Star Wars Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II picks up several years after Katarn successfully avenged his father and defended the Valley of the Jedi from powerful Jerec and his group of Dark Jedi. Katarn has since abandoned his allegiance to the Force for fear that he might fall prey to the temptations of the dark side. However, as fate would have it Katarn learns of a powerful new Dark Jedi who must be prevented from creating a technology to harness the power of the Force. Katarn's destiny and the future of the Star Wars galaxy once again hang in the balance as he confronts his dark past to face another seemingly insurmountable evil.
Ok, so that's some of the background of the single player storyline of this game (taken from a press release I found on , good site by the way), but what does that really tell us? Not much really. That's my job.
I've been playing through the single player version for a week now, and I have to say I'm really enjoying it. The Star Wars trilogy was a fantastic concept and the Jedi's in particular appealed to many. Which is what this game is all about. You progress through the game starting off as mercenary and ex-Jedi (Kyle Katarn) working for the New Republic. Working with your Co-Pilot Jan Ors, you perform minor military missions cleaning up the remnants of the Empire. Its on one of these missions that your Co-Pilot is killed by a dark Jedi Outcast, and in a fit of anger you return to the Valley of the Jedi to regain your force powers unwittingly leading the Outcast right to it. Unlike the previous game, you are expected to be the good guy, and indeed have no choice in the matter, as killing NPC's (non-player characters) will end the game right there and then.
First things first, you don't start the game with a Lightsaber and Force Powers; they come later, but don't let that put you off.
The first 2 missions are more of Quake II kind of affair, using various Blaster style weapons and Thermal Detonators (grenades) to take down your enemies whilst trying to work out which switch to push to open the door. Things are a little more complex than that for the most part, but not quite up there with Lara Crofts escapades, which is fine as this is an FPS game.
The enemies you face to begin with are Storm Troopers and Imperial officers whose AI is not outstanding, but I've yet to see a good single player game with decent AI. They are more intelligent than most, trying to surround you, or making a stand as group, but they still make some very stupid mistakes
I have to point out here that by halfway through the second mission I was beginning to lose interest rapidly. The weapons thus far were very inaccurate as far as aim was concerned. You can have perfect aim and still hit nothing but air. And not just you either, the same goes for the enemy. This may seem realistic and fair for some, but to me it was just plain irritating. At this point I was ready to tell you all the game was "mediocre" at best, (was kind of fun blasting Imperial Scout Walkers with Ion Cannons though, hehe) but I stuck with it, and am damn glad I did! (Wouldn't make for a very long review either ).
The real excitement begins after your third mission, where you obtain your Lightsaber and Force powers. Being a big Quake III Arena fan, I was instantly at home with the game engine in use here, and as this is an FPS game I naturally set my controls up as such. Getting the Lightsaber changed all that though. I really needed the third person view to use this weapon effectively. Lucky me, Raven saw fit to include the ability to switch between the views depending if you are using the Lightsaber or another weapon right from the setup menu. Good call Raven!
Word of advice to you reader; before you start playing, set your controls up to make weapon switching and individual force power activation easiest and quickest for you. Raven has for some strange reason put all the default Force Powers on the F keys or by manually going though them to pick the one you want to use, which kind of makes it hard to use them effectively. You'll realise this after the third mission, which is set at Luke Skywalkers Jedi Academy (you'd think after all this time he would have got a haircut). The whole level is a training facility for the majority of your Force Powers. Progressing through the level is very reminiscent of Tomb Raider, and gives you a rudimentary understanding of how you can use your Force Powers to there best use. It's a bit like driving a car, you don't learn to drive until AFTER you have passed your test : The Force Powers are more than just a gimmick too, they are essential to successful play.
So now we have a Lightsaber and Force Powers. This changes the game from a mediocre FPS to an involving Single Player game. The range of movement that your character can make in combination with force powers and the Lightsaber starts off basic and grows as you progress though the levels. This makes the gameplay whilst using them less linear, in that, an earlier level may have "trained" you to use said Force to the best of its and your ability's, learning its limitations of what you can and can't do. But in later levels, as your powers increase in strength, you have to think about what you can now do with the power. Most of these increases in Force Power "rank" are needed for the levels ahead of you, so you are constantly learning. The game doesn't however give you the impression that your doing nothing but training levels which is a good thing. They simply open up new possibilities for you to explore and discover.
The enemy's improve later on too. Lightsaber duel's with the "Reborn" (Dark Jedi wannabe's :p) are great fun, and are a completely different challenge from the other enemy's due to them being quite resistant to your force power effects even turning your attempts back at you with harmful repercussions. Using the Lightsaber isn't a simple hack, slash and pray affair either; you actually have to think about what you're doing and perform actions based on your movement. Lightsabers can lock, requiring you to push fire rapidly to force the enemy back, whilst you move in for the kill, perhaps running up a wall to get behind them before they recover ("There is no spoon"). The Lightsaber in true Luke Skywalker style is great at deflecting enemy shots back at them, and you can actually force an enemy to shoot himself (another example of bad AI?). Attacking the Reborn utilizing the Force Speed and the Lightsaber is a great combination and works well in a room full of "lesser" enemies too. You can plough into a room and Force Push a few enemies over, activate the Force Speed (allows you to move Matrix Bullet Time style, where by you move faster than the world around you) and go at it before they have a chance to respond. Killing enemies is more realistic than I first expected it to be too.
Most enemy's take about 3-5 shot's (lucky ones due to the inaccurate weapons), but one clean shot to the head can take them down instantly. As can cutting off say an arm or a leg with the Lightsaber. And to make sure you can revel in the defeat of the Reborn, as you strike them down the camera switches to a slow motion, scene revolving shot in true cinematic style. Great stuff, hehe. Jumping incredible heights, walking up walls (Trinity eat your heart out :p) rolling and diving, all are possible here.
Most weapons also have an alternative fire mode. An Imperial Heavy Blaster may fire rapid rounds at an enemy during normal fire mode, but hit the alternative fire button and you activate the under slung grenade launcher. Using alternative fire with the Lightsaber allows you to throw your Sabre from you, and as you progress through the game, so does your control level of this new attack increase. Going back to the Force Powers again, there not all used for offence or defence, some of them such as the Mindtrick are needed for other purposes. Sometimes a more stealthy approach is called for. Imperial Officers are controlling a console in front of you, there backs are turned. This leaves you 2 choices. 1, back off before they see you and raise the alarm or 2, use the Mindtrick to make them look elsewhere or see something other than you walking calmly by ("These aren't the droids you are looking for &&.." /me waves hand in front of me). Hmmm, all the doors are locked and that Imperial Officer in the room staring at you through the glass isn't going to open it for any rebel scum. Mindtrick him and he will.
At the end of the Star Wars Trilogy, Emperor Palpatine tries to destroy young Luke with a blast of lightning from his hands, now you too can fry your enemy's with just a wave of your hand!
Of course having all these Force Powers at your fingertips does invoke a price. You can't just use them all the time, as each force drains you, and until you give it time to replenish, they can't be used again. It only takes a few seconds but this can be an eternity in game time. Each force drains you by a differing amount depending on the force used ("Your powers are growing weak old man &&."). A jump will only take you down a few bars, and will generally be replenished instantly, whilst Force Lightning will instantly drain you of all Force Power meaning quite a few seconds are needed to replenish your supply, which can mean the difference between life and death in a room full of storm troopers.
Visuals and Game Design
The level design is a bit linear, and even a little confusing at times, but the majority are good fun to play and full of authentic Star Wars eye candy, from the cargo holds and ships docked in an Imperial Star Destroyer's hanger's to the bowels and innards of Bespin Cloud City. Some of the sights are breathtaking, and most give you a real feel for the area you are supposed to be in (I knew there was something suspect about that bartenders lounge &&&.).
I did find that sometimes it was difficult to tell between switches/levers that could be pushed/pulled and the general make up of the level. And at other times, having the Lightsaber drawn (and the subsequent third person perspective) made it hard to find the little nook or cranny which held an air vent that was your only way out of a level. Your character also has a portable shield generator (armour) and the usual health system common to most FPS games. The actual screen HUD (Heads Up Display) layout is pretty good, and again similar to most other games (why fix something if it isn't broken?) giving you instant visual access to your current status. Speaking of character's, the models are very good looking and Star Wars fans will instantly recognize most of them. The animations used by them are very "human" and believable, if some one falls down to the ground and gets back up, you could almost believe it really was someone falling down and getting up.
Overall, visually I was impressed, maybe I'm biased in that I love the design feel of the Star Wars universe, but I doubt that anyone could argue that the visuals look damn fine. The modified Quake III engine does a great job of providing a feeling of depth and perspective to the levels. If you put your Lightsaber into a metal door, it will leave "welding" ruts, the glow of the sabre lights up the area around you, if you're hit by a weapon (and assuming you have "armour" left) your shield will glow. Nice attention to details there.
Sounds are also good, with all of them putting you in mind of the Star Wars films and the musical score seems to have been taken straight from the films too. The voice overs sound authentic for the most part (that's not Mark Hamil though &.. is it?) but there not totally perfect, some being used more than once.
The in-game cut scenes are a mixture of actual game engine levels being created in real time, and pre-rendered sequences which actually had a lower quality look and feel about them than the real time ones.
Frame Rates on my Athlon 1.4 and GF2 GTS system at max details levels, 1024*768 are very good, rarely dipping below 50, even when there is a lot going on. This is especially good as the first thing I did was to increase the FOV (Field of View) from 90 degree's to 120 which is known to lower frame rates (albeit by a minor amount).
Final Words: Single Player
It's been quite a while since any single player game has actually intruded into my online gaming time, or any other gaming time for that matter, but this one certainly has. It does start off slow, with the early levels being nothing more than a second rate Quake II affair, but once you get your Lightsaber and Force powers, the game takes on a whole new level of gameplay. The enemy AI is not outstanding, with most of the enemies making stupid mistakes, or being easily tricked even without using the force, but I have yet to see any Single Player game have "Human" AI response, and what there is of AI in this game is a lot better than most. The poor accuracy of the weapons could be said to be more realistic by some, but I wouldn't be one of them, and for me, is the most irritating aspect of the whole game ("It's not impossible, I used to target Womp Rats back home in my T-16 &&.." "Eat me Luke, Eat me"). It hasn't really dulled my sense of enjoyment though, as being a Jedi Knight is about the Force and your Lightsaber, so the other weapons are used far less to the point I never even realised I'd picked up some of the new weapons! The multiple view of third and first person perspective depending on weapon or how you set up the game is a welcome feature. The way you progress not only through level's in the game, but also in skill keeps you tactically and mentally challenged throughout the game, which goes a long way to alleviate any repetition you would get without it. The story line and plot is a little thin in places, but I've seen a hell of a lot worse, and for the most part it certainly stays true to the Star Wars universe. It also has stunning visuals to back all of this.
If this was just a single player game, I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good single player game, but it's also a multiplayer game too! Raven has certainly picked a great game engine to work with here, and it's also something that they have had prior experience with. The whole Single player side of it is very well polished indeed and I haven't noticed any bugs at all so far. Well done Raven.
If you like the Star Wars universe, you will love this game. If you have had limited exposure to the Star Wars universe, you will still enjoy this game. You also don't have to have played the first game to follow the story line; anyone can jump in and follow what's going on easily. The game isn't without its flaws, but these don't detract from the gameplay in a big enough manner to really complain about.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II : Outcast is a great Single Player FPS in its own right, so if that kind of game blows your whistle, you'll enjoy this. It's quite in depth but not overly complicated, which would appeal to the majority I should imagine.
Well, I have a date with a blue lizard by the name of Desann, so I'm off to show him a thing or two about sword play and force powers (I hope!). May the Force be with you &&. (You knew I was gonna say that didn'ya!)
Damn good fun.
Great visual appeal
Highly configurable game engine
You get to use a Lightsaber!
Hints of Matrix style escapades
Non repetitive and challenging in later levels
Your skill and abilities increase with you as you progress through the game
And pushing people over with a wave of your hand &&&
Did I mention the Lightsaber?
The early levels may put people off
Enemy AI isn't all that hot (but what else is new?)
Can be frustrating at times due to level design
Inaccurate aim with Blaster style weapon's
Being a multiplayer junkie, I haven't got a chance to really try out the single player portion of the game. It certainly does look like fun, and Scott had a blast. That being said, I picked up my copy of JK II (as you can see by the keychain, the Limited Edition tin box) the first day it came out, and haven't stopped playing the online portion yet.
Raven packaged a built-in game browser, so connecting online and finding a game is easy. Connecting to a game is a different story. To be honest, I had no idea the game would be so popular online, and it's tough to connect to a decent server because they're always full. On another note, you do need to have your CD in the drive to play. As of this writing, the 1.03 patch has been released, and although it addresses a number of issues, removing the CD check was not one of them.
The game shipped with 12 multiplayer levels, and several more were included in the latest patch, as well as a load of them released by independent mappers. As usual with the Quake 3 Engine, there is no shortage of skins and mods, so JK II should provide months of gameplay. Much to my dismay, only 4 Capture the Flag maps are included with the retail game.
Seven gametypes are available...
Deathmatch - Standard fare stuff. Kill everyone that isn't you.
Team Deathmatch - Same as above, but this time kill everyone that isn't on your team.
Capture the Flag - My personal favorite. Try to capture the other team's flag, and return it to your base while defending your own flag. Usually degenrates into team deathmatch though.
The Holocron - Basically, there are force powers scattered around the level. Collect as many as you can, but should you die, you drop them for the next guy.
Capture the Ysalamiri - The Ysalamiri is basically a big iguana that cancels out force powers in a small radius. Plays like capture the flag, you're extremely vulnerable when you have the Ysalamiri as your force powers are cancelled.
King of the Hill - I don't think it needs any explanation. Kill everyone until it's just you left.
Duel - Pure 1 vs 1.
There isn't much else to say, outside of what Scott already covered. I've always enjoyed the team based gametypes more than the deathmatch games. Capture the Ysalamiri is a lot of fun, and the rush you get when you have a whole bunch of force enabled enemies chasing you is great.
A few issues for those who aren't really into multiplayer games. One problem is the light saber duels. Fighting with sabers isn't quite as well done as it is in the single player mode, and it often degenerates in frantic mouse button mashing. Another problem is the lack of balance with the force powers. You can Force Push, or Pull from across the map, which makes for some frustrating moments.
All in all, I found the multiplayer very addictive, and with the potential mods coming out, this game should provide months of enjoyment.
Pros: Addictive, easy to pick up if you're used to online shooters.
Cons: Imbalance of force powers can get frustrating, mediocre light saber duels.