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

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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