Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

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Jedi Outcast

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
PC, GameCube, and Xbox
Developed by Raven Software
Released in 2002

It was a shame that the previous game was unbalanced in its concept and had a ton of minor faults, but that’s not to say it had no good ideas that could work in a new installment. Luckily, it seemed like LucasArts thought so too, and handed over the development of the third game to Raven Software. Seeing as they have handled some well-received shooters previously (such as Soldiers of Fortune and Hexen ) and even made a Star Trek-game that received similar praise, this might have been a great choice! Even better, was that it was going to use id Tech 3, which might be better known as the Quake 3 Arena engine, which Raven Software had already experimented with before .

This is the entry I remember the most, as it was such a big deal to have a game where you could become a true Jedi. Sure, there was the original Jedi Knight, but no one I knew even heard about that game, and with everything looking realistic for the time and the lightsaber-fights looking even more amazing, it easily overshadowed its predecessor. Now I got it for my PC and am excited to finally get to play through it.

Star Wars: Episode 6.5

We take control of Kyle Katarn once again, who is now a former Jedi. Due to being afraid to succumb to the dark side, he abandoned the way of the force, including his powers. Alongside Jan Ors, he now works as a mercenary for the New Republic and is on a new mission to find out what the Imperial Forces are up to. To not give too many spoilers away, Kyle is forced to take back his powers and learn the way of the force again, without letting his anger get in the way.

Jedi Knight 2 intro.jpg

I might be a bit abrupt here, but that’s only because I am afraid to give away any spoilers. The plot is not grand or complex, so it is hard to give a good introduction to it without upsetting someone. That being said, the plot is pretty straightforward and easy to sum up. What isn’t, however, are the smaller parts of the journey. Kyle Katarn has difficulties with the force, since he now takes it back in sheer anger and without having studied it properly to know how to fight the dark side in himself. This could have easily been a shallow story because of anger-issues, but the reasons for his rage are well told and he actually talks about his struggles with plenty of other characters and some you definitely will be familiar with, if you are a fan of the movies. Every character feels genuinely likeable, and Kyle does get character-development through his interactions with others. The characters don’t get much screen time despite this, but what is here gives you a reason to care about our protagonists.

What is the clear highlight, is the atmosphere. We are in huge worlds, ranging from starships, academies and urban environments, with inhabitants that react to the world around them. Some students might be practicing fighting with one another, and even enemies might be talking about daily events, such as drinks they enjoy. This makes the world feel more alive and since you are traveling all over the galaxy, you really feel like you are on a proper adventure. Even better, you will fight alongside both familiar and new characters, making it feel like, while you are on your own for the most part, you are fighting for something bigger than yourself. These moments also make you realize you are a part of something and have someone you can depend upon, especially since their AI is very good. There is a lot of lore and fan service to please the most hardcore of Star Wars-fans, but also enough to give an intriguing journey to newcomers. To be honest, the stiff character-models might take you out of the story from time to time, but it is a well worth one that should get you interested in what will happen next. It really gives you an adventure through a galaxy far, far away.

Story Score: 8/10

Why lightsabers beats blasters

Like its predecessor, it starts off as an FPS, with much more modern controls. We now have the mouse and keyboard-setup many will be familiar with today, a shield and health-bar, and hotkeys for plenty of weapons. Unlike the previous entry, most of the guns start out useful, with just about all of them having 2 different shots, and each having good firepower to them. For example, the crossbow is a good choice against tons of enemies and can shoot 5 shots at once, while the Stormtrooper rifle can shoot rapid-fire that will get more shots out, but is harder to aim with.

Jedi Knight 2 troopers

While the arsenal is very impressive, it is completely useless if you don’t have enemies and environments designed to take fully advantage of them. Jedi Knight 2 takes notice as there will be tons of enemies to fight against, and they have a good AI to them. They will move around, try to hide and get a good shot at you, and react to your presence if you are not stealthing towards them. This makes the combat very challenging, but also very enjoyable. You will never be set up for a cheap shot and can also at times strategize your approach if you find hidden cameras to get a better idea on how to survive the next battle. You can even lean left and right to look around corners. I rarely used this, but it is a nice addition.

The variety of enemies is pretty good, but their weapons are the real threat as they will have different shots. From big arenas to tight corridors, the combat was a blast. However, the cursor would turn red when it was over an enemy, but that did not mean I would hit the opponent, making it feel distracting. The shots could easily be a bit off too, making it annoying on small occasions. Supporting you throughout are items that can be picked up and used, such as healing-items and ammo. You can also carry certain healing items and use them for later, however there are some items I never used, such as the binoculars, and the night goggles I only used once. It was especially annoying when I wanted to use a healing-item and the game automatically put forth the goggles instead as the preset item.

Jedi knight 2 station

After a good 5 hours of the game, firearms become minor tools. The reason for this, is that we get the lightsaber and force-powers, and the game becomes a third-person hack and slasher. Fighting with these powers is incredibly fun, but makes the rest of the weapons feel like an afterthought. The lightsaber can block most shots and melee-attacks, be thrown in boomerang-fashion, and is probably the strongest weapon you have. You also have a good variety of force-powers ranging from force-jump, speed, mindtrick, heal and push to name a few. They will automatically level up through finishing stages, and are restricted in use by a refilling force-bar. Each power consumes different amounts of it, making them important additions, but not something you can go overboard with. While it is a shame the guns won’t be of much use anymore, fighting with the lightsaber is incredibly fun.

With the new engine, everything feels realistic, with even the lightsaber damaging opponents if it only touches them. This makes every fight have a good flow to it, despite the hit detection being hard to determine. You get a decent tutorial on how to use your new powers, but abilities, such as swinging the lightsaber in different directions,  acquiring new mechanics for force-powers, and minor ones such as wall running are poorly or even not explained. This is a huge shame as it might throw new players off and leave them not being able to fully understand how complex fights can become. However, once you experiment a bit, you will definitely feel the power flowing through you.

If it focused on the combat in general, I could have easily understood why this was considered one of the best, if not the best, Star Wars game ever. Unfortunately, it pretty much goes downhill from there on as the levels are a mess. Let’s start with their design. They are very linear with hidden secrets for support items and maybe a shortcut to give you the upper hand in fights. However, despite this linear design, the game does a poor job highlighting where to go next. The path can be through obstructed air-vents you will have to crawl through, or by pushing buttons that are hard to see. Including this, is the inconsistency with environmental objects, such as certain windows you can break and others you can’t. It was easier to find the secrets than the right path, which is not good design. Not every level was a blind hunt, but most were. A map would certainly help, as the objectives only gave a small hint on where to go to next.

Jedi Knight 2 uglies

Due to this bizarre and complicated progression, you will be required to do some platforming. They can be fun at times, thanks to force-jump making you jump higher and almost float. However even with this, the platforming can become, confusingly enough, both slippery due to Kyle’s high speed and stiff due to the tank-controls. Even worse, they demand precise jumps as many platforms can be narrow and easy to fall from. Then there are plenty of confusing concepts thrown at you. In certain areas, you will be tasked with either stealthing through a level, controlling an AT-ST, turret sections, or do an escort-mission to name a few. These are shallow and only serve as a pace-breaker, since they don’t have nearly as enjoyable mechanics to them as the combat. These are only for one or maybe two occasions, making them feel only added to give the game some poor variety.

Finally: the difficulty is all over the place. Some stages are well balanced, but the earlier missions where you have the lightsaber can be overwhelming with plenty of snipers and grenade-throwing buggers, which can easily kill you. Some parts of other stages actually required me to take damage to progress, which is a terrible design. The last couple of levels and the earlier ones had a much better difficulty setup, so it is a shame how poorly the progression can be, especially with everything else mentioned.

Jedi Knight 2 dueling.jpg

Due to the difficulty being so inconsistent and not to mention the instant deaths your jumps can lead to, I found myself saving after each minor victory, making it clear how unbalanced it could be. This might sound like a good element to at least have, but I had limited space to save and the game gave no indication on when I had too many, making me believe at times that I did save, only to have to backtrack for longer than I wished for.

However, despite the levels being a complete mess, the enjoyable combat kept me going. I wish the focus had been more on the lightsaber-fights and give you more elements to deal with, as these get complex and enjoyable. Highlighting this are fights against other Jedi that are incredibly fun and fast paced. You will have to be aware of your surroundings, use your powers wisely, and button mash when you clash your swords against the enemy’s. Their lightsabers are as dangerous as yours, so these fights can be incredibly intense. There are some fights where you must use a ranged explosive weapon, but these are few and forgettable.

I definitely had fun with Jedi Knight 2, but I had about as much frustration with it as well. The confusing progression, awkward platforming, the difficulty-curve being all over the place, and the small annoyances are all legitimate complaints. However, once you get the lightsaber, the game begins to become much more enjoyable, despite some flaws still being present. It is worth getting over those to get to the enjoyable sword fights and force-attacks that make you feel like a true Jedi, but I would not blame you if gave up before getting there.

Gameplay Score: 5/10

Making marks on the walls

I really love this engine, as shots are clearly seen going from one end to another, and the effects of the lightsaber being realistic, even leaving marks on the walls as you brush past. The effects are incredible and complementing this are the environments. They are well designed, and each feels like a unique and realistic location. I would have loved a bit more naturalistic locations, as we are mostly presented with grey, metallic areas, but they do make the most out of them and they all feel believable and intriguing.

Jedi Knight 2 lightning

The character models are pretty good and decently animated. However, their animations can become very stiff and choppy in the cutscenes. I surely did not not expect perfect lipsyncing, but everyone seems like they are talking with their teeth, which is very unsettling and awkward. There is also some CG, and these are very poorly textured and pixelated. They are also a big contrast in quality compared to the in-game scenes and only show some flight-scenes, making me wonder why they were even included. Lastly, some areas have blatant 2D-textures, but this is not a huge issue as they are not a big distraction.

When it comes to music, can we just agree that John Williams’ orchestral score is fantastic? The soundtrack from the movies is used here once again and it fits every moment perfectly. The voice actors do a very good job representing their roles, with some actors from the movies representing their characters. They might have certain lines that could use another take, but these are minor nitpicks. With the pleasant sound of firing futuristic weapons, force-powers that sound like different types of wind, and the satisfying motions-sounds of a swinging lightsaber, the presentation definitely feels in tone with the Star Wars-universe.

Presentation Score: 7.5/10

g_saberRealisticCombat 1

If you recognize the input above, you know what I just did. I love cheats that do more than just make you an outright God, and while Jedi Knight 2 doesn’t have plenty of them, they are nice extras and I do enjoy changing up my looks and the color of my saber. However, since the single player could be a mixed bag, I spend more time in the multiplayer-mode. Fighting against other Jedi in huge environments with force powers, is incredibly intense and entertaining. The content is great, from customizing your character’s look, color of your sabers, to altering the game-rules. You can play with upwards to 16 players and the multiplayer gives easy access to mods if this was not enough. Since the combat was the highlight for me, giving it a multiplayer-option, was a fantastic move and is even more deep and insane as you will be fighting against real players. You can fight against bots too, but there is something beautiful about 8 vs 8 players or even free for all in a 16-player fight.

Extra Score: 8/10

Verdict

While it might be serviceable for Star Wars fans, it is hard to fully recommend this to everyone as the levels are an enormous mess. If they had made them a bit more structurally solid and taken away the minor one-time events, we could have had a much better journey. Even better, if it solely focused on the Jedi-powers, as it is clearly the highlight of the game. If you are a Star Wars-fan or just want a solid multiplayer-game with a bunch of options and amazing sword-fights, it is definitely worth a purchase. If you fancy yourself more of a singleplayer, No More Heroes got you covered.

70/100

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