Review by Tenshi No Shi
A Star Wars game you won't have to force yourself to play.
I find is strange to be writing a second review for a game that I've played and beaten more than a year previous to this. A game, I might add, that I even once ran a clan for (Avatars of the Force). Yet here I am, fingers-to-keys, finding new words to express those same feelings I had the previous summer when I last played the game on my dated PC (nothing like spending a couple hundred on extra RAM, a new sound card and a GeForce 2 video card just to get a game to run half- decently).
You are Kyle Katarn, a rebel hero who's lengthy resume of exploits includes stealing the plans for the original Death Star, fighting off the threat of Dark Troopers and even locating the once fabled Valley of the Jedi. Needless to say, you a man of some importance. A mercenary turned Jedi turned back to mercenary for the New Republic, you're latest mission finds you scouting a supposedly abandoned Remnant (what's left of the Empire) base on a long- forgotten outpost. Naturally you discover it is far from abandoned and, even that sinister experiments involving the Force are be performed on helpless New Republic citizens. From there, the plot only gets more interesting as you travel from location to location trying to unravel the mystery of the Reborn.
Graphically, Jedi Outcast looks every bit as impressive on the Xbox as it did on my computer. Perhaps even more so since my PC struggle to properly run this game as I experienced the occasional 'stutter' whilst playing. Computer performance comparisons aside, Jedi Outcast still holds its own as an Xbox title of some note. Animation is top-notch, special effects are taken straight from the movies and detailed textures cover it with a nice glossy coat of paint. The only serious issue I have to complain about is the craptastic compression used for the cinema scenes that used the in-game graphics engine. I'm no programmer so I won't speculate what they should have done, but I'm sure that something slightly better than Nintendo 64 video quality could have been achieved here.
Naturally you won't find me complaining about Jedi Outcast's sound when the music is the vintage sweeping scores of John Williams and the audio effects are authentic movie archive. Furthermore, the voice acting is actually quite good- maybe even some of the best out there- with the added bonus of Billy Dee Williams reprising his role as Lando Calrissian. While in the past I might have complained that recycling the same old movie music got boring, I've come to realize that I'd rather have the original soundtrack than some generic interpretation.
It does admittedly seem strange to play this game on a controller when I have logged so many hours on the PC version using my mouse/keyboard/game pad combination, but one I got used to it, I began to appreciate the Xbox's controls more so than the computer version. Why? The simplicity of having all those controls within reach of just two thumbs makes for a much more satisfying experience. Sure you don't have the precise aim of mouse look nor can you instantly access any one item or weapon, the analog stick does a fine job of aiming and the extra second it takes to scroll through weapons or items is really inconsequential. And for those who fear not being able to combo certain Force powers, you can map the black and white buttons as shortcut keys in this regard. The only issue I have with the controls is once you map the afore mentioned buttons and start a game, you can't go back and change them since they revert back to your default once you load a saved game.
It might sound like Jedi Outcast is nearly a perfect game, and it actually almost is, but a few design flaws keep it from achieving total nirvana. Basically, some of the level designs are a tad bewildering leaving to wonder where to go next. In some cases, it's an elusive platform hidden in the shadows behind a box you have to destroy and in other cases it might be a series of well-timed jumps across narrow-lipped ledges while Stormtroopers fire missiles at you. Not that I don't enjoy the challenge- in fact I relish it- but I don't enjoying spending an hour searching every nook and cranny for that one grate that leads to the next area. Otherwise, the varied environments and clever use of in-level objects make for a fairly solid gameplay experience.
Not much in the way of bonuses here, actually. Sure there's plenty to unlock (such as various multi-player maps and characters) as you progress through the game, but it's nothing that wasn't available upon installation of the PC version. However, they were kind enough to include the demo-only stage as a bonus once you complete the game. Ironically, this bonus level includes a few interesting gameplay mechanics that weren't included in the full game such as bridges you can only cross by throwing your lightsaber to sever the blocks locking it in place. Interesting as this bonus is, it won't extend the life of the game more than fifteen minutes.
Quite frankly, Jedi Outcast is one of the best Star Wars games available and belongs in your gaming library if you're a fan of either FPSs or Star Wars. Get it while you can because copies are becoming scarce.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (US, 11/20/02)
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