in a Star Wars movie. If Battlefront II (2017) is the perfect way to experience the galaxy far, far away through the eyes of a soldier, then The Force Unleashed II is the ultimate Legends-era Jedi action game.
One of the major highlights is a truly jaw-dropping gladiatorial sequence featuring a beast called the Gorog; suffice it to say it’s bigger than your average video-game boss. And the final confrontation against Vader is reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back in its operatic spectacle, as well as utterly unique for reasons I wouldn’t want to spoil for anyone. However, it’s worth mentioning that this, like the first game, includes an alternate dark-side ending.
Starkiller wields two lightsabers this time around, and the more streamlined combat and upgrade systems allow for swordplay animations straight out of the concept art (again led by Lucasfilm Animation’s Amy Beth Christenson). The Force Unleashed II is a triumphant example of what the universe has to offer in the realm of blockbuster gaming. It’s been eight years since the game launched on consoles and PC. Yet the moment you hear Mark Griskey’s thundering score, and the snap-hiss of Starkiller’s twin blades, it feels like only yesterday.
Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Syfy Wire, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.