Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Now Playing: Jedi Knight

Jedi Knight (1997) is the sequel to Dark Forces. Once again featuring protagonist Kyle Katarn, JK runs on a new engine with improved textures and animations. Although still primarily a FPS, Jedi Knight also features a third person option, intended for the new addition of the lightsaber to your arsenal.

Like in the original, weapon sounds are top notch and the game does a fantastic job of capturing that classic Star Wars atmosphere through music, sound and settings. Unlike the first game, however, I found the weapon roster largely redundant. In DF I switched weapons regularly depending on the situation, but in JK, I rarely switched from using the bow-caster which you find in one of the first few levels of the game. Combined with the later acquired lightsaber, JK is a relatively easy affair, with more power-ups and health items spread throughout the levels than you’d ever really need.

Force Powers are now also integrated into the game, which gives you more options and abilities. They can be rather awkward to switch between and use, but they are a welcome inclusion which further expands your tactical options, not only in combat but also when exploring the environments.

The levels are large and well designed, with many hidden areas and multiple paths. Ultimately, they do funnel you down a fairly linear progression, but it’s well disguised. Puzzles are improved, although still revolving largely around key codes and switches. Settings are varied, as are enemy types, although AI is still pretty awful, your opponents mostly just charge blindly at you - even if it means walking off a drop to their deaths or, as I witnessed a number of times, stepping beneath a descending lift and being crushed. Still, it made me laugh, at least.

The story is told through a mixture of hilariously acted live action and CG cut-scenes. It’s a pretty simple story of Katarn seeking revenge, discovering his Force powers and stopping a bad guy from doing something...uh, bad. So it’s not great, but it does the job, is fun to watch and it’s still better than the Prequel Trilogy. The story does alter slightly depending on your actions.

I reached one awkward moment when Katarn viciously murdered his pilot, because the game had judged I’d walked the ‘dark’ path. It wasn’t really clear how or why it had decided this, although maybe indiscriminately shooting everything that moved wasn’t such a good idea in hindsight. It was somewhat jarring, as it just seemed to come out of nowhere. There is a ‘light’ variation though, although ultimately it doesn’t really change things that much.

There are Boss fights throughout the game, largely lightsaber duels. These are pretty easy, except for the final two, which aren’t so much difficult as they are incredibly irritating.

Overall, JK is a worthy sequel to DF. An upgraded engine, expanded weapons and powers, a more fleshed out story and characters. It’s a bit of a nightmare to get set-up, particularly the controls, even more so than the first game. Like DF, it’s also relatively short, clocking in at around 6-7 hours. But if you’re a Star Wars fan, DF and JK are definitely worth checking out.


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