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Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:   Vicarious Visions
Publisher:   LucasArts
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   FPS
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   N/A
Date Posted:  


OK, you caught me. Iím an OG Star Wars dork. I actually saw Return of the Jedi in the theaters on its first run. Granted, I was like 4, but you get the point. The Star Wars franchise has spawned numerous games ranging from the classic arcade cabinet game to the lame-o recent efforts. Most Star Wars games were either space-simulations or directly followed the movies until the original Dark Forces was released. This game was one of the first to go into a side story and was the very first Star Wars FPS. This game gave players a chance to slaughter Stormtroopers and save the galaxy from the Dark Troopers, but gamers wanted more. The demand for some Jedi action was answered with the sequel Dark Forces: Jedi Knight. This game took the character from the original game and fleshed him out. He now gained force powers and used a Lightsaber (to slaughter Stormtroopers and the like). After the expansion pack, the series seemed to be over with. However, Jedi Knight II was released on PC last spring and has now made its way to the consoles.

Jedi Knight II picks up several years after the events of the original Jedi Knight. The Empire has fallen and Kyle (the main character) has given up the Force and returned to his blaster wielding ways. Donít worry, youíll have access to his Force objects after three missions. The story is pretty good, except the game assumes that people know what happened in the first Jedi Knight. If youíre extremely confused about references to the Valley of the Jedi, go pick up a copy of the PC game Jedi Knight from the bargain bin. Its at about 15 dollars and comes with the expansion pack. The graphics are severely outdated, but the game is great. Aside from that, you encounter Luke Skywalker and Lando as well as face off with a bunch of Jedis (or something close to it). There are still some Stormtroopers running around to slaughter, so the basic theme remains the same.

Let's start with the Force Abilities. Your first set includes a Lightsaber, extended jumping, pushing and pulling, and speed. Throughout the game, you gain other abilities (lightning rocks) and your abilities become stronger after certain levels or defeating certain enemies. You need to use your force powers to get out of situations or make other ones more interesting. I think it would have been cooler to make the force powers more RPG-like, but I guess Iíll have to wait for Knights of the Old Republic for that.

The other weapons are similar to those in any modern FPS. Standard pistols, automatic rifles, sniper scopes, and missile launchers are present (and a few others I didnít mention). They can get the job done, but once you hit a certain point and learn to properly control the Lightsaber, you can put away the guns for most situations.

The initial missions may turn people off to the game. First thing, the levels are extremely long. Many people want to jump right in and hack things with a Lightsaber, but the game makes you work for it. You have to go through two very long and fairly hard missions before you go to the Jedi Academy to earn your Lightsaber. Each mission is divided up into different sections, so you will have a few breaks in the action. You can save at any time, and I highly recommend that you save early and often. Iíve gone through 90% of a level only to be gunned down and then found out I forgot to save for the last hour. As for difficulty, there are several different settings (including an extra-hard mode unlocked after going through the game). You also gain multiplayer characters and levels by finishing the missions.

The graphics would normally look good, but I had a chance to play the game on a high end PC before. This kind of spoiled me. To give it a rundown, the graphics are similar to those on a medium-high range PC. The character models look pretty good with a few exceptions. Luke Skywalker looks and sounds terrible. The Lightsabers in the game look good and the force lightning looks pretty good. The gun-based weapons all give off different colored beams and the effects of some are pretty good. Granted, this game is based on the Quake III engine and it shows. My biggest complaint about the graphics is the overuse of darks without any sort of in-game lighting. The stages are very dark and I found myself having to turn off the lights in my room and turn the brightness up on the TV just so I wouldnít walk off a cliff. Aside from that issue, I didnít have any other problems (like slowdowns).

The controls can really hurt this game. In fact, most PC ports suffer from this. On the PC version, I can assign a force powers and quick items to the F1-F12 keys. On the console version, you have to cycle through the menus, select a power and activate it. This is fine when enemies don't swarm you, but fighting and changing powers is a pain. They do allow you to map two powers to the black and white buttons, but this barely helps. Lightsaber fighting takes a while to get used to. Itís pretty simple to run up and slash, but if you want to actually land hits and defeat harder enemies, you need to master the various attacks. There are three styles (light, medium and heavy) with various weaknesses and strengths. Personally, I prefer to use heavy combined with the force speed because it slices through enemies. The only problem is the very slow speed and long follow-throughs. Medium is classical style and the most balanced. Light is quick weak attacks combined with jumps and flips. You can also throw your Lightsaber as a secondary attack. The accuracy of the gun depends on the gun itself. Some are better than others and each have secondary fire modes. Another glaring flaw with the controls (aside from lack of buttons) is the lack of a walk feature. You are always running and never walking. This is annoying and inexcusable because I have fallen to my death numerous times because of this.

The sound is great. The one good thing about Star Wars games is the access to the many songs used in the films. If youíve played any game that uses John Williamsí songs or even watched the movies, you know what to expect. The voice acting is great with the exception of Luke. I doubt Mark Hamill is doing anything else besides video games and cartoons anymore, so why not just bring him in? It would be worth it. They did get Billy Dee Williams to reprise his role as Lando Calrissian. Aside from that, the rest of the sounds are what youíd expect from a Star Wars game. Everything from the typical blaster sound to the shriek of a dying Stormtrooper is present.

Yet another game hits my desk with a shoddy multiplayer mode. One of the beauties of the PC game was the online multiplayer. Sadly, this game does not take advantage of the Xbox Live service and only offers offline multiplayer for one to two people. It may sound initially lame, but you can bring in up to 14 AI-controlled Bots. You can set the games to have all weapons, just Lightsabers or just guns as well as setting the Force powers of the bots. You can give Force powers by customizing the character you pick. There are several pre-sets for light and dark sides as well as custom options. Depending on the Force level you pick, you assign points to powers to gain levels in it. A power is strongest at three levels and some powers are close to useless in multiplayer. It takes some time to figure out. I highly suggest players to spend some time in the multiplayer modes to practice using the Force powers and the Lightsaber. It makes the game much easier when you get to that point in the single player mode. I would have preferred to see Xbox Live support in addition to this just so we could have the chance of more levels and character models, but this will have to do (I guess). Its pretty fun, but it can get tiring and is only good for more than one person if both people know how to play. The controls are too complex to drop right in and have fun.


  • Awesome Star Wars game that continues an awesome series
  • Two words: Force Lightning
  • Bots in the multiplayer
  • Challenging single player mode


  • Too dark
  • No online multiplayer

Final Verdict: 

This game is easily one of the best PC games released in the last year (though still behind Morrowind). Sadly, it did lose a bit when it transferred to the consoles. The controls leave something desired and the lack of online multiplayer is inexcusable (why have I been saying this too much recently). Personally, I would prefer the PC version if I could run it, but my PC hates the Quake III engine and is in dire need of an overhaul. The Xbox version is almost the same with a few minor control differences. Regardless, if you cannot run this on the PC, buy this game or miss out on one of the better titles released in a while. It isnít too often you get an intelligent FPS, so do not pass this up.

Overall Score: 8.7

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