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Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, Raven/Lucasarts, 2002
Note: This game is actually the third in a series that began with Star Wars: Dark Forces, followed by Star Wars: Jedi Knight (a game which had an expansion pack, Mysteries of the Sith, which was nearly a full game in its own right).
Jedi Knight 2 is one of the most anticipated games of 2002; fans of Jedi Knight have been waiting for this game for quite a few years now. Lucasarts attempted to develop the sequel to Jedi Knight internally, but after many production delays and problems, the in-house project was canceled. Sometime later, Lucasarts announced that license had been given to Raven in order for them to develop the game. Raven is known for turning out solid product without the budget overruns that seem to plague other game companies. Their usual strategy is to license a game engine from id software, add their own content, and get the game to market as soon as possible. This process results in games that are polished, yet not particularly revolutionary. This is the case with Jedi Knight 2: Raven uses id's Quake 3 engine to provide us with a game that is fun to play (especially in its great use of the Star Wars universe) yet still lacks any major innovation. I know what I have just said sounds like criticism, but it's easy to look on the store shelves and find many games lacking in fun, never mind innovation. Jedi Knight 2 might not have many surprises, but what it does it does well.
Jedi Knight 2 takes place a few years after the events of Jedi Knight, which itself took place a few years after Return of the Jedi. The New Republic is gradually winning its long war against the Empire, but even though the Emperor and Darth Vader are becoming distant memories, Dark Jedi still have a habit of popping up here and there. Kyle Katarn, the hero of Jedi Knight, is back, but without a lightsabre or the Force, having decided to return to ordinary life. But after a routine investigatory mission to a distant planet reveals a new plot against the Republic, Katarn is forced to relearn the Force and how to use his lightsabre. A Dark Jedi is using a rare mineral to create clones with the power of the Force, the Reborn as the game calls them. Katarn must battle these Reborn, along with hordes of stormtroopers and other menaces, in order to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Along the way, Katarn gets help from Star Wars characters like Lando Calrissian and, in a particularly exciting battle sequence, Luke Skywalker himself.
The game looks nice: the character models are detailed and feature lots of familiar aliens, the architecture re-creates the Star Wars universe meticulously, and lightsabre combat is a joy to behold. More about the lightsabre in a minute. The game also plays well, apart from some tedium in the first two levels before Katarn relearns his Jedi ways. The controls are responsive and fluid at once, and the interface is straightforward and easy to use. Expect to be using Force powers quite a lot later in the game in order to accomplish nearly every task. Some of the puzzles fall into the category of the absurd, as Katarn has to go to extreme lengths to get some result that logically should have been much easier. For example, at one point Katarn needs to send a message from an Imperial transmitter. To set the frequency, he has to Force jump between boxes suspended in midair above a bottomless pit, which extends gameplay but makes no sense. I pity the poor stormtrooper whose everyday task it is to scramble around above a yawning abyss to reset the base's radio!
As Katarn's Force powers gain in potency, the player can rely less and less on conventional weapons, and more on the Force and the lightsabre. In comparison with Jedi Knight, Jedi Knight 2's lightsabre blocking is much more generous to the player, as now Katarn can deflect nearly any projectile. Using only the lightsabre and Force speed, Katarn can enter a giant hangar filled with stormtroopers and a handful of the Reborn, and hold his own. The Reborn excel at blocking moves with their lightsabres, so Katarn needs to use various combos at his disposal. Fun with the lightsabre continues into the multiplayer component of the game. Server configuration can dictate the mix of conventional weapons, Force powers, and the lightsabre, and already on-line traditions have grown up around the lightsabre duel levels. I would say that some multiplayer Jedi battles have proved to be more exciting than anything in the actual movies, although of course the upcoming release of Episode 2, if only marginally more exciting than Episode 1, could prove me wrong.
Jedi Knight 2 is not a groundbreaking game, but it delivers on most of its promises. A worthy follow-up to Jedi Knight.
Last modified: May 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 by James Schellenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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