It's a very fun game that borrows the best elements from past shooters, introduces a number of its own great twists, and then combines these elements to make something that will be highly enjoyable both for those who like shooters and those who simply like Star Wars.
Originally released for the PC earlier this year, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast marks the second time that LucasArts' Dark Forces series of first-person shooters has been released for a console--the first time being the mediocre port of Dark Forces for the PlayStation. The game was released in 1996, and it was plagued by sloppy controls and graphics that were, to put it bluntly, ugly. It was a stark contrast to the PC version of Dark Forces, which was one of the most memorable first-person shooters of its time, as the rest of the games in the series have been. Thankfully, the Xbox version of Jedi Outcast doesn't follow the trend of bad ports that Dark Forces for the PlayStation threatened to start. Instead, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast for the Xbox is a great port that retains the essence of what it must feel like to be an all-powerful Jedi, which was so well conveyed in the original PC game, without sacrificing much in the way of graphics, playability, or overall value. In fact, the game's complicated control scheme is better served on an Xbox controller than it is in the PC's typical mouse and keyboard setup. Developer Vicarious Visions, which has been responsible for the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games for the Game Boy Advance in the past, handled the porting duties for this Xbox version, and as Star Wars fans will come to find out, the company did a great job with it.
As far as the single-player component of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is concerned, the game is unchanged from its PC cousin. You are cast in the role of Kyle Katarn, a gruff mercenary who lends his smuggling skills to the Rebellion during its uprising against the Empire. Katarn has a storied past that has been well chronicled in the original Dark Forces and its sequel, Jedi Knight, and fans of the series will be glad to know that his moody manner and subtle pessimism remain intact in Jedi Outcast. The force is strong in Katarn, and he's no slouch with a lightsaber either, but after nearly falling to the dark side during the events of Jedi Knight for the PC, he's chosen to shun his Jedi ways in order to return to his life as a smuggler and mercenary for the Alliance. The game opens with Katarn and his trusty pilot, Jan Ors, on one such mission. They receive an urgent call from Mon Mothma telling the pair to investigate a distress call from the surface of a planet that was thought to be uninhabited. There, Katarn and Ors uncover a plot by the remnant Imperial forces to create an army of dark warriors who are technologically infused with the force.
In your quest to put a stop to this army of cybernetic soldiers, you'll fight your way through 25 single-player levels that span eight different environments, one more than the PC game. The Xbox version of Jedi Knight II includes the level that was found in the PC demo but wasn't available in the actual PC game itself. The single-player campaign is relatively long compared with the single-player modes in recent shooters, and it's also quite tough at the default difficulty level. Fortunately, like in the PC game, you're allowed to save anywhere, at any time. Some of the exotic locales you'll visit, like Yavin and the cloud city of Bespin, will be very familiar to Star Wars fans. Other levels are quite new, such as a mining facility on Artus and the innards of a massive capital ship called the Doom Giver. You'll also run into many new faces, as well as a handful of familiar ones who will undoubtedly please fans of the source material. Included in this notable cast of characters are Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian, the latter voiced by none other than Billy Dee Williams himself. The story in the original PC game was moved along through the use of good-looking prerendered cinematics, as well as in-game cutscenes that tended to focus close in on characters' faces, most of whom made use of believable facial animation and lip synching. That's why it's strange to note that, while all of the original prerendered cinematics have been retained in the Xbox version of the game, all of the in-game cutscenes have been changed to poor-quality full-motion video sequences. It's as though the developer took the existing in-engine scenes and encoded them with a bad compression value. Whether this was done for technical reasons or to give the game a single, continuous style of cutscene is unclear, but Jedi Knight II would have been better off without this inexplicable change.
However, if you haven't played the PC version of the game, you probably won't even notice the change in cinematic quality, especially since your attention will likely be focused on the game proper. As you progress through the single-player missions, you'll encounter swarms of angry rodians and other assorted bounty hunters. And stormtroopers--lots of them, especially during the first five missions. In fact, save for a handful of interrogation droids and a pair of AT-STs, the only enemies you'll run into at first are stormtroopers, and the repetitive task of gunning down these white-clad soldiers will quickly wear thin. Kyle doesn't start the game with any force powers, nor does he initially have his lightsaber. Instead he'll usually be stuck with the Imperials' own inaccurate assault rifle. Furthermore, the first levels of Jedi Outcast are practically brimming with key-hunt puzzles and platform-jumping challenges. While there's a third-person view to help you time such jumps better, you'll invariably get frustrated early on at having to do so much jumping around, all for the sake of opening a door. Your gun-toting enemies will also exhibit some strange behavior during these early stages.
- Player Reviews: 22
- Game Universe:
- Star Wars Episode I: Racer (GBC, N64, DC, MAC),
- Star Wars: Yoda Stories (PC, GBC),
- Star Wars: Demolition (DC, PS),
- Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC, GC, XBOX, MAC),
- Star Wars: Starfighter (PC, PS2),
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC, XBOX, MAC),
- Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (PS2, XBOX),
- Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (PS2, GC),
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars (GC, PS2, XBOX),
- Star Wars Galaxies (PS2, XBOX)
- Number of Players: