|ESRB Rating: Teen (13+) Animated Violence
Star Wars fans won't be disappointed because despite its flaws, Jedi
wannabes will still love the force powers and the one-on-one lightsaber duels scattered throughout the game. Keep in mind that this
is still the only decent Star Wars-based first-person shooter out there. Quake fans don't have anything to worry about because even
though Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II has adequate multiplayer features (that feel more like an afterthought), the game's one-player mode is still where the goods
are at. I will be expecting much more from the third installment, which is supposed to feature good ol' Obi-Wan.
With the current rash of Star Wars-licensed games, it seems that Lucas Arts has resorted to outwardly
exploiting the franchise. Development time between games has been decreasing and quality has become more
and more spotty. Amidst all the clutter, Jedi Knight, the sequel to Dark Forces, is easily the most
hyped and anticipated one.
Essentially a first-person shooter made to compete with the likes of Quake 2, Jedi Knight tries to separate
itself from the pack early on by capitalizing on the Star Wars theme. Utilizing full-motion video cut scenes
in between gameplay, complete with live actors on
digital backgrounds, Jedi Knight includes something most Doom clones forget: an actual plot! Stages coincide with
the plot accordingly and revolve heavily around the objectives, which is refreshing from the usual find
the keys and exit theme. Players journey through the stages in the role of Kyle Katarn (think totally bland
Han Solo wannabe with sprinkles of Luke Skywalker), who must learn the ways of the force and frag all enemies
along the way.
Throw in all the elements (like 3D accelerated graphics, Star Wars setting, John Williams composed soundtrack,
and refreshing plot-oriented missions), and you have a surefire winner, right? Close, but Jedi Knight fumbles a bit
along its journey to becoming a true Jedi master. It's not that the game's execution is poor, but it really
isn't that revolutionary. Take, for example, the stage designs. While the sci-fi look is there and the environments
seem natural at first, after prolonged play, stages drag on way too long and it's rather clear that the level
designers lengthened the stages out with the use of extra obstacles
and puzzles. It's a shame because I found the game most effective when I could lose myself in the fantasy environments
(that are convincingly realistic). Once I started to get frustrated by the lengthy design, it breaks that suspension of
disbelief and I'm all too aware of the contrived stage.
More signs of lack of innovation lay in areas like the music. After playing many of Lucas Arts' releases, one
begins to realize their pattern of rehashing the exact same themes used in the movies in every game! There are no
remixes or new tunes. It's simply PLAYED OUT. There's nothing stunning about the gameplay either. Enemy artificial
intelligence is still pretty mindless and blasting them doesn't require much skill either (unlike in GoldenEye 007,
which took this scheme to another level of sorts).
On the whole, Jedi Knight isn't trying very hard to redefine what we know of the genre. Despite some of the game's more
unique innovations like the integrated story, mission goals, and the force powers, the game still feels a little
dated in the gameplay department. It's still common practice blasting away mindlessly at the enemies and seeking
out secret areas. Likewise, weapons and items are still strangely littered throughout the stage, but the game's
worst flaw is that it never truly lets me forget that it's a game. With so much potential for me to truly lose myself
and so much possibility to transcend videogame and genre cliches, Jedi Knight is all too content to revel in normalcy.
- Published February 12, 1998
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