|Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast|
August 30, 2002 | Eddie Park
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (JK2) is most likely going to be one of those titles that sells in droves regardless of its content, simply because it falls under the Star Wars franchise. A much-loved movie series that has become a household name, George Lucas's merchandising juggernaut has seen a slew of games carrying the label, ranging from educational software to hardcore FPS titles.
Unfortunately, as we've seen so many times in the past, a dynamite franchise doesn't guarantee dynamite games. The Star Wars universe is no exception to this rule - though we have seen some gems in the past, many of the Star Wars titles are also plagued by mediocrity.
Thankfully, this is not the case so far with JK2. Replete with characters both familiar and new, packed to the gills with lightsabers and blasters, and running off the robust Quake III engine, JK2 is a force (no pun intended) to be reckoned with.
Not Quite So Long Ago...JK2 takes place several years after the Rebel victory at the moon of Endor. The New Republic has been established, and seeks to purge the galaxy of the remaining forces of the Empire, now known as the Remnants. Luke Skywalker has gone on to re-establish the Jedi Academy and currently oversees the training of a whole host of new Jedi.
Players will find themselves in the shoes of Kyle Katarn, a mercenary-for-hire that often finds himself running missions for the New Republic. A former Jedi himself, Katarn abandoned his calling in favor of chasing after money with his partner Jan Ors. During a routine scouting mission to check out what appears to be a Remnant installation, Katarn soon finds himself embroiled in a situation so dire that he chooses once again to take up his lightsaber and recall his use of the Force to combat a threat of unknown ramifications.
The Tenets Say a Jedi Can Kill in Self-DefenseThough JK2 runs under the Quake III engine, it can be played either as an FPS, a 3rd-person behind-the-back game, or both. In the default setting, Katarn runs around in 1st-person mode, much like any standard FPS, while wielding firearms. When switching to the lightsaber, he enters 3rd person mode, making it easier to see around him when swinging the lightsaber. However, players can switch between the views at will, making the title a little more open-ended for those that have a preference.
Gameplay, however, is still faithful to the FPS genre – i.e. kill the bad guys. Players will find themselves running through a variety of environments in order to fulfill this objective, including Remnant bases, gangster towns, Cloud City, and starship interiors. The levels are both numerous and huge, and while not likely, it is possible to get lost in many of them if players aren’t careful.
Of course, killing bad guys isn’t everything. To this end, each level also has a series of objectives to accomplish. These objectives can range from finding a certain object to deactivating a shield via a series of switches in remote locations. Puzzles of the “find the key, throw the switch” variety are also included in the game. While not incredibly challenging, these puzzles can sometimes force players to backtrack to see if they missed something, particularly when confronted with a door that refuses to budge.
Lightsaber duels deserve special note, as they are extremely cool and will no doubt get the hearts of many pumping the first time they face off against a dark Jedi. Much like the movies, lightsaber duels consist of flashing blades and aerial acrobatics as each player attempts to drive their weapon home. Blocking and parrying is almost automatic, meaning that it’s more a game of positioning and swinging when an opening presents itself.
Duels consist of more than just lateral circling and holding down the mouse button as well. Players can jockey for position by flipping of walls, jumping high in the air, and deploying their various Force powers. Watching Katarn and his enemy clash blades, flip through the air, continue battling in mid-jump, throw lightsabers at each other, and force push in an attempt to off-balance each other was an incredible experience. Add the chaos of the glowing blades and the distinctive humming and shrieking sounds that lightsabers make when in battle, and it’s easy to imagine why I had a goofy little grin on my face whenever another enemy with a lightsaber showed up.