[PC] Jedi Knight II

posted 5 Jan 2011, 00:47 by Thomas Vale   [ updated 5 Jan 2011, 00:48 ]
Lucasarts have recently been in a dry spell it seems. Years ago, they couldn't help but release classic upon classic without even relying on the Star Wars licence. Sam and Max hit the road is still one of my favourite games. But then they released some less than stellar games (Force Commander springs to mind). They appear to be back on form though, and with Raven's help, have released a game that will undoubtedly go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest games created.

Although being dubbed Jedi Knight 2, this is actually the third game in the Dark Forces saga, which has been pretty much spot on from beginning to end. This game starts where Dark Forces 2:Jedi Knight left off. Our hero Kyle has relinquished his mastery of the force because he thought that he may use the valley of the Jedi for evil purposes (obviously this game assumes that you completed the previous instalment with the light ending). He gave his Light sabre to Luke Skywalker for safe-keeping, and has resumed work for the new republic with his long time partner Jan Ors. Of course a situation occurs where he has to take up the blade again, although I won't spoil the plot for you, needless to say that it is good, and complements the game play very well.

I have a confession: I'm a cheat. More often than not I get bored of a game, so will just cheat to get to the end. Half-Life bored me. I couldn't be bothered with Max Payne. There are exceptions to this rule of course. Final Fantasy, Xenogears, Chrono Trigger, many other RPGs, and this game. Early on I was really annoyed with it. The inaccuracy of the blaster rifle, coupled with the pistol's slow rate of fire really annoyed me. I was about to put the game to rest when, joy of joys, I got a Light sabre. There is nothing that can be said about this game, once you get the light sabre, that really does it justice.

Let's start with the graphics. The engine is based on a modified version of the Quake 3 Team Arena engine, and as such, looks amazing. The models are well detailed, and look very smooth. The lip sync is quite reasonable too, and the animation is fluid, and human like. The levels are often breathtaking. The Bespin level in particular, you can see far above and below you. I also tried out a dynamic shadows mode. It looks quite good, but ends up giving the game a cell-shaded look, so I left shadows on simple. It was really nice being able to write my name in the wall with the light sabre, as it leaves trails for a bit when you slice at a wall. The only real qualm I have with the graphics is the bland textures. It makes the game look like it's using lower resolution textures than it actually is.

The sound is the usual Lucas arts fare, mostly ripped from the movies, used a hundred and one times before, but as they say "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". There is some quite reasonable voice acting too, including Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian himself. Overall, the sounds are very good.

The game controls are well done, apart from the seemingly back to front quick load/save (F12 for Save, F9 to load) which is easily rectified. One of the annoying points about it's predecessor in my opinion, was the plethora of buttons needed to play the game. Fortunately, that has been rectified in this release. This time round, force jump relies on how long you hold the jump button, which is a vast improvement, and the sabre throw is now just alternate fire. Also the number of single player force powers available is 7 this time round, not including jump or sabre throw. That suits me really well, as I still use the cursor keys with my mouse, so I assign the six buttons above them to the important force powers.

While we are on the subject of force powers, I have to say that there is nothing more fun than throwing around Storm troopers. There are 8 force powers, as I already mentioned. You start off (once you get the sabre) with Push, Pull, Throw, Speed, and Jump. Push, at level one, allows you to throw a person backwards, and at level 3 you can throw back a whole horde of men. Pull, allows you to disarm troops at a reasonable range. Speed activates a Max Payne style time slowdown effect, progressively slowing down time more per level. Throw allows you to throw your Light sabre. At higher levels, you can control it's path. Jump, I have already mentioned, but as you get to level 3, you can jump 8 times higher than normal. There are 4 others to cover though. Lightning, throws lightning, Emperor style from your fingertips, Mind trick allows you to distract multiple enemies, or turn one to your side for a limited time. Heal heals you obviously, but by far my favourite power is Grip. At the beginning, grip is quite weak, but later on you can direct where a person is in the air..... then let them go - insert maniacal evil laugh here.

There are also some passive powers. Sabre defence just sets how good you are at reflecting shots and sabres. Sabre attack, which allows you to set which style of fighting you use. You start with medium, which is a good compromise, you then get speed, which is what I stuck with for the rest of the game. Speed allows you to perpetually chain attacks, which is really useful against a horde of troopers. The only problem with it is that it performs easily blockable attacks. There is the strong mode which allows you to penetrate defence better, but is very slow. It was too much of a trade off for me. I felt that something was missing from sabre combat though: Control. Although you are ostensibly given control over the way the sabre goes by use of the directional buttons in conjunction with the attack button, in reality it's more desperately throwing the sabre about that actually wins. I fear that it couldn't really have been done better without a second mouse or something.

I seem to have completely missed out all the other weapons. That is because you only use them briefly, like puzzle keys. The pistol and rifle I've already mentioned, although it should be said that the pistol is pinpoint accurate, and when charged, is deadly. The Wookie bow caster is even more useless than ever, doing pitiful damage. It's only saving grace is the reflective second fire, and even that's more useless than a fireplace in hell. The mandatory sniper rifle is a bit of a mixed bag. Unless you charge it up, it's about as much use as a chocolate teapot, and charging it makes it stupidly slow. Saying that, however, it is necessary in the levels where your sabre throw won't reach enemies, and you can't reflect their shots. There is return of the imperial repeater, which can waste 400 rounds in about five seconds, the rocket launcher, which can also home in, thermal detonators, det-packs, and tripmines. There is also the Fletchete cannon, kind of like a shotgun with a belly loaded grenade launcher. Like I said however, you will be using the Light sabre almost all the time.

The level design is an interesting point. One slightly niggling point is that I found, like Star Trek: Elite Force, the level loading times to be far too long. The puzzles too, at times can be annoying, like when you had to cut some ropes by use of the sabre throw, but you have to hit it at a specific place, of which there was no indication. Most of the puzzles can be solved my a simple phrase however: Look up. The AI is interesting. On the one hand you have so good scripting for making troopers run away when the boss is killed, or you disarm them, but at the same time they can easily get stuck next to walls. The AI of the Jedi is top notch, and more than compensates considering you are either facing a mosh of stupid guys, or a couple or really intelligent guys from the moment you pick up the sabre.

I haven't really touched on multiplayer. The multiplayer game adds light and dark powers as well as forcing and orientation on you. I have tried a little bot-match, and a little online, and I dislike the multiplayer..... unless you play sabre only battles. Sabre battle are more fun, as it seems that all the other weapons are a little too overpowered in comparison to the sabre. Other than that, I can't put it down.

My overall opinion? It's a fantastic game with no parallel on the PC at the moment. Buy it. Play it. Play it again.

Graphics: 9/10
Graphics are top notch, suffering only from bland textures
Sound: 9/10
Sound is the usual Lucasarts fare, but doesn't suffer as a result. Voiceovers are good
Plot: 8/10
Slightly lacking in depth, while fitting the game really well.
Game-play: 8/10
The earlier levels let it down, and the frantic sabre combat is a bit annoying
Longevity: 9/10
Once you've completed it once, you'll want to go and throw around some more troopers!
Overall: 86%
A class game, a must for all Jedi wannabes, and heretics alike!