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(Star Wars) Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Lucasarts/Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

After a rather dismal showing last year with Obi-Wan, Lucasarts is looking to bring all the adventure and excitement that goes with being a Jedi to the Xbox with Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. Graphically, JK II is good - but pales in comparison to other Xbox titles. In fact, when compared to the other titles out there - JK II is actually a step back and makes you wonder why it took so long for it to make the jump. From the minute you watch the first cut scene, it's obvious that this is a port from a PC title. Not that this is a bad thing, but considering the power of the system I wasn't expecting the game to look like it was being run on a middle-grade PC.

Each of the environments looks fantastic from a distance, but as you get closer, things become rather blurry and unattractive. The character models are also a bit on the angular side and look like the living embodiment of those old Star Wars figures from the 80's (this is especially noticeable when looking at the Luke Skywalker model). On the plus side of things, everything looks like it should and fits well in the Star Wars universe.

When it comes to Star Wars games you can never go wrong in the audio department. The voice acting is top notch and even features the smooth vocal talent of Billy Dee Williams. The weapons sound great, right down to the familiar 'snap-hiss' of the lightsaber. John Williams' score is also used to help heighten the Star Wars experience.


Jedi Outcast is a follow-up to the award-winning Jedi Knight, which was a follow-up to Dark Forces. After his brush with the dark side, Kyle Katarn shut himself off to the Force and gave up his Jedi heritage. Things open with Kyle and his partner Jan investigating a Remnant outpost. While en route, they run into a transmission that mentions the Valley of the Jedi. Although reluctant to return to his Jedi ways - circumstances cause Kyle to once again wield his lightsaber.

While this is a straightforward FPS, Jedi Outcast does much to set itself apart from the rest. In addition to the obvious perk of blasting your way though the Star Wars universe, JK II also gives you the ability to embark on the path of the Jedi. When he first reconnects with the Force, Kyle only has a few powers available. As he regains his abilities, new powers are unlocked. It should go without saying that Force powers play a big part in the game, not only giving you new ways to attack, but also the means to solve many of the game's puzzles. Another interesting aspect is how the game handles lightsaber combat. Instead of keeping the game in a 1st person perspective, the game switches to a 3rd person perspective making combat very easy. There are ever a few 'feats' that Kyle can perform. Kyle will acquire various weapons during his quest including blasters, a bowcaster, and thermal detonators. Although most players (like myself) will more than likely use the lightsaber as their primary weapon, all weapons are available to Kyle at all times (provided he can find them). Regardless of how trigger happy you are, it's advisable that you at least get in a little practice with the lightsaber before you face the Dark Jedi.

JK II also offers an excellent multi-player mode and the Jedi Arena, which is basically a deathmatch against AI controlled bots. The only drawback to this mode is the lack of LAN or Live support. I'm especially surprised that Live support wasn't thrown in considering the support the game has received from the PC community as well as the game's release being so close to Live's launch.


Jedi Knight II drifts somewhere between challenging and frustrating. The weird thing is that the AI isn't particularly smart, it just has a cheap streak to it. There are numerous points in the game where you'll die because you can't see who is shooting at you. I mean, I know Kyle is a Jedi - but there are times where the 'one guy against the universe' bit gets really old. This only gets harder once you throw in environmental hardships. For example, one area has you dodging enemy gunfire while running across narrow catwalks over bottomless pits. This wouldn't be bad if the controls weren't as super sensitive as they are, but that's a different chapter. As much as I'm letting my Star Wars geek show, it would have been great if some sort of radar function had been used. In every Star Wars book I've every read, there's always mention of Jedi sensing things around them. As I played the game, it just made sense that Kyle should have some sort of radar to let him know what is going on around him.

Game Mechanics:

It's never easy converting a game from mouse and keyboard support to a controller. I can only imagine the nightmare it must be to cram all of the game's keyboard presses and mouse clicks into one easy to use controller configuration. This seems to be a challenge that the developers were up to as the controls are laid out very well and are easy to use. However, things are far from perfect. As easy as the controls are to find, they are extremely sensitive, especially when trying to strafe. This make the aforementioned catwalks incredibly hard to walk on, especially the ones where you have to set yourself in just the right position and jump.

In the end, JK II isn't a bad game - it just shows its age and feels like it had an unusually hard time making its way the Xbox. This is a must play for anyone who hasn't already played the PC version. Jedi-wannabes who didn't get their fix with Obi-wan are sure to enjoy this title as it should at least keep you happy until Knights of the Old Republic early next year.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Microsoft Xbox Star Wars: The Clone Wars Microsoft Xbox Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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