Star Wars Jedi Knight II : Jedi Outcast
Star Wars Jedi Knight was one of the finest FPS games of all time. Following on from Dark Forces it centred around Kyle Katarn and his quest to seek vengeance for his fathers death. The game now has legendary status among Star Wars fans and still has a high number of online participants enjoying this five year old masterpiece. Now the third in the series has arrived and this time it has been developed by Raven Software. This choice of developers was a wise one. Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force is one of their more recent titles and it kept me glued to my monitor until it was completed.
Jedi Knight II assumes that you opted to finish the prequel as a good Jedi as opposed to a dark Jedi. For some reason Kyle has had enough of being a Jedi and all that it stands for and has chosen to relinquish his lightsaber and his force powers. At the beginning of the game Kyle and his long-standing comrade Jan Ors are sent to check out an outpost on Kejimthat, that is supposed to be deserted. When they arrive they find out that the outpost is anything but deserted and is swarming with Imperial Stormtroopers. Kyle, who no longer uses the force or his lightsaber has to investigate the situation using more traditional weapons and methods.
Fear not though because after the death of Jan Ors, Kyle decides he must retrieve his lightsaber and become strong with the force if he is to avenge his one true friend's death. Kyle returns to the Valley of the Jedi before setting off to retrain under the guidance of none other than Luke Skywalker before beginning the hunt for Jan's murderers.
Raven have done an excellent job with Jedi Outcast. Even early on in the game, when you don't have any force powers or lightsaber, it feels right and a worthy successor to Jedi Knight. The weapons range from Kyle's Bryar Blaster to Wookie Bowcaster, offer excellent variety and performance. Of course the lightsaber is what we all want to use and again Raven have excelled themselves in this department. A variety of moves and combat styles have given the lightsaber duels a very high degree of authenticity. I always thought the lightsaber combat in Jedi Knight was good so after playing Jedi Outcast I went back to Jedi Knight and realised that the duels were very unsatisfactory when compared to those in Jedi Outcast.
Of course when you begin to obtain your force powers you are going to have to learn to use them again. Luke Skywalker has constructed a special training exercise with a series of trials in which you have to use your force skills to obtain your lightsaber. This section of the game has been very cleverly done and will have you comfortable with the initial force powers in no time. In Jedi Knight there was a kind of a RPG element to the game where if you had conducted yourself in a good manner, not shot any innocent civilians etc, then you would turn out to be a Jedi where as if you shot anything that moved you became a Dark Jedi. This feature isn't in Jedi Outcast, and to some degree this makes sense because as we said earlier the game supposes that Kyle took the good route in Jedi Knight. Nevertheless you will be able to use a variety of force powers, not just the ones considered to be for a good Jedi.
The game contains around twenty-four levels and unlike most FPS games it actually provides a meaty challenge on most difficulty settings. The difficulty settings range from Padawan (beginner) to Jedi Master (very difficult). Even on the Padawan setting it still provides a decent challenge and you will have to make good use of the quicksave feature to progress in the game. In order to break up the constant shooting and battles a decent amount of puzzles have been included in the game. Most of these puzzles aren't too difficult but they do give the game a nice turn of variation and in my opinion, is all the better for it.
Obviously with five years passing since Kyle Katarn's last outing this game was always going to look far better than Jedi Knight. Thanks to the Quake III Arena engine everything looks great. The best thing about the Quake III engine is that even on a modest PC it still runs at a fluid rate with not too much detail having to be sacrificed. Personally I think they should have stuck with the FMV for the cutscenes but the in game graphics that they have used for the cutscenes doesn't look too bad at all. The animations and AI of the enemies are also first rate. Stormtroopers attempt to find cover or attack in groups in much the same way they would do in the Star Wars films which is very pleasing to see.
Anyway on to the all important text feedback and suitability for deaf gamers. The good news is that all the cutscenes are subtitled, an option is available to subtitle all the games cutscenes. The bad news is that the in game speech is not subtitled but as we shall see in a moment it is not a total disaster. Pressing the Tab key or 'm' key will bring up your mission objectives. Occasionally in the missions the objectives will change. For the most part, even though you may miss some verbal notification of a new objective, you get a text message telling you that your objectives have changed. This is great as a simple press of the Tab key will inform you of what is to be done. On one occasion though I noticed this didn't happen. On the first mission you come to a control panel and you need Jan's help to break some codes to open a door. Of course the conversation is not subtitled, like in the cutscenes but what happens next is that Jan tells you to hurry back because she is under attack! There is no text to inform you to help Jan out. The problem here is that if you fail to help Jan then she dies and it will be game over. When I first saw this I thought it would make the game impossible for a deaf gamer but I haven't noticed this anywhere else and every other objective has been given in text and is OK for a deaf gamer. Let's hope that this is solved in a patch. (For some help on this see the end of the review)
One area that deaf gamers will have no problems at all is in the superb multiplayer section of the game. There are seven gameplay variations which range from the classic lightsaber duel to a free for all. All of the seven modes have been well done and come with a good variety of maps. Best of all though is that you can play against bots if you don't want to go online. The bots range in abilities and will give you a very good game no matter what your ability is. You can enable force powers prior to starting a game and you can even limit the weapons to lightsabers only, for that special Jedi feel. For me this is the best multiplayer element in a FPS for a long time and if you are a Star Wars fan you are going to absolutely love the game just for the multiplayer battles.
Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10 The greatest Star Wars game of all time? It sure is. A meaty and engrossing single player game is superbly complimented with a classic multiplayer section that will keep you hooked.
Deaf Gamers comment: Had the in game verbal conversations been subtitled then we might have looking at almost full marks for this game. However, it is a hugely enjoyable game especially once you are past the problematic first mission in which you receive no text info about Jan asking you to come to her aid.
The first mission problem
Ok then for a little help with the problem on the first level follow the instructions below.
You have to search for three codes on the first level. These codes are red, blue and green. You have to search for these codes by accessing the sections of the building and the entrances are colour coded.
When it comes time to search for the green code you have to enter through the green entrance as above.
Eventually you'll come to a 'U' shape collection of panels. These are coded so you are going to need Jan's help.
Walk upto the central panel in this 'U' shape and press the use key 'e'. What you won't know because of the in game speech being missing, is that Kyle is radioing Jan for help. Jan tells Kyle that she is on her way. About five seconds later Jan requests help from Kyle as she is under attack. Of course as the mission objectives aren't updated in this instance you won't know this so after you've pressed the panel wait around five seconds and head back to where you left Jan (go through the blue entrance).
If you don't hang about and get back fairly quickly then you'll be able to defend her from the stormtroopers. You must then go back to the 'U' shaped control panels and Jan will follow you to operate them. Problem solved.