Blog 353: Blog Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

So I cracked this open again recently to give it a spin. It turns out that my view of the game had rather been affected by the old rose-tinted spectacles; by all means, it’s good, but it’s actually not that good. I will explain, and plot spoilers may ensue.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a game you really should play. Just… Be warned. It has a dark side.

Point one: it is a mediocre first-person shooter. This lasts for three levels. Your character movement in first-person view is awkward; while running, Kyle has a tendancy to skid when stopping. Now, I understand, realism — yes, it takes a few seconds to slow down. However, slowing down from a run does not feel like you’re suddenly on a sheet of ice. It’s really annoying when you’re trying to navigate a slim ledge, or jump onto a small target. Then your crosshair decides to go walkabout when you’re trying to line up a shot from cover. You’ll be happily carefully moving and bringing your crosshair into position, when it will suddenly jump to be pointing at the crate you were hiding behind instead of the enemy’s head you were lining up over it.

Point two: skippable cinematics. I seem to remember technology like this was standard in FPSes and even action-RPGs and platformers long before JK2 was created. I can understand you forcing the first time, but when you get caught on Cairn for the tenth time (yes, yes, I’m rubbish at stealth), that little end-sequence that you cannot escape from rather gets on your nerves. Same goes for not saving immediately after a cinematic and getting pasted by a roomful of enemies. Also, subtitles — you’re not allowed them in-game, so if you’ve got some music on you’re stuffed if you want any clues about where you’re going (hell, you’re stuffed if the ambient noise is a bit loud at that point).

Point three: lightsabre fights. They’re very hit and miss; sometimes you can just walk into your opponent and he will die (Cortosis armour or not) — other times he will paste you instantly. Other times you’ll fight for ten minutes and get nowhere. The thing that annoys me most, though, is that you cannot use guns to even the odds. Try the disruptor (I’ll get to that later, don’t worry), and they instantaneously duck out of the way. Try explosives, even in a huge barrage that you would soon run out of force repelling, and they constantly come right back at ya (just like Kirby). Lasers come back, but that’s fine, that was in the films.

Point four: when it does stop being a mediocre first-person shooter and you finally get the force and the lightsabre, they suddenly invent a weapon you cannot deflect — the Tenloss Disruptor Rifle. Then they take a really awkward cityscape, and fill it with people wielding these rifles. Wielding them from the direction you are never looking in. Wielding them sometimes from beyond the clipping distance, so you can’t snipe back. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they add enemies with infinite thermal detonators, which will come flying in from miles away and explode all over you.

Point five: puzzles. When you aren’t facing ten million Storm Troopers, you’re facing an impenetrable puzzle. There’s a lot of platform jumping and using the force, but the puzzles will only be ‘activatable’ when you look at them the right way to enable the force-indicator cursor.

But on the flip side, once you have enough push and pull ranks, the game gets seriously fun. I mean, who doesn’t like pulling all the weapons off the troopers so they run around like headless chickens (even picking up guns, only to not do anything with them) — ripe for the being pushed and pulls off ledges and other such banter.

Lightsabre fights are great when you’re the only one with a sabre, though I’m unconvinced by the dismemberment system. I aimed plenty of sabre-throws at peoples’ legs and only their forearms ever popped off. I don’t think I ever saw a head some off either — I suppose Star Wars has to be focused on its no-gore family attitude, but when the “dismemberment system” is in the options panel, you kind of expect a bit more wiggle-room than just the left forearm.

Plus the AT-ST sequence. Walking all over Storm Troopers on the ground, rocketing them on the ledges (surely they’re invading the Academy, why have they fortified the pass leading in like that?)… If only it wasn’t ruined by those fucking Shadow Troopers and their fucking rocket-repulsion. Aaaargh!

The moral of the story is basically to quick save every minute. Because you’re going to die around the next corner, at least six times before you crack it. I was only on normal difficulty!

In other words…

“Your shields will fall!”
“Raaaaaaaaaaar!”

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