reviews\ Nov 30, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast - GC - Review

Jedi Knight 2 may come as a surprise to gamers who are unfamiliar with the Jedi Knight series.  For one thing, the majority of the game is played from a first-person perspective.  The default controls are like Golden Eye 007 or any other James Bond title -- the left thumbstick is used for strafing, whereas the right thumbstick controls your view.  All of the levels have a ton of corridors that must be explored; hidden areas that should be found; and what feels like an endless amount of doors to unlock.  In other words, Jedi Knight 2 is mostly a standard first-person shooter with Star Wars-inspired characters and weapons.  Granted, all of the gameplay aspects, standard or not, are presented really well, and I must admit that the Star Wars elements make the game a lot more fun to play.

Being a Star Wars game and all, there are times when you can whip out a lightsaber to slice and dice your enemies.  When using the lightsaber, Jedi Knight 2 switches to a third-person perspective, giving the player greater control over the character.  LucasArts (and its third-party helpers) are getting closer and closer to creating perfect lightsaber combat in a video game.  I can't say that the lightsaber is the best weapon in the game, but it is more fun to use.  You can use it to do just about everything that it does in the movies: destroy pesky Stormtroopers, deflect laser beams, battle Sith Lords and block oncoming lightsaber attacks, among other things.  It can penetrate various objects, too.  The lightsaber combat, and the formation of Kyle's moves are very impressive.  His moves aren't entirely seamless, but they look really cool, and are a blast to perform.  The PC nature of the game makes lightsaber blocking/deflecting a lot easier, since the camera can be moved in any virtually any direction.

Whether shooting or lightsabering, Jedi Knight 2's combat is great, but there isn't enough of it.  I don't want a first-person shooter where ten million monsters attack me at once.  By that same token, no FPS should have an overwhelming number of empty, overly similar rooms that make you get confused about what to do next.  The mission objectives aren't always clear, and if you can't figure out what to do next, chances are you'll search for enemies to kill.  That's okay, but it becomes a problem when there aren't any more enemies to kill.  The "find a key, unlock this door" gameplay style has never been my cup of tea.  Whenever I found my way, the game became loads of fun again, and all frustration was eliminated.  But those tedious, in-between moments can get really tiring after a while.

Graphically, Jedi Knight 2 is a bit behind its GameCube siblings, especially Rogue Squadron 2.  The PC is generally a good source for cutting-edge graphics, but that isn't the case here.  It has to be said that the GameCube version looks fairly close to the PC version released last year.  However, the PC version wasn't that visually spectacular to begin with.  Most of the enemies look good, especially the Stormtroopers, as do some of the game's backgrounds.  The ships are nice polygon copies of the high-tech movie counterparts, though not nearly as stunning as the ships in Clone Wars or Rogue Squadron 2.  Other than that, Jedi Knight 2 is pretty basic looking.  Its special effects are superior to most other GameCube ports, but it doesn't really do anything to make it stand out from the crowd (visually).

The lacking graphics shouldn't bother you too much though.  Jedi Knight 2 "sounds" a lot better than it looks.  Its music is made up of many classic Star Wars tunes, filling your ears with hours of John Williams' unforgettable masterpiece.  Likewise, the sound effects have been taken directly from the movie.  Star Wars has one of the most unmistakable laser blast sounds in the world, and you'll hear it a lot in this game, along with familiar explosions, hummable lightsaber effects and memorable droid beeps.  Every chapter in this saga, whether created by George Lucas or not, must begin with SW's main theme and a few introductory paragraphs, followed by a ship flying away from the screen and a nice "zoom" sound.  That's exactly how this game begins.  Afterwards, Jedi Knight 2 jumps right into a brief intro, complete with decent voice acting from the main characters.  Some of the dialogue is a bit on the cheesy side, but most of the lines are said with a convincing tone of voice.

Jedi Knight 2 is another really good Star Wars game for all of the diehard fans out there.  Casual fans will like it, too, but they will be more easily frustrated than the hardcore fans, who will do anything to prove that they are the "most powerful Jedi ever."  There is a lot of fun to be had with this game, so be sure to check it out sometime.  If you have a powerful PC, get that version instead -- it's faster, smoother and the mouse and keyboard controls are more precise.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.9
An "outcast," this is not.  Star Wars Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast is a fun, mostly improved sequel that'll transport you to the Star Wars universe.  It's a little more on the shooter side of things than you'd expect from a Star Wars game, so now you'll have a chance to see what it would be like to be Han Solo for a day.

Graphics: 7.2 
Jedi Knight 2 certainly isn't the prettiest Star Wars game around, but it does have some cool effects.  I could have done without the silly death animation though (Stormtroopers literally fly into the air and unrealistically fall whenever they're shot off an edge of a platform).  Things like that tend to take away from a game's visual appeal.

Sound: 8
If you love Star Wars music, you'll love this soundtrack.  Translation: if you're a human, you'll love this soundtrack.

Difficulty: Medium
Even on the easiest game mode, Jedi Knight 2 is still somewhat of a challenge.

Concept: 7 
Let's forget about the fact that this is a port of a year-old PC game and concentrate on the original concept: an improved Star Wars first-person shooter.  The result is just that -- more first-person shooting, great lightsaber action and some really cool Force powers.

Multiplayer: 7
Jedi Knight 2's split-screen action allows two players to grab a lightsaber and prove once and for all who the most powerful Jedi is.

Overall: 7.8
Star Wars loyalists, this game's for you.  FPS junkies will wonder where the deep multiplayer mode is, and casual gamers will wonder why the game isn't a little more straightforward.  Forget about all that and try the game for yourself.  Like people, this game has its share of problems, but once you get to know it, you'll likely find that it's a game worth spending time with.


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