With the current rash of Star Wars-licensed games, it seems that LucasArts has resorted to outwardly exploiting the franchise. Development time between games has been decreasing and quality has become more and more spotty. Amidst all the clutter, Jedi Knight, the sequel to Dark Forces, is easily the most hyped and anticipated one.

Essentially a first-person shooter made to compete with the likes of Quake 2, Jedi Knight tries to separate itself from the pack early on by capitalizing on the Star Warstheme. Utilizing full-motion video cut scenes in between gameplay, complete with live actors on digital backgrounds, Jedi Knight includes something most Doomclones forget: an actual plot! Stages coincide with the plot accordingly and revolve heavily around the objectives, which is refreshing from the usual find the keys and exit theme. Players journey through the stages in the role of Kyle Katarn (think totally bland Han Solo wannabe with sprinkles of Luke Skywalker), who must learn the ways of the force and frag all enemies along the way.

Throw in all the elements (like 3D accelerated graphics, Star Wars setting, John Williams composed soundtrack, and refreshing plot-oriented missions), and you have a surefire winner, right? Close, but Jedi Knight fumbles a bit along its journey to becoming a true Jedi master. It's not that the game's execution is poor, but it really isn't that revolutionary. Take, for example, the stage designs. While the sci-fi look is there and the environments seem natural at first, after prolonged play, stages drag on way too long and it's rather clear that the level designers lengthened the stages out with the use of extra obstacles and puzzles. It's a shame because I found the game most effective when I could lose myself in the fantasy environments (that are convincingly realistic). Once I started to get frustrated by the lengthy design, it breaks that suspension of disbelief and I'm all too aware of the contrived stage.

More signs of lack of innovation lay in areas like the music. After playing many of LucasArts' releases, one begins to realize their pattern of rehashing the exact same themes used in the movies in every game! There are no remixes or new tunes. It's simply PLAYED OUT. There's nothing stunning about the gameplay either. Enemy artificial intelligence is still pretty mindless and blasting them doesn't require much skill either (unlike in GoldenEye 007, which took this scheme to another level of sorts).

On the whole, Jedi Knight isn't trying very hard to redefine what we know of the genre. Despite some of the game's more unique innovations like the integrated story, mission goals, and the force powers, the game still feels a little dated in the gameplay department. It's still common practice blasting away mindlessly at the enemies and seeking out secret areas. Likewise, weapons and items are still strangely littered throughout the stage, but the game's worst flaw is that it never truly lets me forget that it's a game. With so much potential for me to truly lose myself and so much possibility to transcend videogame and genre cliches, Jedi Knight is all too content to revel in normalcy. Rating: 8 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers GameCritics.com his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that GameCritics.com will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui

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