Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Game Description: In the tradition of the multi-award-winning Star Wars: Jedi Knight, Star Wars: Jedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast features rebel agent Kyle Katarn in exhilarating first-person action. Players assume the role of Kyle as they employ a unique mix of weapons, Force powers, and the lightsaber in both single- and multiplayer modes. Jedi Outcast features expanded and enhanced use of the lightsaber, with new attack and defense moves. Tap into the powers of the Force, including jump, push, and Jedi mind tricks. Employ combat or stealth, depending on the situation. When a fight is necessary, be at the ready with an arsenal of weapons: stun baton, Bryar blast pistol, and blaster rifle to name but a few. Explore breathtaking Star Wars locales such as Cloud City, the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, Nar Shaddaa, the smugglers' moon--plus some never-before-seen locations. Multiplayer options include capture the flag, free for all, team FFA, duel, weapons only, and Jedi master.

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast – Review

I can recall back to my childhood watching the Star Wars Trilogy. I have rather fond memories of the movies and even dreams that have never been able to manifest themselves in any other media other than my imagination. It's rather disappointing when I think about it, especially considering the multitude of opportunities LucasArts has had to capture the experiences of the movies. Don't get me wrong, they have produced gems like Star Wars: X-Wing and The Super Star Wars games, but on the same note, they're also credited with flops such as Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer and Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter. In fact, it seems all of their recent attempts have been lackluster at best.

Like a beacon of light through an overcast horizon, Star Wars: Jedi Knight II—Jedi Outcast breaks away from the proverbial trash that has been haunting LucasArts over the past few years. This wonderfully crafted adventure does justice to the universe where many before it have failed.

In this beautiful rendition of Lucas' universe 8 years after the destruction of the 2nd Death Star in Return Of The Jedi, players take charge of Kyle Katarn, a mercenary and former Jedi Knight. For those that aren't well versed in the Star Wars universe and its many subsequent stories, Outcast may require some back-story. The title that started it all was Dark Forces, a title featuring the mercenary for hire. In this epic first-person shooter, players swept through locales to uncover the plans to the original Death Star and return them to the rebel alliance. In the Second installment in the series (Star Wars: Jedi Knight—Dark Forces II), Katarn has begun to explore his past and his abilities with the force. He returns wielding this knowledge and a new powerful weapon, a lightsaber. A Dark Jedi named Jerec threatens to find the Jedi burial ground known as the Valley of the Jedi. This valley contains the essence and power of every Jedi that lay here and Jerec planned to use it to make himself powerful beyond reproach. To complicate matters even more, Jerec has murdered Kyle's father, and Kyle seeks revenge. Upon avenging his father's death and swearing to keep the Valley of the Jedi a secret, Katarn separates himself from the force completely in fear of turning to the Dark Side and using the Valley himself for evil. He continues to work as a Rebellion mercenary for hire, and this is where Outcast's story begins.

Katarn and partner Jan Ors take on a mercenary mission on behalf of the rebellion. They are sent out to a remote planet to look for Remainant Forces (any Imperial Forces remaining after the destruction of the 2nd Death Star). From there, numerous events escalate the story and lead Katarn to various locales, such as the newly founded Jedi Academy and Lando Calrissian's city in the clouds, Bespin. These events also lead him to search out for his connection with the force, for without it; the road ahead will be impossible to forge.

Now, for as long as I can remember, I adored George Lucas' idea of the Force and the way of the Jedi. I always wondered what it would be like to utilize, in reality or fantasy, an energy that, when wielded by someone with the proper training, can be a means to bring serenity and peace or unimaginable destruction. I wanted to duel with a lightsaber and have the universe's most powerful asset at my fingertips. Now, I do. This is where Outcast sets itself apart from many of LucasArts' other abominations: Kyle's ability to utilize the force and its implementation. It fits in as smoothly as it did in the films. And because he lacks official Jedi training and a pure heart, he teeters on the edge of both the light and dark side, giving him the ability to use both parallels of the force. This factor is not only incredibly entertaining, but succeeds in developing Katarn's character away from the average Jedi/good guy motif and into a unique individual.

Kyle's abilities can be used to manipulate a variety of situations, and though early in the game these abilities aren't fine tuned, the middle to last half of the title really gives players the chance to unleash his full potential. Everything from distracting multiple enemies, pulling weapons from their hands, to throwing enemies off ledges and choking them to death in mid-air are available in his mystic arsenal. I could not help but feel totally engrossed during these moments in the game. It is without a doubt the most defining element of this experience.

This title also does well in keeping Kyle from being indestructible. When faced with numerous enemies, area hazards, or highly destructive weapons I had to quickly understand that without using some tactics or properly using the Force, I would not survive. I also had to refrain from simply running into battle with lightsaber swinging. I found this to really open my childhood dreams' "eyes." I often saw the Jedi characters as almost god like beings unable to be destroyed by average men. Outcast really opens up this view for me in a way I had never perceived.

With this much going for Outcast, there are only a couple of things I felt were lacking. One of these is it's multiplayer section. This mode is adequate but nothing spectacular. Computer-controlled bots can be utilized for those wanting to test their skills against multiple enemies or can even go head to head with a friend via split screen. The problem is even when placed on the highest difficulty the enemy artificial intelligence isn't very menacing. The only way to get a real challenge is to play a friend who is as skillful as you. The largest disappointment is that even though it was launched around the time of Xbox Live, LucasArts failed to incorporate programming for that particular online community. So unless several Force-savvy friends are available for a challenge, this section is rather deflated.

The second has to do with the first quarter of the title. At first, Katarn has absolutely no use of the force and the title remains a first person shooter. I found it difficult to stomach these areas because in comparison to the rest of the title, it is very bland. The title makes no attempt to go outside of the kill-enemies-grab-the-key-go-through-the-door-kill-more-enemies formula that has been established since the days of Doom. It was not until the force was at my disposal that the experience became anything more than routine. I found the initial portion of the title difficult to stomach because it was nothing new.

While Outcast is not perfect, what it does right it does damn well. It's a well-organized and planned platformer with the best elements of the Star Wars universe rolled in. I was finally able to manifest my imagination into a media I could see and hear. Simply put, becoming a Jedi was ever more magnificent than I could have hoped for. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast – Second Opinion

If Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is "a beacon of light" as Keith calls it, I don't want to follow. This game should change its subtitle from "Jedi Outcast" to "Faces of Death" because it isn't so much an interactive adventure set in the Star Wars universe as it is the most elaborate and punishing three-dimensional mousetrap ever conceived. Unfair group ambushes, impossibly entrenched snipers and trap door-hidden Storm Troopers plague nearly step of the game. Quick saving and loading isn't an option, it's an indispensable stratagem. I've probably used the quick save/load buttons more frequently than the force powers. I think it's safe to say things have gone awry when I'm more focused on saving the game than playing it.

This extremely frustrating trial and error level of difficulty might have been more tolerable if indulging myself in the role of a Jedi Knight were more enjoyable. Sadly the game's biggest draw is also it greatest failure. After I endured the banality of the early stages and graduated to my light saber and force powers, I was expectedly excited about flexing my shiny new toy and powers. However, my enthusiasm diminished at my first melee when my force-enabled Jedi was no match for gang of thugs and a thermal detonator that exploded upside my head. Huh? Immediately following that encounter, I was unsuspectingly vaporized by a sniper. Finally, my already fragile Jedi ego was shattered by a fatal encounter with a mechanical descending staircase that accidentally lowered onto my skull (I'm not exaggerating here). So much for the all-powerful Jedi mystique. Outcast has a sadomasochistic streak that left me feeling more impotent than all-powerful. Keith seems to agree with this notion, but dutifully justifies this weakness as if his own perfectly rational expectation were wrong. Why not assign blame to the developers instead for creating illogical and inconsistent challenges that marginalize the abilities of the Jedi?

If that weren't humiliating enough, imagine if you couldn't use your mouth unless you closed your eyes or you couldn't use your arms unless your legs remained motionless. Sounds ridiculous, but that's exactly what developers expect players to manage in the console versions of the game with, having to shuffle between force powers that can only be used one at a time with one button. Keith is correct in saying that each force power can feel vicariously powerful, but this bottleneck between using combinations of force powers can't be what it feels like to be a Jedi. Why the developers couldn't implement more inventive ways to use multiple force powers in succession or at least give the player the choice to remap the controls is beyond me.

Don't even get me started on the unwieldy BeyBlade-like spinning top feel of light saber battles or the laughably primitive and butt-ugly cut-scenes that would been considered bad by even in the days of Tron! Keith and I must disagree on the ideals of beauty because this was not the "beautiful rendition" that I had in mind.

Outcast has rare moments where it doesn't try so hard to challenge its player in a typical videogame sense and allows a person to reveal and enjoy the wonderfully powerful experience of being a Jedi. However, those moments aren't enough to mask a painful level of difficulty or the wasted opportunity to live the dream of so many sci-fi geeks. Take my word over Keith's. We're better off with the dream. Rating: 4 out of 10

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast – Consumer Guide

According to ESRB, this game contains: Violence

Parents may find this title a little to brash for their younger children. The title's protagonist does swear mildly, and gamers will spend the majority of their time slashing away at humanoid enemies. Along with this comes the severing of hands and arms, but the game does not include decapitations. Additionally, gamers can choke enemies to death in a rather gratuitous manner.

Star Wars fans should look into this title. This is one of LucasArts few offerings that actually do well in capturing the essence and power of the force.

Platformer and First-Person Shooter fans should give Outcast a chance as well. There are enough elements from both genres' to please each genre's fans.

PC gamers will want to stick to the PC version of this game. The console versions are noticeably weaker graphically and the keyboard makes it easier to access items and force powers quickly.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers will be disappointed by Outcast's lack of subtitles. The entire story (told through cutscenes) as along with some of the amusing in-game banter overheard by non-playable characters is entirely voice acted with no option to turn subtitles on.