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SummaryStar Wars and DOOM fans, rejoice!
The GoodI'll kick this review off by saying that I'm a huge Star Wars fan. I've seen all six movies (and enjoyed them all, even the prequels) and I also yearly visit the FACTS comic, horror and sci-fi convention (a huge chunk of the fair is exclusively dedicated to all things Star Wars). So yeah, I'm quite a Star Wars nerd! Last Monday was also official Star Wars Day and to celebrate this event, I decided to replay one of the first great Star Wars games!
Star Wars Dark Forces takes place between episodes IV and V and focuses on Kyle Katarn, a former Imperial officer who now works as a mercenary for the Rebels. After successfully aiding in the destruction of the first Death Star, he embarks on his most dangerous mission yet, as he faces off against the Empire's newest and deadliest weapon: the Dark Troopers! These super-powered Stormtroopers, capable of destroying an entire Rebel base in mere minutes, are being massively produced in an unknown Imperial base and it's up to Kyle to find out where that is and thwart the Empire's plans.
Dark Forces is a first-person shooter, playing very similar to DOOM and other FPS games at the time. So you can expect huge, varied levels, filled with tons of enemies and secret areas. Locations you'll visit include the city-planet Coruscant, a Star Destroyer and Jabba the Hutt's personal spacecraft. Every level feels unique in many aspects. Some levels are very industrial, with lots of machinery, conveyor belts and computer terminals. Other levels feel more like caves and caverns, filled with carnivorous critters. In every level of the game you have a set of objectives to complete such as obtaining documents, planting explosives or rescuing a certain character. After all objectives are completed, you can move on to the next level.
The levels themselves not only feel very different from one another but they are also very nicely detailed. The detention center level (mission 6) for example, starts off at the outskirts of the prison and then goes on through various floors, every floor hosting a specific department (entrance, prison cells, command center, even the garbage compactor). Most of Dark Forces' levels are very fun to walk and shoot through and as I already mentioned, they're full of secret areas so that really encourages some deep exploration.
As for the graphics, since the game was released in 1995, you can expect a lot of sprites but you can see some 3D models (the ships in Couruscant, for instance are fully animated and in full 3D). The game's house-made Jedi engine also features floors-over-floors (a neat, new feature back in those days) and can show huge environments without hurting the frame rate. All these bells and whistles sometimes make me believe that the game uses an early version of the famous Build engine (the engine used in Duke Nukem 3D). And since that engine is so awesome, that definitely is a good sign!
Your weapons include a blaster, stormtrooper machine gun, grenades, mines and even a Mortar cannon. You also get a few gadgets such as night vision goggles, ice skates and a gas mask. Every weapon and item serves its own purpose. Some weapons are useful up close, while others are more effective from a distance. All weapons feel very satisfying to use and the blaster weapons gunshot sound effects are identical to those in the films! Ammo is plentifully available throughout the levels and trust me, you'll need everything you can find if you want to even the odds against what the Empire will be throwing at you in this game. You'll encounter regular Stormtroopers, Imperial officers, various types of droids and of course the aforementioned Dark Troopers! Some enemies are mere cannon fodder, but others will put your skills to the test!
Music and sound effects are virtually all borrowed from the original trilogy. The music tracks are MIDI remakes from John Williams' soundtrack and the musical score changes depending on the situation you find yourself into. During quiet moments, the music will be slow and brooding, while during firefights the music gets very epic and orchestra like. The sound effects include the aforementioned famous blaster sounds and the Imperial forces shouting things like "halt" or "you're not authorized in this area" in their typical stormtrooper voices. The authentic music and sound effects, added with the weapons, enemies and well-designed levels all help in giving the game a true Star Wars atmosphere.
The BadYou can't save while playing through a level. So if you start a level, you better damn sure finish it if you don't want to start all over again. You have a limited number of lives (more can be found in secret areas) and if you die, you respawn at a checkpoint close to where you went out for the count. But if you lose all lives, you have to start the mission all over again. For me, it isn't a real issue since it adds to the challenge and thrill, but just remember this when you're going into this game.
Some levels have tenacious platform sections. The game's first person perspective makes it quite difficult to make certain jumps without falling to your death on the first try. I wished that the developers added an optional third person mode, that would have made these jumps significantly easier.