Jedi Knight II: Outcast (GCN)
An award-winning PC game becomes an average console one.
By Scott Steinberg | Dec. 2, 2002


76
Good
The Lowdown: Rent it, and see for yourself firsthand why it pays to own a PC.
Pros: Lightsaber duels rock; big levels; multiplayer is competent.
Cons: Too easy to get lost; pacing is off; some slowdown; takes too long to get to the good stuff.

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Platform:  GameCube
Game Type:  Action / Adventure
Developer:  Vicarious Visions
Publisher:  LucasArts

Full Game Information
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LucasArts has a long and sordid history in console gaming. By far and away, the company's most critically acclaimed hits have been for the PC market. From Sam and Max to The Secret of Monkey Island and Full Throttle, the publisher built its reputation on computerized entertainment. Therefore, it's understandable that Jedi Knight II, a strong sequel to the award-winning Dark Forces, began life as a PC offering. Bearing this in mind, that it has made the jump onto consoles at all, let alone the GameCube, is quite an accomplishment. I just wish the title's execution could have lived up to its pedigree.

You are Kyle Katarn, sometimes do-gooder and onetime courter of the Dark Side of the Force. Following a stint in which the anti-hero stepped away from his destiny, he returns to active duty when destiny calls. Well, maybe not destiny: high ranking Rebellion Commanders, to be precise, who order Katarn and his partner in crime, Jan Ors, to investigate a mysterious planet that was thought to be uninhabited. Right from the suspenseful intro, which sees the pair land smack dab in the heart of Empire-controlled territory, the story gets off to an engaging start. Presuming you and your partner live to see the next level or two dozen, it only becomes better as the plotline moves along.

So too, does the gameplay, for that matter. Initially, the title establishes itself as an average first-person shooter with better than average production values. A few puzzles -- many with annoyingly frustrating solutions -- color the early levels. It's only after you've been playing for a good bit of time that matters start to improve. As the action progresses from industrial facilities to military bases and locales on Bespin, Yavin, Cloud City, and other recognizable environs, your sense of attachment to the proceedings grows. Likewise, so does the fun factor, with lightsaber combat -- the real draw -- only introduced a good ways into the storyline.

Slice the air, and your buzzing, hissing blade of doom makes short work of foes in an incredibly amusing manner. For added effect, try adding leaps, swooshes, and tossing the sucker outward in a twirling arc of destruction that respectfully returns to your hand afterwards. Even deflecting blaster shots is possible -- and, in fact, automatic -- provided you're facing the scumbag who's firing upon our would-be hero. Acquiring this device is like going through puberty; you're not truly a man until you're packing added power in the form of a lethal shaft.

Force powers also must be picked up along the way. You start out weak. Learning push powers, mind tricks and the like makes you considerably stronger. These additions also enhance the play experience to no end, leaving myself (and many others, surely) to wonder what the point of waiting was. I can understand the need to teach players the control scheme (it's a tad much for newbies, though it quickly becomes second nature), but having you mow down swarms of stormtroopers is an overly repetitious introduction to base control mechanics. Only after you become a full fledged Jedi knight does the title become so gripping you'll want to see it all the way through´┐Ż and even then mainly just because additional powers are gained by completing missions.


Stick 'em up.
But while combat is thrilling, you won't see enough of it as often as you'd like. Sure, there are tons of potential battles waiting. Figuring out where the next one is lurking is the tricky part. Picking off entire enemy hordes is a great reward for solving each puzzle -- having to explore, hack away at, or blast through the whole friggin' stage in search of the next objective is a pain. Vague verbal clues sometimes help, but more often you're left in a complete state of bewilderment -- I'll confess that latter stages demanded frequent hops online to check FAQs and see where I'd gone wrong. According to what the fan community had to say in many of them, I wasn't the one only struggling, which alleviates some of the embarrassment. It does, however, mean you'll either have to have genius-grade IQ, friends who own the game, a handy Internet connection, or more patience than the Pope to get into the adventure.

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