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Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Review By:  2nd Opp

Developer:  Raven Software
Publisher:  LucasArts
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  FPS
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  2-19-03

These last few months have seen quite a few Star Wars games arrive on Gamecube, and many of these have turned out quite well. Jedi Knight II on the other hand seems to have stepped back to last place in the GameCube's Star Wars library. This is not because Jedi Knight II is a bad game, but because it is a bad port. I guess this is what happens when Lucas Arts has too many games to put out on multiple systems, and pushes some of them to the bottom of the priority list.

You start the game as Kyle Katarn, the ex-Jedi turned mercenary, who now works for the New Republic. While on a routine reconnaissance mission with his partner Jan Ors, it is discovered that some remnant forces are gathering in an abandoned base on Kejim. One of the latest transmissions sent from the base mentioned something about "The Valley of the Jedi", a place all to familiar to Kyle and his partner. Curious to what the Imperials may be planning, Kyle and Jan touch down and begin looking for clues.

Now this is where you take control and start the game, and the first thing you'll notice is how poor the cutscene you just saw looked. This is because the cutscenes that were originally run with in-game graphics have been replaced with pre-recorded scenes from the PC version. Why they replaced them with these poor video feeds is anyone's guess. Every once in awhile you will come across a real FMV. These are used mainly for the scenes when Kyle's ship is flying on screen, and while they are only a few seconds in length, they do look very good. It makes you wish that more of the game was presented in this form.

The in-game graphics are a mixed batch. Sometimes you will come across a nice section, while others are just boring and empty. This game is definitely showing it's age, using most of the same textures that were used in the PC version a year ago. The Gamecube is capable of much more (as seen in Metroid prime), but I guess the developer was not interested in updating this game. In fact, what ever method they used to port this game, it doesn't exactly run well on Gamecube. There are noticeable framerate problems throughout the game. When you are turning Kyle to shoot someone behind him, and the screen shudders with the movement, you now that at some point it will cause a problem in the gameplay.

This problem is most apparent in aiming your gun. Not only are the controls sluggish to aim at your enemies, but the framerate jumps add to your inaccuracy. Luckily the developers did throw in an option to adjust the x and y-axis movement and this helps with the aiming issue, but the controls still feel clumsy throughout the game. Even with the legendary Lightsaber in hand you will be swinging and missing, thanks to the random nature of the swipes. One thing I will give the developers credit for is how smooth the game moves between first person and third person perspective. This part of the gameplay works very well, and is a welcome change from straight forward first person games.

If you think that you'll be able to jump into this game as a Jedi, think again, this game makes you earn it. That means you must use guns only in the first 7 levels of the game, and these first few level are not to fun. The guns in Jedi Knight II are very average, none of them seem to really pack a punch, but that's ok because the Imperial Guards A.I. will just stand still and let you shoot them. One weird thing I noticed while playing is that the guards are dumb enough to let you shoot them, but at the same time they seem to have eagle vision, and can snipe you from halfway across the level. A lot of people will be turned away from this game after the second or third level and will not make it to the point where you receive your force powers and lightsaber. This is a shame because the game actually flows a bit better once these items are acquired.

One thing that I am always pleased with in a Lucas Arts game is the music and sound effects. I don't think they can do poor sound effects, even if they tried. With the large database of movie sounds at their disposal, every blaster shot sounds true, and every lightsaber swipe resonates in your ear. As always all the musical scores fit perfect to the Star Wars theme, and bring you the right amount of tension during fights.

Jedi Knight II does include a multiplayer feature to kick up the life span of the game. Up to two players can pick up their lightsabers and duel it out in a variety of modes. In addition you can add up to 10 bots to increase the difficulty, but unfortunately this mode suffers an even bigger drop in framerate, sometime creating an unplayable environment. As long as you keep the number of players low this mode can be fun, but I was very disappointed with how it turned out.

Highs:

  • Good music and sound effects
  • Smooth transition between 1st and 3rd person perspective
  • Jedi Force powers

Lows:

  • Choppy framerate
  • Horrible cutscenes
  • Clumsy controls
  • Game starts at a slow pace

Final Verdict:

This could have been a great game, but the poor port job ruined it. If the developer would have taken the time to address the framerate problems, and expand the multiplayer features (perhaps 4-player), we would have another good Star Wars games in our hands. As the game is, I can only suggest it as a rental to true Star Wars fans. There are many more, much better first person games to spend your money on.

Overall Score: 5.6

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