The long-awaited sequel to the kickass game Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (which makes this game Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast: Dark Forces II, but I digress) has hit my grubby, sticky little hands. I played it, beat it in three days, and here’s what I have to say…
Short, short version for the lazy readers: Good game.
Longer version for the less lazy readers: Good game, but…
First, I’ll start with the storyline (if you didn’t read the thread title… SPOILERS AHEAD!!). It’s all right, I suppose… hardly as cool as games like Half-Life or Halo. If you all remember, Kyle Katarn, badass mercenary and - coincidentally - son of a Jedi finished up the last game as an uber-powerful Jedi Knight, and he and his sweet little number Jan are the only two people who know the location of the Valley Of The Jedi (cue Indiana Jones theme).
Fast forward to this game. Now, it just wouldn’t do to have the player (you play Kyle) start off the game as an uber-powerful Jedi again. So you have no Force powers at the beginning. “Well, what happened to them?” the reader may ask. Well… he forgot. After spending 8 years or so doing his whole mercenary bit, he turned his back on the Jedi way and forgot how to use the Force (I’ve always thought that being a Jedi was like riding a bike, but, ah well). This odd little quirk is easily forgiveable, as there needs to be some development of Force powers over the game.
Now, good things about the story… the villain is introduced early, and he has a nice bit of dimension to him (not extremely well-rounded, but not wholly flat, either). The player is given a good deal of motivation to hate this villain. Plus, one encounters some nice, intriguing mysteries right off the bat.
Anyhoo, I’m not going to delve into the storyline too much (buy the game yourself if you want to know what happens), but some parts seemed a little gratuitous. For example at one point in the game, you randomly meet none other than - dum dum dum dum! - Lando Calrissian. And it seems that Lando and Kyle are good buddies. This is odd… although I’m speculating that Lucasarts managed to get Billy Dee Williams to do the voice, and as such wanted to take as much advantage of that as possible.
Graphics-wise, this game is a real stinker. The graphics and modeling and textures are all outdated, especially character models. The textures all look like those you’d find way back in Quake II. Some of the special effects were nice - such as the “bulging fisheye” effect whenever you used your Force Speed - but overall, the game felt really rushed. Character movement during cutscenes was extremely jittery and not even close to realistic (unlike the character movements found in, say Return to Castle Wolfenstein). In fact, only one aspect of the graphics was amazing… the shading on the characters, when the graphics were turned up near their highest, was out-and-out incredible. But that doesn’t overshadow the other shortcomings the game had.
The voice acting was very good, and all the dialogue between characters was intriguing and realistic. Unfortunately, the writing was pretty poor… every conversation was rushed (to keep down the memory requirements for the voice files, I’m sure). However, a lot of random background conversation was present… you could hear two stormtroopers chatting around the next corner, for example.
Gameplay: Overall, I give this big props. The most outstanding aspect of the gameplay had to do with all the Jedi abilities… using the lightsaber and various Force powers. Indeed, I think they made the lightsaber a little too cool… once I got it, I almost never used anything else. It’s pretty easy to get the hang of using the lightsaber, too, and duels can be very spiffy (you can get into saber locks with an opponent, which is really cool). Further, the Force powers are very useful and easy to use.
The major saving grace for this game, I think, is the fact that the levels are just downright enormous. They transplanted a chunk of the Nar Shadda streets at one point, and you can see for several kilometers down the row of buildings. The downside is that there are lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong load times when loading a level or a saved game, but I’m willing to put up with it.
The enemy AI seemed pretty smart, if at times cursed with that “super-perceptive” quality, where an enemy knows too much about what’s going on around it. But once you get down to the nitty-gritty, enemies will follow you, try to ambush you, pull dirty tricks, duck for cover, dodge and strafe… not too bad.
Ultimately, I give this game a 8.5 out of 10… the graphics and story are a little “Blah”, but the gameplay and being able to hack things to pieces with a lightsaber more than make up for it.