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.
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