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Jedi Knight 2 - Jedi Outcast
RebornEven 25 years after the (chronologically seen) first "Star Wars" film, the interest in the never-ending struggle between the light and the dark side of the force is far from waning. Only recently, the latest movie made it to the theatres, while PC gamers can now roll up their sleeves and wield the might lightsaber themselves in Jedi Knight 2 - Jedi Outcast. As in Dark Forces and Jedi Knight, the former Jedi knight Kyle Katarn turns into a heroe against his will, although this time his adventures haven't been staged by LucasArts themselves but by Raven Software (Soldier of Fortune, Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force). Despite the rigid rules of the Star Wars franchise Raven had to abide to and whose compliance was monitored by publisher LucasArts, Raven managed to deliver a game unlike any titles set in the Star Wars universe so far.
 
Graphics & sound:
Force GripIf there is an engine that has recently been preferred by many an action game, it is the Quake III engine that, despite its growing age, has been greatly enhanced by Raven and comes up easily to today's graphical standards. Provided that you have ample CPU power, realistic shadow and lighting effects as well as nice textures please the gamer's eyes. A plethora of details known from the movies breathe life into the familiar und partly gigantic locations such as Nar Shadaa or the cloud city Bespin. Smoothly animated characters, especially striking during lightsaber duells you witness by default from a Tomb Raider like perspective, give credit to the game's graphical prowess. When slashing or swinging your lightsaber, you make out a bluish hue in the wake of the weapon's movement, and sparks glisten when two lightsabers connect during combat. On walls, the lightsaber leaves fiery red scars, a detail that hints at the weapon's power.
But the best warrant for unparalleled Star Wars atmosphere comes in the form of John Williams's epic soundtrack, which accompanies the telltale intro sequence as well as various situations in the course of the game. Howling Tie Fighters, chirping R2-D2 units, the plasticized thudding of Stormtrooper armour, and the humming of the lightsabers are as crystal clear as the professional voice-overs (as in the movie, Billy Dee Williams performs Lando Calrissian).
 
Story:
Lightsaber action 1The story starts 10 years after the events of the first Jedi Knight and the destruction of the Dark Jedi Jerec in the Valley of the Jedi. Kyle Katarn, having turned his back on the force and his Jedi existence, has left his past far behind. He has lost both his lightsaber and all of his force abilities and started a career as a mercenary for the Republic. Together with his friend Jan Ors, who made her first appearance in the add-on Mysteries of the Sith, he has to do some reconaissance work for Mon Mothma on the seemingly unconspicuous planet Kejim, where he runs into a contingent of Stormtroopers. His curiosity is roused, but soon enough his curiosity turns into helpless rage as he witnesses the appearant murder of Jan through the hands of the Dark Jedi Desann and his lackey Tavion. Without the force, Kyle can only loose in a fight with Desann so that he decides to regain his former abilities in the Valley of the Jedi, unwittingly helping the dark forces in the process...
 
Playing with the force:
Lightsaber action 2Before you can give the dark side a thorough beating, Kyle has to find a way back to his former shape. Once he has left Nar Shadaa behind him, he pays a visit to Luke Skywalker in the Jedi Academy's training grounds und accomplishes various tests during a small force tutorial to become familiar with the use of the force. At the end of this section, the mightiest weapon of the game waits to be reclaimed by him - his bluishly shining lightsaber. You should give Raven praise for the spectacular sword fights alone, because along with the proper force spells they generate their own special atmosphere.
Contrary to the first installment, you don't allocate points to the various spells but choose from a range of force powers that are updated with the start of each new level. You have access both to spells from the light (e.g. Heal) and the dark side of the force (e.g. Force Grip), without having to choose which side you prefer. By improving the force skills at certain points in the game, the developers are now able to create situations that require the use of the force (e.g. Force Push for levers). Each spell will be upgraded three times - naturally, your powers are quite limited in their initial stage, while showing their full potential in their final stage. The third-level Saber Throw, for example, gives you complete control over your weapon in mid-air, but in the first level your saber will only fly straight ahead. You can also choose from three different fighting styles, ranging from slow but powerful strokes against tough enemies to fast but weaker slashes against hordes of enemies that have to be dealt with quickly.
 
Against all odds:
The Imperail Heavy Repeater in useApart from the lightsaber, you can naturally use a series of more conventional weaponry to accomplish your mission, e.g. the Imperial blaster, the Bryar rifle, thermal detonators, an impulse rifle, or a rocket launcher. However, only formidable enemies such as AT-STs or far-away foes that cannot be reached with a throw of your saber make the utilization of these weapons worthwhile. Along the way, you encounter several types of Stormtroopers, Imperial officers, guarding robots, or other alien races known from the movies. But what makes Jedi 2 stand out among the rest are the fights against the equally lightsaber-wielding Reborn and Shadowtroopers who can also throw some force spells in your direction. The latter enemies's armour provides them with a certain immunity against lightsaber attacks. At some points during the game, you receive some backing by friendly Republican units or by Luke and Lando themselves.
On your way to finally do battle against Desann, you do not only have emerge victorious from skirmishes against the Imperial forces, you also have to jump along narrow ledges or through vast halls with the danger of certain death looming only one (mis)step away. Most of the small puzzles require your activating the proper switch or finding security keys. At one point in the game, you take control over a R2-D2 unit to open a previously barred passage. Every now and then, enemy laser turrets can be used for your own ends, and with the help of an Imperial AT-ST you stomp through enemy lines while firing wildly with your on-board canons.
Details:
Producer:
Raven, LucasArts

Website:
Jedi Knight 2,
Demo version

Genre:
Action

Graphics:
very good

Sound:
very good

Gameplay:
very good

Verdict:
very good

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Pros & cons:
Lightsaber action 3After a series of mediocre Star Wars conversions, Raven Software's Jedi Knight 2 succeeded in delivering the best game set in a galaxy far, far away to the gaming community so far. Almost all aspects of the game seem to have been developed with great care, even though you are at times faced with some irritating and frustrating trial and error situations, jump and run sequences, or illogical puzzles. Despite the linear level design, the developers for some reason didn't avoid tasks that have you running from point A to point B for minutes. The hardware requirements are far from modest, making it necessary to have a GHz CPU to prevent the game from turning into a slide show. But all of that will by no means deter real Jedis who can enjoy a Star Wars atmosphere par excellence thanks to the great graphics and epic soundtrack.
Admittedly, that you can't take your eyes off the screen and your hands off the controls can be put down to the motivating lightsaber duells, nearly making any other weapon redundant. Another of the game's interesting aspects is the possibility to combine several force powers to achieve astounding effects - there are (almost) no limits to your imagination. And being the ambitious Jedi you are, you surely always dreamed about swinging your lightsaber side by side with Luke Skywalker. Once you have finished all of the 23 single-player missons, the multiplayer mode offers more maps, various gaming modes, and force powers only to be found in multiplayer. On a daily basis, the Internet community is fed with new mods and skins, among them the Darth Vader skin that can be used to shape your mutliplayer appearance. The struggle between the light and dark side of the force is far from over, therefore, but frankly, we are delighted to have it that way.
© 05-30-2002 by CE

 
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