13-Aug-2001 Before embarking on this second dangerous Jedi adventure, Paul Mallinson had to 'unlearn' everything he'd learnt so far. Which explains the poor grammar in his review.
Without doubt one of the games of last year, LucasArts' Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II blew minds the world over. Its incredibly designed levels and authentic Star Wars atmosphere even had me thinking: 'You can keep your Quake II - iD's game designers are good, but LucasArts' are better.' That's right, it blew my mind too. With its complex and involving plot drawing the player into a world of mytho-techno combat modelled around George Lucas's famous 'can't fail' branding, how could it fail? Take it from me: it rocked. And now we have a sequel: Mysteries Of The Sith. And guess what? You'll no doubt be pleased to hear that it rocks too.
Where to start?
Mysteries Of The Sith begins five years after the first game, and finds Kyle Katarn (the original geezer from Jedi) in training with former Dark Jedi Mara Jade on a remote Rebel outpost on Altyr 5. Their sparring is soon interrupted, however, as insurgent Imperial forces descend on the base in an attempt to 'kick their back doors in'.
The player initially assumes the role of Kyle, hacking, slashing and blasting his way through dozens of Stormtroopers, flanked by an army of non-player Rebel soldiers. The action, even at this early stage, is hugely impressive, because not only have LucasArts improved their 3D engine immensely (coloured lighting, more varied textures, higher frame rate), but they've also thrown in a load of other new gameplay elements to heighten the atmosphere as well. As the Rebel and Imperial forces slug it out among themselves, radio chatter breaks out in your ear; Imperial forces blow a wall and then come spilling out to attack; TIE bombers fly in and raze the surrounding area; Scout Walkers hide around almost ever corner, as do rocket-launching bad guys and a whole host of bastard traps. And that's just the first level...
To tell you the truth, Mysteries Of The Sith starts off brilliantly and gets better and better and better the further you get into it. The progressive nature of the constantly evolving storyline sees to that.
What's so good about it then?
Mysteries Of The Sith has 14 new single-player missions and 15 new multi-player ones, new weapons (sniper rifle, homing missiles and Imperial pistol) and new Force powers (Projection, Push, Saber Throw, Far Sight, Blinding and Chain Lightning). This in itself is not bad for 20 quid. But what makes this package much more than just a collection of new levels and bug fixes are the many brilliant gameplay touches that are encountered along the way. Mara Jade's fifth-level entrance is spectacular enough (Return Of The Jedi fans will love it), but the working surveillance cameras (plug yourself in at the nearest console), the 'races against time', the hideous traps (hidden drainage wells - nasty), the co-operative R2 units, the consequential banter, the huge number of recognisable Star Wars vehicles and the broody coloured lighting are the hundreds and thousands on the icing on the cake. Special mention must also go to John Williams' classic music which, in this particular game, is a whole new cake in itself.
So is there a downside?
Not really. Mysteries Of The Sith has obviously been designed for those who have already completed the first game, thus it starts off pretty hard and then gets even harder. But it's a different kind of 'hard' to Jedi Knight. Whereas the former instalment forced the player into rock-hard Lightsaber battles every few levels, Sith keeps the story flowing for almost three quarters of the entire game - then it throws a mutha of a Jedi at you...
But Mysteries Of The Sith is the first 'real' follow-up to iD's now classic Quake II, and is also a commendable leap forward in the evolution of the first-person shoot 'em up genre. Not bad for an 'add-on pack', which in many ways is to add-on packs what The Empire Strikes Back is to Star Wars - a proper sequel. Not to mention the fact that in this game it's the turn of the Rebel Alliance to get their arses kicked...
Mysteries Of The Sith is more than just an 'add-on' to Jedi Knight - it is a completely new addition to a gaming series that we at PC Zone hope will run and run. So if you haven't played Jedi Knight yet, get it. Then get this. Otherwise you'll almost certainly be missing out.