Nothing beats being a Jedi (but a lot of flaws come close to)
There's no point in arguing that the basic idea of the game is total coolness. I mean, Star Wars FPS WITH Force powers and a light saber?? Sign me up please!!! After all, that was pretty much the only thing missing on Dark Forces, and if you add to that a true 3d engine then we are officially on the jazz.
A brand new storyline introduces you to a series of action-packed and very well laid out levels based on the original Star Wars trilogy sets where you'll once again duke it out with all the patented Star Wars baddies. The weapons are practically the same that were found on Dark Forces, but with added graphical glamour.
The force powers work remarkably well in the game's context and there's a touch of a slight rpg angle what with the force powers being related to how much exploring you do in the world.
And... well, I could go babbling on good stuff about in here, but for brevity's sake, just picture Dark Forces with less anal level designs, better graphics, john william's original score (played directly from redbook audio on the cds!) as well as plenty of Star Wars patented sounds and designs, and the force!
Though there's a lot to like in Jedi Knight, there's also a lot of wrong things in it, mainly dealing with gameplay mechanics. The game's biggest selling point is of course, the chance to brandish a lightsaber, and it is precissely here that the game blows it. When it comes to lightsaber fights the game really comes appart, since the collision detection between the swords is poorly realized and you simply go at it smashing all the buttons you can and praying that you hit and don't get hit. A more comprehensive fighting aproach would have helped the game in this area, as it is now it merely makes the fights a series of annoying affairs that come up everynow and then between the "real game".
Furthermore the graphics engine is not that good, and when it comes to lightsabers it fails to portray both their laser-like look and that great tracing effect that is part of it's trademark... the result is that you feel more like if you were holding oversized chemical lights, (you know... those that you bend, shake and "voila") instead of the famed lightsabers. This is however the tip of the iceberg when it comes to graphics, the engine is fast and all, but the character models and surroundings in general show a level of blockiness of incredible proportions, and remember that Quake 2 was around when this baby showed up!
The rpg-touch is a nice addition, but is completely off-key. As another reviewer noted, What the hell does finding secret rooms have to do with the force?? A more rpg-dedicated aproach (or at least one that made sense) would have been apreciated but guess no cookie for us this time.
Finally, the production values for the game are a mixed bag, there are a lot of effects and neat stuff on the cutscenes to make it look and feel like the real Star Wars, but when it comes to the acting it looks like all the money ran out, because it is truly hideous. The guy that plays your character, Kyle, is especially painful to watch, and it truly hurts the game since the storyline isn't strong enough to carry the game on it's own. And since we are on that subject, I found the story to be quite wussy at moments, especially since your character goes from hard-boiled mercenary to simpleminded Luke Skywalker wanna-be in the course of the game...not a cool idea.
The Bottom Line
For sheer fps fun this is a game that delivers in all accounts with great levels, action and gameplay gimmicks in the form of the force powers. For Star Wars emulation however, it almost but not quite reaches the goals it aims for. Until a definitive lighsaber-oriented game is released this is what we have, but for as good as it is, it's still a far cry from the "real" thing.