Reviewed by Mark Isaacson
I'm sure you are now all aware of how good Jedi Outcast is, so I won't go into too much detail about that. What I will do is take you through some of my favorite portions of the game. And there's plenty to see:
1) The Story
You'll start the game 9 years after the events of Jedi Knight. Kyle Katarn has retired his lightsaber and force powers and turned to mercenary work. A call from Mon Mothma to investigate a strange distress call on the planet Kejim sees Kyle and his pilot, Jan Ors, thrown into a battle on the planet which has been overrun by Stormtroopers. From here you'll get caught up in a series of battles and bad guys and eventually Kyle takes out the lightsaber again for deadly battles against a group of strange Sith lords.
Along the way you'll meet up with familiar faces of the New Republic, including Luke Skywalker. It all combines to develop a story that carries on the tradition of the original Star Wars trilogy to great effect.
2) The Lightsaber
If there's one thing that makes this game a masterpiece, it's the lightsaber. Raven have complied a simple yet challenging control system which is far more interactive then what was originally conceived in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. Basically we have a combination of the Episode I style jumps, rolls and sidesteps along with the usual lightsaber combat every Star Wars fan dreams of. Chopping down troopers, deflecting enemy fire and blocking oncoming Sith attacks won't take too long to get the hang of at all.
But what I love most about this version of the lightsaber above all others are the little things. Waving your saber around creates a blurring visual effect, much like the movie scenes. Touching walls and doors with your saber leaves burn marks (although I'm yet to try the Qui-Gon door opening move yet). And then you have the shadow effect, in which the saber casts a shadow onto the floors and doors, just to prove that it really is a beam of light (a deadly one at that). All these little touches makes lightsaber combat all that more fun to watch as well as play.
3) Weapons structure
The lightsaber isn't the only weapon in the game. There are a great range of weapons to choose from. You start the game with the trusty Bryar pistol and almost instantly pick up the Stormtrooper rifle (joy!), but there's no doubt that the most fun will be had with the Bowcaster, the trusty weapon of the Wookiees. For Jedi Outcast, Raven have added a sniper scope to the Bowcaster, meaning plenty of head kills for poor little troopers! And since many of you should be Counter-Strike players, this should be something of a bonus for multiplayer gaming (but I'll tell you about that later).
Although more emphasis has been placed on lightsaber combat, there will be many situations where you need a little more help. For instance, you may run into a room filled with enemies. Yes, you could run around and chop them into bits, but it's difficult to block all of the incoming blaster fire. On these sorts of occasions you can pull out a blaster and go "Quake" like, shooting everything in sight, or use a thermal detonator. Throw one of them into the room and you'll clean it out in no time at all.
In truth, all of the weapons are unique and you will always need them for certain situations. Each has a strength and a weakness (for example, the Bryar pistol is more accurate but weak while a stormtrooper rifle is less accurate but more powerful) yet they all have an importance for being part of the arsenal.
4) Level Structure
One of the best parts of Jedi Knight was the level structure. Some levels were amazingly huge, and took forever to get through, thanks to the inclusion of puzzles and plenty of enemies to get through. Thankfully that same style of level structure has been included by Raven, and at times are astonishing to look at.
You'll find your way through the likes of the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, Cloud City and its now famous freezing chamber, and plenty of Imperial bases across different planets. Each level contains objectives of varying style (destroy this, find that, etc.) with a mixture of puzzles to complete to continue forward.
The puzzles themselves are at times difficult, while sometimes being the obvious, but in all they are a wider range then what was designed in Jedi Knight.
The most impressive features is the amount of interactivity in each level. Most glass items are breakable, and you'll find yourself throwing troopers through windows many a time. Computer screens can be broken from blaster fire, and as previously mentioned, your lightsaber leaves burn marks on walls, floors, etc.
One area that interested me the most was in the first level. Put simply, your team mate (Jan Ors) helps out against the many Stormtroopers in your path. More like a co-op mode, the very high AI for the computer controlled Jan helps out in a great way, actually distracting the enemy so you can pick off the troopers when their gaze is away from you, while giving cover fire for you as well. It's something of a surprise, and a valuable addition. I just wish there was an actual co-op mode included.
5) Force Powers
Raven has included the same Force Powers as before, with a few inclusions, but it's the way of which these Force Powers come to be that's most important. Kyle hasn't used his force powers for some time, so at the beginning of the game you won't have any to use. As you go along, just as before, you'll learn powers that come in very handy in combat and also in getting around levels (force jump, for example). However, there aren't any Dark Side/Light Side problems to come across here, since Kyle has already chosen which path to take. On another note, each Force power will come in handy as soon as you receive them (unlike Jedi knight, in which the powers were not in any particular order, and may not be of any use until later on in the game).
It's definitely a better design, since you can use the powers almost straight away, and they are great to watch in action, that's for sure.
Of most importance to you in terms of combat are Force Push, Force Lightning and Force Throw. Push allows you to push away enemies, and can come in handy if you run out of ammo during a heavy fire fight. Force throw has been seen before in Jedi Knight, but it's a very deadly move where you throw your lightsaber out into the crowd, slicing anything in its path. And most powerful of all is lightning, sending a bolt of lightning from your finger tips (similar to the Emperor in Return of the Jedi). I suggest you hone your skills with these, since many fights with the Sith in the game will require much skill.
During the early days of Jedi Outcast, many of you were disappointed with the loss of live action cut scenes. Here they have been replaced by full motion animation and in-game cut scenes, and I must admit I prefer it this way. I'm not saying I wasn't fond of the live FMV, but there is so much more that can be created through animation than any other medium, and this proves it.
Anyway, other then the animation, Jedi Outcast is a wonder to behold. Each level, character and background is highly detailed with, as long as you have a decent computer to play it on, very smooth frame rates. That combined with some nice voice overs (including Billy Dee Williams as Lando) and the ever present John Williams score creates an overall wonderful package that all Star Wars fans will get a kick out of.
So there you have it, Jedi Outcast. We've waited a long time for the series to return, but I'm sure you all agree with me when I say it was very much worth the wait. Raven has combined all of the elements that made Jedi Knight such a wonderful success, while giving a much needed spit and polish in the effects section and adding plenty of new features.
Congratulations to LucasArts and Raven for a job well done. Everything fits together nicely for an amazing experience. And I haven't even mentioned multiplayer yet!
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