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Star Wars: Jedi Knight - Dark Forces II (Windows)

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Written by  :  Kadath Bird (706)
Written on  :  Jan 05, 2010
Rating  :  2.4 Stars2.4 Stars2.4 Stars2.4 Stars2.4 Stars

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Summary

Jedi Knight was ahead of its time and is a classic but, and I hate to admit this, it simply hasn't aged well.

The Good

Back in 1995, when the term "Doom Clone" was stuck onto every single shooter to show up, LucasArts decided to do something different. The result was the original Dark Forces, a first person shooter set in the Star Wars universe. It sold well for two reasons: For one, LucasArts successfully completed its goal of doing something different and shaking off the title of "Doom clone" by featuring a more in depth story than most shooters, objective based missions (Which were actually new at the time.) and advanced puzzles. Secondly, it was fricken' Star Wars! What Star Wars geek doesn't want to pick up a blaster and shove a boot up the Empires ass (Or vice-verse in the Battlefront series) and save the galaxy?

So LucasArts decided once again to do something different with the sequel, Jedi Knight. The biggest advancement being, well, the force of course! Jedi Knight was ahead of its time, having some features that are commonplace now but unique then; like the morality system which allows players to sway to either the dark side or light side of the forces and gain powers accordingly based on their Dark or Light orientation. Sound familiar? inFamous maybe? Well, Jedi Knight did it 12 years earlier. Also considering it was the first game to put a Lightsabre in your hand, that's also saying something.

The multiplayer was one of the best aspects of this game. I have tons of memories in multiplayer. Lightsabre battles were intense and up close and personal, and stunning your enemy and then grabbing them with force choke was always a memorable experience. Sadly it no longer exists, but the multiplayer was awesome back in the heyday.

The game sounds good. Despite a distinct lack of much music, the game sounds just like a true Star Wars film. Everything sounds right and you'll recognize the various inhabitants of the universe by the sounds they make before you even see them.

The controls are very good. It's easy to control your character and automatically switch to any weapon or force power you want, and you can use them in tandem with ease. The game's jumping ability is also one of the more realistic jumping mechanics, you really feel like you are jumping and it can instill a sense of vertigo sometimes.

The Bad

Sadly, as groundbreaking as it was in 1997 the game simply doesn't hold up for me, and even in '97 it had some glaring flaws. For one, the graphics are terrible and I'm talking by '97 standards too. Character models are funky, jagged, jittery and just downright poor. There are some "OK" world textures, but for the most part you'll see too much Imperial gray and when outside the game uses one of the most embarrassing and terrible grass textures ever seen. In fact, Dark Forces had better outdoor textures the only difference being you can accelerate JK so you don't get as much pixelation.

The AI is dumb. I mean Doom dumb. They basically just charge in or stand in a spot shooting aimlessly. There were several times that a scripted enemy above me shot at a pre-determined location to try and hit me, and when I ran away rather than track me it kept firing at the designated spot, even when I came up behind it and poked it hoping it'd turn around.

On retrospect, the level design is very poor. I made note of this back then but felt the gameplay made up for it, but compared to its successors and other games of its kind now a days even the gameplay is feeling weak and it feels more like "Diet Force-lite" rather than really wielding the force. The level designs are obtuse, long, drab, uninspired and confusing.

The dark/light side thing is also shallower than advertised, and once again feels weak compared to what we have these days. When you have points to spend, you can dump them into dark side powers but stay on the light side granted you never use the powers for evil and have at least one light side skill. It doesn't really affect the game itself, it affects the story more than anything with alternate cutscenes later on and two different endings, though even that doesn't matter because the dark side ending is non-canonical within the rest of the JK series.

Speaking of the story, the story is fairly lame. It doesn't help that there are long, drawn out, boring live action cutscenes with awful CG effects and even worse actors. FMV has never been good, but this ranks as some of the worst, which is a shame considering the rich Star Wars universe. The characters are forgettable and annoying the game relies to much on cliche. Here's a summary, and you'll probably recall at least 10,000 other stories with this: A man's father dies, and receives a message after his death telling him to go back home and find something. Meanwhile the evil power that killed his family is seeking out some mysterious power that may or may not exist and you have to stop them. Yeah, we've heard this one before. About 20 billion times.

The Bottom Line

Don't get me wrong; Jedi Knight is a classic and deserves to be remembered and acknowledged. It was ahead of its time and for the time, it was mind blowing. But it's an example of a game that when stacked up against modern standards can't hold up at all; the reason that its predecessor still holds up is tight level design and the gameplay is simple and base enough that improvements on that specific design philosophy would be marginal at best so it can still be fun to play due to its simplicity. Jedi Knight, however, is an instance of a game that brought so many new things to the table that when another game improved on those things, it was hard to go back to the old stuff.

I have fond memories of the game and it has its place in history but I can't recommend it after its vastly superior sequels and other games improving on its formula.