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Oct 15 2018 16:44:37
       

Star Wars Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast

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I'm always wary of established brands - there is perhaps a tendency for people to become complacent with them, and sell inferior products simply based on a name. Luckily, if that is indeed a trend, JK2 (as I'll now refer to the title) bucks it, and reminds me not to rely on rules for more than the briefest guidance.

So before we start, look over to the right- JK2 is good, very good. I'll not jump up and say that JK2 is the best possible game out there - it's not, there are a small number of flaws with the game that disappoint me, mainly because they could so easily have been eliminated.

 

I hold a few rules up as cardinal rules for single player games - among these rules is this "A game designer should never put any trap in the game that can't be avoided by a clever and observant player, first time, without having seen it before". A hypothetical example of this would be a bridge that is scripted to collapse when you cross, but will cause your death if, perchance you're running at the time (with no warning). To my mind, Raven break this rule once or twice in this game, and it's a testament to how much I enjoy the game that I don't mind much. As advice, whenever you play this game, make good use of the quicksave feature.

This actually leads into the one area that probably accounts for 90% of the small things that I think are wrong with this game. The things that are on occasion lacking from this game are hints and explanations - why do you have to go up this core to get where you want to go? Often, the levels, while being linear, present no sort of explanation for the reason that you have to take one route, despite it seeming to be a particularly strange one. Many things also become a matter of pressing every button until it's blue (apparently this is the colour the Empire assigned to Rebel friendly button selections).

There are likely to be one or two places in the game where Raven completely baffles you. I suggest you at least know one or two sites that stock walkthroughs, even if you don't like using them. You'll find some in the site's links section.

Minor weaknesses aside, Raven have turned out a great single player game and storyline (which it should be noted, isn't Starwars cannon (aka what actually happens in the universe), so if the storyline doesn't mesh with Starwars 7 when it comes out, don't bother yourselves too much).The story is told though in game comments and conversations, with FMV being used only to show spaceships traveling between levels. The characters are all well done, with good voice acting and skins, although there are some join lines around the face on some characters, and the way they bare their teeth when talking is a little weird. The main character, Kyle Katarn, actually reminds me a little of Chuck Norris.

Some reviews have criticized the start of the game and the gameplay before you get the lightsaber, but frankly, I can't see what they're complaining about. Starting off the game, you get a fairly gentle introduction to everything which any First Person Shooter player will pick up with ease. Getting into using the lightsaber is much better left until you're comfortable with the game, and the same goes for the force powers. Force powers, it should be noted, are by default assigned to the function keys, which makes them quite difficult to reach in the middle of combat, and will penalize you both online and in the single player game (Force Push and Pull are very effective for groups on later levels) I strongly suggest that you remap the force keys to keys surrounding, but not including, WSADEB.

As you progress through the game, your freedom of movement increases dramatically as you gain extra force powers such as Force Speed and Force Jump, but this in no way compares to the staggering number of moves that you can pull off. Pulling out your lightsaber switches you to a third person view (although you can turn this off), all the better to swing with and all the better to appreciate the agility of your character. Many moves similar to those in 'The Matrix' are there, including running along walls, flipping off them and somersaulting in every direction - with a bit of practice, your character will move like a Jedi, which makes the experience all the experience all the more worthwhile.

You'll probably get very annoyed with the enemies who sport the thermal detonators (grenades) or the sniper rifle equivalent, but the story and the slick gameplay, coupled with the outrageously fun lightsaber will pull you along this game.

 

56k modem lines are getting a bit outdated now, and it shows in the way that Valve have rolled out Steam technology for broadband users. So it is with online gaming, while you can just about manage most games, it's that much more difficult to find a server, and you'll find that broadband users have an advantage. If you're stuck with a 56k line, JK2 is still very playable and also includes bots for offline play, but to get the best experience, you'll want a faster connection.

JK2 includes several gametypes, including Free For All (deathmatch), Team FFA, CTF, CTY (Capture the Ysalamari), Duel, Jedi Master and Holocron Deathmatch. Duel pairs off 2 players at a time, with the rest spectating on some smaller dedicated levels, you may find it a better use of your time to simply play FFA on a server with only Sabers (with or without powers) as players on these levels have the option of challenging each other anyway (When a challenge is accepted, 2 players become invulnerable to others, cannot harm others and must kill each other using only the lightsaber (no force powers)) and players will often (on certain servers) pair up and bow to each other, then fight. Playing on one of these FFA servers therefore eliminates the waiting time between rounds.

From the other game types, I would class CTF as fairly weak - Force Speed is highly unbalanced, and without force powers, it's just not the same. Jedi Master is intresting, but I doubt is will hold anyone's attention for a very long time - it features a single lightsaber that you can pick up that will give you all the force powers at full strength, everyone else then tries to kill the Jedi master, a very difficult matter if the Master decides to run away. It's quite frustrating because of the difficulty of catching up to the Master and the lack of the ability to kill anyone but the Jedi Master when someone has the saber.

The multiplayer is great fun, and the robust Quake 3 netcode will actually prove a relief to those used to getting WSAEINTR errors and the like in Counterstrike, but I doubt that it will permanently pull many people away from the more standard deathmatching or team based games.

 

JK2 is built on the Quake 3 engine, and the graphics and design are all sumptuous. Levels have the same staggering vertical scale as some of the structures in the films and the Stormtroopers and lightsabers just look 'right'. There's certainly no question that the Quake 3 engine can handle colour and not just drab red-browns when you look at this game.

Graphically, JK2 is excellent, I can't fault it one bit.

 

Music in games often gets on my nerves after I hear it for a while repeating, but somehow JK2 manages to avoid this completely. The classic Starwars themed music is there in abundance, and it adds real mood and authenticity to the title.

Sound wise, the game is also spot on. Lightsabers, droids, doors and Stormtroopers all make the right noises, to the point were you don't even notice it unless you specifically think about it.

 

JK2 is an excellent game, that benefits from the stability of the Quake 3 engine and does everything in terms of feel right. There's some faults with the single player game, but the overriding quality that is present though the entire product means you should easily forgive them. This game is well worth owning if you're either a fan of FPSs or the Star Wars universe.

Daniel 'Inept' Speed (inept@the-nexus.co.uk)

In Short
 

Great graphics & design
Character moves like a Jedi
Lightsaber is awesome

Some difficult to find areas
General lack of clues and explanations to player

 

Score
 
 

9.5 / 10

 
 
Links
   
  jediknight.lucasarts.com
www.starwars.com
 
   


 

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