[Late To The Party reviews are for games from the past that we’ve finally gotten around to playing. Some are old, some are relatively new. If there’s something you’d like us to cover, why not leave a comment? Anyway, on to the LTTP Review.]
In 2012, it feels pretty safe to say that Star Wars as a concept is pretty much drained on a creative level. Sure, the new Star Wars 1313 project looks promising and there are people who are holding out that The Old Republic is a fine MMO, but the increasingly diminishing returns of quality over the past decade or so has seriously diluted its brand. It’s hard to believe there was once a time when a Star Wars game was an event, and that more often than not it delivered. Star Wars: Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast is one of those games, so let’s have a look at it and see how well it holds up.
I snagged Star Wars-Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast for about $10 along with a ton of other titles in the series, including Dark Forces (a DOOM clone) and Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight….okay, I need to interject here. What is up with these titles? I’m kind of not surprised that the series floundered because how is any reasonable person supposed to know which game follows which? I’ve PLAYED them, and I can barely keep it straight. Christ!
So yeah, Jedi Knight was a total favorite of mine back in the day and its nostalgia factor was the real reason I bought this package. It featured Jedi fighting as well as one of the most amazing levels I’d ever seen at the time. It was my primary reason for buying the package, and in spite of its flaws I thoroughly enjoyed the replay. I had never tried Jedi Outcast, even though many people seemed to have enjoyed it.
Jedi Outcast takes place in the post-Return of the Jedi universe in which the main players from the movies exist in the periphery. You play as Kyle Katarn, a Force-sensitive mercenary who embarks on a mission to get revenge for the death of his partner at the hand of Desann, an exiled Jedi. For the first few levels, it’s a standard ‘Quake III Engine First Person Shooter’ with a coat of Star Wars paint thrown on. The shooting mechanics are functional enough, but frankly nothing to write home about. The point at which this game really takes off is when you travel to Yavin IV and regain your lightsaber and Force powers.
From this point on, the combat options increase as you have the ability to push, pull, and electrocute items and people. I’ll be honest, in many ways this is the game people from my generation had been waiting for ever since seeing the original movie (I saw it in the theater — true story). It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to jump around and go crazy on enemies that are clearly not your equal, and the lightsaber animations are still thrilling to behold. Unfortunately, those moments are marred by all the stuff in between.
The biggest problem with Jedi Outcast is that the level design is abysmal. Now let me be clear about something – I beat Dark Souls. I don’t need my hand held, but rudimentary wayfinding feedback should be expected. Hell, have an arrow at the top of the screen to signal a particular direction; that would be something at least. To be fair, looking at this game through 2002 goggles, it’s not an uncommon complaint. While I found it incredibly frustrating to figure out how to navigate levels, I found myself repeating, mantra-like, “Half-Life 2 was still two years away”.
The environments in Jedi Outcast are bland and samey. There is no atmosphere, no sense that people actually exist and function there; it’s just a bunch of crates and boxes in generic concrete and steel spaces. It’s never more apparent in places like Nar Shaddaa, supposedly a bustling space station. The more I thought about it, however, something occurred to me. This lack of creativity isn’t necessarily an issue with this game, or with any Star Wars game for that matter; it’s an integral Star Wars flaw. Like pretty much every other white North American male born after 1970, Star Wars has been part of my upbringing. Thinking about it critically though, the universe is actually quite shallow and devoid of (for lack of a better term) ‘internal culture’. The majority of the environments are bland space stations or austere outposts. It makes the levels seem somewhat repetitive, but I’m not prepared to entirely hold it against Raven Software considering what they had to work with.
As far as Star Wars action games go, this one holds up relatively well 10 years later. While it falls victim to the same flaws as many of its contemporaries, Jedi Outcast manages to provide a decent experience of being able to visit areas from Star Wars lore, but bear in mind that it is very much a game of its era; for better and for worse. Time has been far kinder to this game than the first two in the Kyle Katarn series and having made my way through it, there isn’t a whole lot to compel me to go back to this game. To its credit, it does provide a pretty cool story within a well-worn universe with combat elements that largely live up to the dreams of a little boy who dreams of someday becoming a Jedi.
[+Fun, dynamic combat] [+Interesting story] [-Terrible wayfinding] [-Sparse, samey environments]