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Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Wednesday, May 29, 2002 by Helly || [0 Comments]

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Overall: 3
Graphics: 4
Interface: 3
Multiplayer: 3
There are those who can’t stand George Lucas. There are those who hate the Star Wars series of movies, games, action figures, books, bed sheets, costumes and so forth that have filled the shelves since the original Star Wars movie was released. There are those who would prefer that he never release another movie nor allow his LucasArts company to release another game.

I am not one of those people.

And, therefore, I dutifully shelled out my bucks for a copy of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (and so did many others, as it was the top selling game for the month of March, according to a LucasArts press release). I was prepared to be dazzled, I was prepared to be thrilled…but I wasn’t prepared to be so bored.

Graphics/Display:

Based on the Quake 3 engine, Jedi Outcast is visually stunning. The LucasArts crew did their work well when conveying the Star Wars atmosphere. There are dizzying drop-offs in Bespin’s Cloud City (home of Lando Calrissian), massive hangar bays with the occasional Tie Fighter onboard Imperial Ships and the city streets (which are, for some insane reason, narrow and elevated with no guardrails, are excellent warrens (complete with snipers).

The player and enemy models are also wonderfully recognizable. Stormtroopers have never looked so menacing, and you’ll recognize the uniforms of Imperial officers and pilots as though you were watching the original films again. Heck, you get to meet Luke Skywalker and he still has that amazingly 70’s bowl cut – now that’s accuracy!


The bowl cut!

Too late to give up

Weapons are as faithful to the movie as the player models are, and they are quite the standout. The Lightsaber, which I’m sure many of you readers have heard about, is perfectly rendered in this game. The blaster rifle is instantly recognizable as well, but there are several new weapons for you to check out as well.

This leads us to the one jarring graphical shortcoming of Jedi Outcast: the cutscenes. With all the work they put into the game’s graphics, the cutscenes come across as an afterthought. While most cutscenes are fade-in and out scenarios, Jedi Outcast went for more of an “in the game” kind of feel, which means that the cutscenes appear to be rendered with the Quake 3 engine as opposed to creating a smoother flowing movie. The Quake 3 engine is beautiful, but it sure wasn’t designed to bring characters to interactive life. Watching the characters speak is like watching sharks trying to feed without being able to open their teeth: it’s completely inhuman and laughable. For all the work put into keeping the interruption in the game to a minimum, the cutscenes are more distracting than merely fading to a well made mini-movie and coming back to the game. I never was quite sure if the speaking character was trying to get a point across or if they were going to go for my throat with those insane teeth.


Going for the throat

Pretty Puzzle

Sound:

Jedi Outcast really delivers in the sound department. Much like the wonderful translation of the weapons and models from film to game, the sounds come across perfectly. The blaster rifle sounds exactly like the blaster rifle should sound, ground based cannons sound suitably thunderous and the droids you encounter sound just like their movie counterparts.

But the true standout is, again, the lightsaber. If you’re anything like me (and I pity you if you are) you’ll find yourself drawing the lightsaber over and over again just to hear the cool sounds. And of course the swinging of the lightsaber is just as funky – all those sounds you tried to imitate after watching the movies for the first time are wholly and perfectly replicated in this game. I guess that’s the beauty of being LucasArts and having the access that they have.

Interface/Controls:

What can I say? The controls are pretty much standard fare for the average FPS – WSAD is the way to go, but it is fully customizable. There are a couple of unique items worth mentioning. The first would be the lightsaber stance option, which allows you to cycle through three saber style stances: blue being the light and fast, yellow being the medium and red being the heavy and slow. Each has benefits and disadvantages, covered in the manual. The other, and the thing to really focus on when it comes to controls, is the game-specific Force Powers controls. Read about them, memorize them and use them. This is as much a selling point for this game as the lightsaber.


mmmm...Saber fight

Am I a good Jedi or a Bad Jedi?

As you play the game you learn new Force Skills and soon find yourself able to push, pull, grip and jump all using the power of the Pants, I mean Force (if you get the joke, you’re a geek – welcome). You’ll find that these skills are necessary to solve some the game’s puzzles but they can also be fun for torturing the myriad Stormtroopers you encounter.

These force powers can also be used to devastating effect in the multiplayer component of the game, which we’ll discuss next.

Multiplayer (if any):

Let's focus on the single player game first: Regular JK2 gameplay is, sorry to say, somewhat bland. After the effects of the cool sounds and weapons wear off, you’ll realize that what you’re playing in the single player game is nothing more than a glorified game of Quake. You’ve got puzzles to solve, jumps to make and doors to unlock. Sometimes you’ve got to keep someone alive, and sometimes you’ve got to hunt someone down. Either way, it’s pretty standard and somewhat boring fare.


I seeeeee you!

I know these guys!

The story is interesting enough, and it moves along at a decent pace, although you tend to forget about the story when most of your time is taken up trying to find the right way to get through a level, or what buttons to push on what level, or how to get a specific code to come up at some station. The story continues along where the previous Star Wars games left off and it’s fun to meet some of the old school Star Wars characters in game, but ultimately the story happens almost despite the game.

This to me was the big disappointment of JK2: there are lots of Gee Whiz effects, but when it comes right down to it, the game is force fed to you. You have to complete the puzzles as they are laid out, and you have no real choices to make. Open gameplay was not considered when designing this game. But hey, if I wanted open gameplay, I could go play Morrowind (review coming soon, I promise), right?

There are highlights, to be sure, and there are a lot of tough moments in the game. Mostly, however, those moments rely on killing things in the right order or sneaking around in the right manner. And unfortunately for gameplay, there often is only one right way to do something. Those of you who enjoy that type of game experience will not find Jedi Outcast particularly challenging – the competition for finishing the game first won’t be an endurance test.

Now for the Multiplayer action: As with any FPS of the last 3 years, multiplayer is a major focus of game development. But unlike some games (Tribes2, Quake3, Countertrike), the major focus of Jedi Outcast is not actually multiplayer. But don’t unplug your CAT5 yet, there’s still plenty of multiplayer action to be had.


i'm Kyle, and I'll be your waiter

Let's get to the important stuff!

You’ll find that there are many available multiplayer options: Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and others. The deathmatch options seem to be the most popular right now, and there’s a lot of customization on the server side that can be done to give these games added playability and life. My favorite so far has been deathmatch, Saber only. Suddenly 10 or more people are running around armed with lightsabers and force powers swinging wildly – it can be quite chaotic and entertaining. As you gain in skill and understanding of Force Powers, you’ll soon find that customizing what force powers are available for your character (server specific settings) can give you a heavy strategic edge. For example: combine Offense with Dark Rage and Force Speed and suddenly you’re in the heaviest of all possible stances moving lighting quick and decimating your hapless enemies. It’s all about the combinations of complementary Force powers and playing styles at this point.

Summary:

The sounds are the standout in this game, and the graphics are suitably impressive (except for the abysmal cutscenes). Multiplayer is pretty standard, but the addition of lightsabers and force powers definitely add a new layer worth discovering. Regular gameplay is the big detriment here, and seeing as how the single player game truly is the focus of Jedi Outcast, I couldn’t find my way to give it a higher score. When it came right down to it, Jedi Outcast was Quake with a Star Wars story line and some funky new weapons; not a particularly revolutionary game.

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