Review by Kobold Warrior
"A Force to be reckoned with"
A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...
Star Wars is quite possibly the single most intriguing and fully fleshed out Sci-Fi/Fantasy world of our time. Love, betrayal, revenge, epic military conflicts, duels between supremely skilled warriors and all other elements of an exceptional story can be found within the vast Star Wars universe. This immense world started inconspicuously with the original motion picture, but has since spread to cover the entire breadth of known media, including: novels, board games, action figures and fan fiction just to name a few. As the Star Wars universe expanded into the world of digital entertainment, fans everywhere had lofty visions of becoming a part of the world they so loved in a way that was just not possible in novels and feature films. They dreamed of firing the Proton Torpedo that destroyed the first Death Star, or wielding a lightsaber with the skill and elegance of a Master Jedi. But alas, their lofty dreams would have to wait, as LucasArts would release a near continues stream of products that were either limited by the hardware they were designed for, contained poorly implemented gameplay mechanics, or both.
In recent years though, the quality of LucasArts’ offerings has noticeably increased, with titles like Rogue Squadron (N64), Rogue Leader (GameCube), Jedi Starfighter (Multi) and Jedi Knight (PC) all providing superior gameplay worthy of the coveted Star Wars license. But, there is one game in particular that has given A New Hope (sorry, couldn’t resist…) to the future of Star Wars gaming… that title is Jedi Outcast. The sequel to the widely popular Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast combines a gripping story with beautifully rendered visuals, authentic presentation and amazing lightsaber-wielding gameplay to create the most complete gaming package of any Star Wars offering to date.
Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi, You're My Only Hope
The story in Jedi Outcast takes place after the events depicted in the original film trilogy and places gamers in control of the same rogue-turned-Jedi character, Kyle Katarn, from the first Jedi Knight. The antagonist of the game is a Dark Jedi, and former Jedi Academy student, by the name of Desann who is plotting to take over the Valley of the Jedi in order to create an army of force-infused troops. Desann is working in cahoots with the former Empire’s Remnant forces, and it is up to Katarn and the rest of the New Republic to stop him from implementing his dastardly plans. The plot is closer to what one would find in a Star Wars novel as opposed to one of the movies, but it is well scripted and intriguing enough that the gamer stays engrossed all the way through.
The Force Controls Your Actions...But It Also Obeys Your Commands
Though the plot is certainly well conceived, the most important reason Jedi Outcast stands head and shoulders above all other Star Wars games is undoubtedly because of its gameplay. Players are given what they have been wanting for years, the opportunity to wield Force powers and a lightsaber throughout expansive, beautifully rendered and diverse Star Wars locations. As Kyle moves inexorably towards his final confrontation with Desann, he slowly regains the Force knowledge that he lost at the end of the original Jedi Knight. The acquisition of new Force powers parallels the game’s increasing difficulty perfectly, so things never become too easy or too challenging for you as you proceed deeper and deeper into the game. Few titles in recent years have the same balance of pacing that Jedi Outcast exhibits throughout.
Of course all the lightsabers and Force powers in the galaxy would amount to a steaming pile of bantha poodoo if the controls were unresponsive, and fortunately Jedi Outcast delivers here in spades. Just like in Halo (and most other first person shooters nowadays), both control sticks are used simultaneously for moving, strafing and looking. This layout makes targeting enemies and maneuvering throughout the levels a breeze, and allows for more concentration to be focused on the important things, such as that Dark Jedi swinging a lightsaber at your melon.
Impressive...Most Impressive. But You Are Not A Jedi Yet
The best part of Jedi Outcast’s incredibly deep, yet marvelously intuitive, control scheme is that it allows you to step into the robes of a Jedi Master and wield a saber with a combination of grace and deadly effectiveness. By rapidly changing the direction of the left control stick in conjunction with the primary attack trigger, wicked combinations of slashes, chops, and lunges can be unleashed. Any Storm Troopers unfortunate enough to be caught in such an assault will soon find themselves lying facedown and missing an arm (yes, you can slice off limbs in this game). The lightsaber wielding Dark Jedi who populate the game’s later levels are tougher opponents, but even they can be taken down with a few deft swings of your glowing blade. These lightsaber battles in Jedi Outcast are unbelievably fun and will undoubtedly bring a smile to any Star Wars aficionado’s face.
Based upon the positioning of your blade at the time of impact, saber blows can be blocked, parried or missed completely, so it’s extremely important to watch and react to your opponent’s movements. When blades come together at the same angle, they often end up in a “saber lock.” When this occurs, both duelists must quickly and repeatedly press the attack trigger, with the winner gaining a split second opening in which the opponent is defenseless. Many a saber duel has been won or lost on the outcome of one of these lock-ups, so you may want to shake the rust off your button mashing skills by firing up that old copy of Track & Field for the NES.
The Force Surrounds Us...Binds Us It Does
One must always remember that without a mastery of the Force, lightsabers are worthless tools, more dangerous to the user than to the opponent. With this basic truth in mind, LucasArts included in Jedi Outcast a wide range of Force powers, including: Force Jump (allows user to make tremendous vertical leaps), Force Push (shoves enemies and objects away from yourself), Force Pull (snatches weapons out of enemies’ hands and pulls objects towards you), Force Speed (slows down the world around you), Force Heal (recovers health), Force Grip (chokes enemies whose lack of faith you find disturbing), Jedi Mind Trick (confuses and distracts enemies and other NPCs) and Force Lightning (same devastating electrical attack used by the Emperor). Each of these Force powers has three levels which gradually increase as you get further into the game. Toward the end of the game you will find yourself with an impressive mastery of the Force, and the capability of doing things like choking multiple Storm Troopers and tossing them off high platforms to their untimely demise. The game implements a Force meter that is depleted each time you use one of your powers, so it is prudent to manage your Force usage wisely.
Who Are You Calling Scruffy Lookin'?
The visuals in Jedi Outcast are based off a modified version of the graphics engine used in Quake III and look excellent. Those who have played the original Jedi Knight will be pleasantly surprised by the vastly improved graphics, which include impressive use of reflective texturing (which can be seen on metallic objects and on Strom Trooper armor), dynamic lighting and vibrant particle effects. The only problem with the in-game graphics is the occasional stutter in framerate, which can dip quite low in wide-open areas during intense action. It would have been nice to see the framerate locked down to stay at 30 plus, but anyone who has played the GameCube version of Jedi Outcast will tell you that the stuttering in that version is much, much worse.
The characters in the game have somewhat of a blocky, PC-style look to them (similar to in Morrowind), but because they are so well animated you never really care. Death animations are especially notable for their diversity. Enemies reel forward when shot in the stomach, trip backwards when slashed in the legs with a lightsaber and grab at their throats when being Force choked. Every so often the transitions between animations can be a bit jerky, such as when a Storm Trooper is Force pushed towards a ledge, begins the “falling down on your butt” animation and then suddenly cuts into a “falling to your death” animation as he goes over. Fortunately, these odd animation transitions are insignificant, because when eight Storm Troopers and five Dark Jedi are attacking you at once you tend not to notice them. Another nitpick with the game’s visuals involves the cut scenes, which are strangely grainy, but once again, nothing too noteworthy.
The developers truly outdid themselves when it comes to Jedi Outcast’s level design, and it is right behind gameplay as the title’s biggest asset. There is an enormous amount of variety in the game’s environments, with locations ranging from the Cloud City at Bespin to the swamps on Yavin 4. There is even a Cantina scene on Nar Shaddaa where you are forced to pull out your lightsaber and deal out some good old fashioned Jedi-style justice to some unruly patrons. Despite the impressive assortment of Star Wars locations found in the game, the real beauty is you are forced to actually think when proceeding through the levels. Don’t expect to just “walk forward until the exit appears” in Jedi Outcast, because that technique will get you nowhere fast. You will regularly find yourself at a perceived dead end, forcing you to think outside of the box to discover the way out. It is refreshing to see such challenging and stimulating level design, without being overly frustrating or confusing.
Freeze! You Rebel Scum...
The audio in Jedi Outcast is classic Star Wars quality, which is to say absolutely spectacular. John Williams’ famous score is still as powerful as it ever was, and features a wide assortment of snippets taken from each one of the original trilogy’s soundtracks. Depending on the action on-screen, the score adjusts from intense to tranquil and back again, giving the game a dynamic, cinematic feel that does wonders in immersing the player.
The majority of the voice acting in the game is good quality, with only a few a very negligible distractions to be heard. Billy Dee Williams, the actor who played Lando Calrissian in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, did voiceovers for the game, but he sometimes sounds vaguely unenthused. Because of this, Lando seems a bit subdued when compared to his behavior on the big-screen, but his patented fire and charisma do manage to come forth on occasion. The voice of Luke Skywalker is handled by a sound-alike, and is adequate enough for the job. The developers did a smashing job with the voices of the Remnant troops and officers, for they sound identical to how they do in the movies. Often times you are able to creep up on Storm Troopers and overhear bits and pieces of their conversations. Most of their dialogues are quite humorous, with the topics ranging from what type of blaster they prefer to boasts about having ridden on a Star Destroyer. Thankfully, these dialogues are never recycled, so there is always something new to hear as you progress through the game’s levels.
Try Not. Do, Or Do Not...There Is No Try
On the PC Jedi Outcast has the option for online play, but unfortunately the developers decided not to support Xbox LIVE with this version. The ability to lightsaber duel with thousands of gamers across the country would be awfully close to some kind of Star Wars gaming perfection, so it really is a shame Live support was not included. In an effort to make up for the lack of online play, a game mode called Jedi Arena was included. Jedi Arena consists of various split screen multiplayer modes, which include the standard offerings such as Deathmatch and Capture the Flag as well as some more innovative game types such as Jedi Master and Duel.
In the Jedi Master game there is a single lightsaber deposited in the level, and whomever holds it is given full force powers. Because only the Jedi Master is awarded points for making kills, everyone in the game is constantly fighting for their opportunity to wield the lone lightsaber, and some seriously intense action is the inevitable result. The Duel mode pits two combatants against each other at a time, with everyone being forced to wait patiently (or in my case, impatiently) on the sidelines for their turn to fight. Bot characters, which can be inserted up to fourteen at a time into any one of the afore mentioned game modes, and new multiplayer levels are unlocked as you progress through Jedi Outcast’s single player missions.
A wide variety of Star Wars settings are represented in the multiplayer levels, including locations such as Bespin, Nar Shaddaa, an Imperial Star Destroyer and the Death Star (which features numerous areas seen in the original Star Wars film such as the detention area where Leia was held, the meeting room where Vader performed his famous Force choke and the hangar where the Millennium Falcon was docked). The big catch to the Jedi Arena is that it can only be played with two players split screen, and this makes it even more aggravating that Xbox Live support (or even system link) was not included.
The Force Is Strong With This One...
Star Wars games have gained a reputation over the years as being mediocre efforts that fail to live up to the epic fantasy world they represent, so it is reassuring to see a first rate offering such as Jedi Outcast come along. Wannabe Jedis finally have an opportunity to step into the world that they so love and do things they have always dreamt of doing, such as clash lightsabers with Dark Jedi, wield an expansive array of Force powers and become part of an epic Star Wars adventure. Not only does Jedi Outcast uphold the Star Wars license like no other title before it, but it also ranks as one of the most impressive, satisfying and truly entertaining games currently available on the Xbox system.
Gameplay: 10 – The lightsaber wielding gameplay is the best ever in a Star Wars game.
Visuals: 8 – Some great reflective texturing, lighting and character animations. Framerate can stutter a bit too much though.
Sound: 10 – Classic LucasArts quality. Sounds just like a Star Wars movie and, hey, they got Billy Dee Williams to do Lando’s voice!
Music: 10 – John Williams’ score is as good as it ever was (and always will be). Magnificent.
Lasting Appeal: 8 – Single player is quite lengthy. There is the bonus mission and multiplayer characters to unlock, but the lack of LIVE support is annoying. The Jedi Arena is fun though.
Fun Factor: 10 – Wielding a lightsaber against hordes of Storm Troopers and Dark Jedi is just about as good as it gets for me.
Final Score: 9.1 (rounded down to 9 for GameFAQs)
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/16/03, Updated 07/15/03
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