Currently Playing: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC)

This was a long awaited sequel. Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight historically was one of the best games ever been made. With a good balance of story and action it was amazing even with the previous game. So when the game was announced a year ago I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. It was a sure best seller even before it was released. Would this be the answer to my Jedi craving? Let’s see…

This is the story of Kyle Katarn, whom which has spanned through games, comics and books. Kyle is already a big part in Star Wars history most published media should not contradict each other. He has stolen the Death Star plans in “Dark Forces” and killed a growing dark Jedi group in “Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight”. He has been trained by Luke for a short period of time in the books “Jedi Academy Trilogy” by Kevin Anderson. The only part I doubt in the games is that Kyle trained Mara Jade (current wife of Luke in the books) for a short period of time after being in the Jedi Academy.

Well, that was a short Star Wars history. Now to the Jedi Knight 2 story. Actually the title says it all. “Jedi Outcast” is the best title I could also think of since Kyle starts the game as an ex-Jedi. He stopped using his powers sometime after the Jedi Academy and he also handed down his lightsaber to Luke Skywalker for safekeeping thinking that he won’t come back to it again. I’m still trying to figure out why he abandoned the force. If you can remember the previous game that there were 2 choices for the game to end which is going to the light or dark side. For me I presumed it was in between. He did use his powers for good, but why does he fear it so much and does not want to return to it ever again? Well, so much for that. Now he has no force powers when the story starts and somehow he has to face a mission that seems to be related to the Valley of the Jedi (this is the location of the last battle in Dark Forces 2 and has tremendous power of the force).

The game starts a bit slow, maybe because I wanted the force powers as soon as I can. But I think it was more of that the first few missions seemed too common to other FPS games and the levels felt too large and too long. I was amazed though that the levels were larger than the usual Quake 3 engine based games which is great since it really immerses you into the game a lot, rarely does the game need to load. Puzzles in the game are very logical and you really get the sense that you know what you are doing. I did enjoy trying to figure out these puzzles since they are a bit obvious but requires some thinking. There are a few puzzles that were too hard to figure out, but those can still be done even without looking at a walkthrough. Halfway through the game gets really interesting. I liked the level where you just had to learn your force powers, though it felt like a training mode, it still felt essential to the story and I wouldn’t mind playing through it again. The lightsaber makes the game very interesting and you would be very dependent on it. You won’t even try using any other weapon because your force powers and your trusty lightsaber seems enough to do all the damage. You would find your other weapons pretty useless; you would need them from time to time but not too much. Encountering other Jedi opponent’s makes the game really exciting. As you progress everything just gets better and better, and focuses more on the action rather than puzzles.
Lightsaber duels and fights, this is the best part of the game. I really had fun playing it. It felt so good and it’s close to how “Star Wars” light saber battles look like. I remember the previous game felt like jousting rather than duel fights. But this time it feels closer to a fast lightsaber fights. You will see how much movements they have made on how to swing the saber depending on where the opponent stands. There are so much moves that I don’t think I’ve seen them all. Even when jumping Kyle Katarn still have his cool moves when attacking or defending. My favorite part is when two sabers clash together, it sparks and you screen flashes in white. That’s so exciting that it felt like you’re actually there. I also thought my mouse was going to break since if does happen you have to click your mouse as fast as you can to defeat an opponent. Even the sound, it feels like it comes straight from the movie. Though I still have a little problem with those fights, since it’s is so fast its hard to notice if you’ve hit him or not. The only indicator that someone has been hit is some faint particles floating, but because of the fast action you wouldn’t even notice it. You might even think it’s was a sparkle when your sabers caught together or you won’t even know who was actually hit until you look at your life meter.

The game AI is better than most games I see. They have some kind of coordination depending on how many they are attacking you. If they are in large numbers, a group of them will try to go behind so they can surround you. Jedi groups are really hard when you get fight them, they know how to team up very well. Usually one Jedi will use a force grip to hold you up and another one who throws a lightsaber at you. It’s really hard and challenging that you could show out happily when you get to take one down.

Controls are a bit different from the previous game. I remember that Jedi Knight started or popularized the WASD control and obviously it stayed with us. It standardized how we played games now. Now the controls just matured from the previous game and anybody could get the hang of it. The only problem here is accessing force powers. You control them easily by using F (Function) keys. It seems ok but when you’re really in a fight it’s hard to press an F key and using your movement WASD keys while clicking or controlling your mouse. Though you there is a control for “Use Force” and “Choose Force”; it’s really bothersome to scroll through what you need and when to use them especially when the fights are fast and furious.

The visuals have been a hit and miss. Most of the time it looks great but sometimes there are subtle glitches that maybe a lot may not think about it but I guess it did bother me. They did try to put every detail that they could put in the game, even the eyes and teeth. Faces were built completely on 3D similar to “Medal of Honor: Allied Assault” the features were dependent on how much 3D detail your system can push. Sometimes other details were not so important that it bothers me to look at it. As I said, the eyes and teeth seemed too much. The eyelids look like they are sick or sleepy or something and the teeth look really weird when they talk, their mouths don’t close when they talk it really looked strange. You see that the levels are large and vast and it looks really cool that it was even hard to believe that it was from the actual Quake 3 engine. It really amazed me how the new Quake 3 games are coming out just within this year, like “Return to Castle Wolfenstien” and “Medal of Honor: Allied Assault”. But with all the details that they wanted to put in the game, the engine suffers a bit. It seems that it is showing its age since lots of movements or large areas stutters or slows down the graphics, though most of the time the engine is fast as it can be. Remember that I’m testing this on an Athlon 1100 MHz which still can push a lot but with this game my system seemed like my PC was a bit coughing on me from time to time. Volumetric shadows are another part of my problem. If you’ve played “Blade of Darkness”, remember those amazing looking shadows? Here in this game activating these similar shadows really makes the game slow down heavily.

The sounds in this game sound great. Everything sounds clear and crisp, all levels have their environmental sound and the music is still amazingly classical. I love the classic Star Wars music than the new ones but I guess because this is the music that was from my childhood memories. Lightsabers are my favorite, it really sounds like you are swinging one. And when duels happen, it sounds authentic. Over all I love what they have done, I have no problems with it within the game. My only problem is that when you pause or press escape to go the menu, sometimes some sound would get stuck. It’s irritating since I usually play with loud volumes.

Multiplayer mode is one of the best I have seen. Maybe it’s not as innovative as other games like “Return to Castle Wolfenstien” but they have added some other types of game option like Duel, Jedi Master, Capture the Ysalamiri and Holocron. The Duel is a one on one match using your force powers and your trusty lightsaber. “Capture the Ysalamiri” is similar to “Capture the Flag” but an Ysalamiri is a creature in the Star Wars universe that repels force powers. So once you capture an Ysalamiri you can’t use any force powers. Holocron is a free for all death match game which you can pick up force powers represented in cubes which is scattered around the map. But what I really like about this is that they included really good bots. They are hard and challenging and fight very well. Though free for all matches feels like Quake 3 even with lightsabers and force powers.

I like what Raven did with this game. Obviously they didn’t just slap in a known game and make it better the way they feel it. The story is great as a game, though I didn’t feel attached to it. The graphics is better or at par with the current great games. The controls are simple enough for anybody to adjust to. And the multiplayer is really well done. There might be problems here and there but it can be easily overlooked since the overall product is one of the best I’ve seen in years.

At the end of the game I was happy and disappointed. Happy that it was a good game; disappointed, because I wanted more levels and lightsaber battles. I really wanted more; I can’t wait to get an expansion for this game. Anyway the multiplayer is fun and entertaining and the single player is great playing the second time around. I’d just have to wait for more action to come in.
Requirements from Raven:
Operating System: Windows 95 OSR2/98/ME/2000/XP
Computer: 100% DirectX compatible computer required.
CPU: Pentium II or Athlon class 350 MHz or faster CPU required.
Memory: 64MB required. 128 MB RAM required for Windows 2000 and XP.
Graphics Card:16 MB OpenGL compatible PCI or AGP 3D Hardware Accelerator required.
Sound Card: 16-bit DirectX 8.x compatible sound card required.
CD-ROM: Quad Speed IDE or SCSI CD-ROM drive required.
Input Device: Keyboard or mouse required. Joystick supported.
DirectX: Microsoft DirectX 8.0a
NOTE: Your system may require the “latest” drivers for your particular hardware.
Installation: 665 MB of free hard drive space required.
Additional free space required after game installation for Windows swap file and save games.

Multiplayer Support
Pentium II or Athlon class 400 MHz or faster recommended for Multiplayer.

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