Written by  :  Chris Martin (1204)
Written on  :  Jun 20, 2002
Platform  :  Windows

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Damn it Sam, you stole my one-liner! :)

The Good

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (JKII), is the latest first-person shooter from Lucasarts Entertainment, developed by the folks at Raven Software (the guys responsible for Star Trek:Elite Force)

You play as Kyle Katarn, the roguish hero from Dark Forces and Dark Forces:Jedi Knight. Kyle has abandoned the force and the ways of the Jedi, and along with Jan Ors, have kept the location of the Valley of the Jedi secret and safe.

As you progress through the first couple of levels, you meet up the antagonist of the game, Desann, a power hungry Dark Jedi and plain old bad guy. Desann captures Jan and kills, her and Kyle goes to the Valley of the Jedi to be infused with the force.

Along the way you meet new enemies, some old friends (think Bespin), and get whisked along by the plot... more on that later.

There are 4 levels of play in the single player game. Padawan (beginner), Jedi, Jedi Knight and Jedi Master.

The graphics on JKII are by far some of the best looking graphics I've seen in a game engine. The Quake 3 Arena engine is used to create incredible looking venues to fight and explore in. From Nar Shaada (from Jedi Knight) to Yavin (where the Jedi Academy is based), the game look unbelievable.

The coolest graphics, though, are the lightsaber duels. Throughout the game, you duel with various rogue Jedi, and the lightsaber duels are fast and furious. Much like the duel with Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace. The lightsabers glow and spark when they clash, and when the lightsabers lock together the sparking glow is unreal. If you defeat you opponent in a duel, the game goes into a Matrix-style 360 rotation. Really cool effect.

The control scheme is standard first person shooter fare, with the exception of lightsaber dueling. Raven Software did their homework with this one. Using both the attack button and the WASD keys for movement, you control various attacks. It's very intuitive, and you actually leave yourself open to attacks if you don't control the lightsaber correctly.

The sound might be standard John Williams fare, but the lightsaber effects are outstanding. Again, Raven Software really did a great job on this.

Relearning your Jedi powers is done very good in this game. Unlike Jedi Knight (where you were given points to distribute), you learn them automatically as you go, and the further along in the game you go, the stronger your powers become. And when you go to the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, Luke Skywalker puts you through the Jedi Trials. It's a cool way to learn you powers and then have you use them in appropriate situations in the Trials. As you go through the trials, Jedi Holocrons (learning devices) give you access to your powers. For example, when you grab the Force Speed power, you enter a room where you must step on a plate and 5 sets of doors open. Then you must use Force Speed to run through the open doors before they close. It's a logical way to work them into the game and the plot of the story.

And although I don't play a lot of multiplayer games, the multiplayer half of JKII is done very well. There are 7 different games to play: Free for All, Holocron Free for All, Jedi Master, Duel, Team Free for All, Capture the Flag, and Capture the Ysalamiri. Most of the games are standard FPS fare, with the exception of Duel, Holocron FFA, and Jedi Master.

Holocron FFA is the same as FFA, but you don't have any force powers to start with. The powers are scattered around the arenas, and you pick them up in battle.

Jedi Master in intriguing. All players start out with standard weapons, and no lightsaber. ONE lightsaber is placed somewhere in the arena, and whoever picks that up is the Jedi Master. The Master is then imbued with all Force powers at 3rd rank, and can only use the lightsaber. When the Master is defeated, the lightsaber is tossed away, and whoever picks up the lightsaber is the new Jedi Master.

Duel mode is the epiphany of JKII. Up to 16 players are logged on to the server, but only 2 players are active at a time (with the others as spectators). The two players duel it out, until one is defeated. The victor respawns (with full health), and one of the spectators then steps up and tries to defeat the other player. I think it's a cool way to see a lightsaber duel.

And if you are like me and don't really care of online gaming (although I really think game will change my opinion on that), you can play up to 16 bots on your machine at once. I play at Padawan level, and It's fairly difficult. The bots are fairly agile and they use Force Powers to their advantage.

The Bad

As much as I LOVE dueling with lightsabers in this game (it's SO much better than Jedi Knight), I do have a few complaints.

The plot of the story is good, but I've read a similar plot in the book "I, Jedi", by Michael Stackpole (a worthy read if you like Star Wars books). So while I enjoy the plot of the story, it really isn't that original.

The level layout, while very detailed, is very confusing. I don't often resort to walkthroughs unless I'm REALLY stuck, but some of the levels I was wandering around looking for the "way out" to the next level - so I downloaded a walkthrough in order to get through the level.. The levels are huge, which is good, but can get tiresome after a while.

Two Words... Rodian Snipers. I can't begin to count how many times I was playing through the Nar Shaada level - I'd walk out of the cantina, and ZAP! I'm sorry, but that seems a little to one-sided if you ask me. I'd get sniped in the head by a Rodian Sniper that you really can't see unless you know he's there in advance. And because of that....

I really don't like that fact that you have to save EVERY time you clear a room or a corridor. It's a pain in the ass to go through part of a level, open a door and get you ass handed to you on a plate. Although you are supposed to be a Jedi, running blindly into a room is not an option in most cases. You really have to save a lot in the game, and to me that's unnecessary.

And one other thing really irks me. It seems that most of the levels are designed around the fact that you are really high up. Like Bespin - the cloud city, or Nar Shaada, the smuggler's hideout. Or the reactor core of a Installation. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to jumping and finding out where you can and cannot jump to.

The Bottom Line

JKII is a fantastic foray into George Lucas' little universe he created. Although frustrating as hell in some areas, and downright confusing in others, I think that the OVERALL package is great. A worthy addition to any Star Wars fans gaming library.

And watch out for those Rodian Snipers. :)