Released in 1995, Dark Forces was LucasArts' first shooter set in the Star Wars universe, in which several worlds and environments could be traversed, and numerous weapons were available to battle Stormtroopers and other enemies. Two years later, the sequel arrived. Managing to garner even wider acclaim among fans and critics, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II significantly distanced itself from its predecessor by letting players use and develop Force powers, the first game across any platform to do so. The sequel was also recognized for its innovative level design that encouraged gamers to think as Jedi. In addition, the inclusion of multiplayer support opened up many possibilities, with heated lightsaber duels being among the most appealing.
Last year, it was thought that Stars Wars: Obi Wan would be the spiritual sequel to Jedi Knight II. While that title still lives on for the Xbox, a true follow-up was announced this year at E3. Being developed by Raven Software in association with LucasArts, Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II once again centers on Kyle Katarn, who has avenged his father by defeating Jerec and his Dark Jedi followers. By doing so, and through later actions that were chronicled in the Mysteries of the Sith expansion pack, he became a near irrevocable servant of the Dark Side. After abandoning the use of his powers for fear of temptation, he finds himself taking up his lightsaber again as a new Dark Jedi has emerged. Having had the opportunity to check out the game at E3, we offer some initial observations on it in this Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II E3 Report.
In LucasArts' closed press room, Jedi Outcast was shown to us by Associate Producer Dan Pettit. Although the game has been development for a mere three months, the visuals at this stage were of a very high quality. The third title in the series is built on the Quake III Arena engine. Since Raven has previous experience with this technology thanks to Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force and its Expansion Pack, the development team's intimate familiarity with it should prove a positive factor. A number of effects have already put the engine to good use. These include reflective surfaces, extensively detailed character models and lighting techniques. As an example of the latter, when a lightsaber is activated, a glow of the appropriate color is dynamically cast upon any nearby characters.
Character models themselves are exquisitely detailed due to their large polygon count, but Dan Pettit also pointed out other features that made them appear visually impressive. The most apparent of these was the seamless meshing of polygon parts. As we looked at Kyle Katarn's model, we couldn't detect any polygon breaks. His form appeared very convincing, and the sweater he wore actually looked like a sweater rather than a texture. Additionally, Kyle's model now sports a beard. In Jedi Knight, he actually had a beard but this was only indicated in live-motion cutscenes. Pettit also told us that the sequel will only contain in-game cutscenes rendered through the engine, making for more natural transitions.
After demonstrating various aspects of the engine and graphics, Pettit discussed the several Force powers that will be available. Players should expect some old favorites like Force Pull, Jump and Speed. Lightning is another returning one that looks particularly formidable, as it discharges branching bolts of electricity that engulfs the targeted character. Among the new powers he let us know about was Jedi Mind Trick. When this was used on a Stormtrooper, circular Force energy floated above his head, and as a result, he was oblivious to his duties while Kyle slipped past him. The Jedi Master can also fling his lightsaber across a fair distance, damaging objects or creatures along the way before returning to his side. One of the questions we asked was whether Kyle could choose the Light or Dark Side as he indirectly could in the second game. We found out that this time, players can only walk the Light path.
Although Dan Pettit was naturally not ready to disclose many details about the story, he did mention that Jan Ors, Kyle's friend and companion, will be returning for Jedi Outcast. We also got a look at some of the environments on display. Specific locations were not revealed either, but a couple of known areas are Nar Shaddaa, Cloud City, the smugglers' moon and the Jedi Knight Academy on Yavin 4. In the E3 build, we saw a hangar bay with a force field and a bridge that appeared to link one part of a city to another. At least to a degree, players will be able to damage the environment. Kyle can slash his lightsaber into walls and other surfaces, leaving behind scalding red marks that seem to follow the pattern in which they were cut. While it'll be his instrument of choice, the lightsaber will not be the only weapon available. His arsenal will also include the Bryar blaster pistol, Wookiee bowcaster and blaster rifle.
In order to keep track of Kyle's statistics, temporary placeholder numbers were shown on the game screen. At the bottom left hand corner was a number that measures health, and beneath it a smaller one that indicates the current level of shield power. On the right, his Force pool was displayed which replenishes over time, albeit somewhat rapidly. It seems reasonable that this was sped up for the purposes of demonstration. In all likelihood, the final version will require players to manage their Force pool wisely in the interests of game balance. As fans know, this was a necessary element of the second title.
An enormously successful hit in its day, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II was a fairly large game that offered many hours of play, so it may not be surprising to learn that Jedi Outcast will be shorter than its predecessor. However, it's expected to provide more hours than Raven's Elite Force, which many deemed as rather short. In addition, players can look forward to various multiplayer modes once they have completed the single player portion of the game. While Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II is expected for release by LucasArts sometime next year, the project is still in the fairly early stages of development. As such, it remains difficult to determine exactly what kind of experience is in store for gamers. In any case, just the mere mention of a Jedi Knight sequel is sure to excite fans, and we'll be watching this title with great interest as work on it continues.
<< Back to Articles