With the re-release of the Star Wars Trilogy -- and the anticipation of the upcoming three new Star Wars flicks -- LucasArts has timed the release of Dark Forces perfectly. Everyone is starting to get back into the Star Wars universe again and, whether it is movies, books, or video games, LucasArts hopes Dark Forces follows the reborn popularity.
In Dark Forces, you play Kyle Katarn, rather than one of the movie characters we all know so well. As Katarn, you are a freelance special agent that has worked for Empire in the past, but now has a chip on his shoulder against them. To make the long story short, Katarn once helped Jan Ors, a decorated military officer for the Rebellion, escape from an Imperial prison. One thing led to another and Ors has contracted Katarn for special undercover operations. Katarn is transported to a number of different planets and installments, each with a different mission to accomplish, but all with the same objective: to stay alive.
Dark Forces is another of a growing list of first-person shooters on the Playstation. There is definitely no shortage of this genre any longer. I have said in my previous reviews of games of this type, you must bring something new or different to the party to be successful. This arena is too crowded to release the same old crap. Well, Dark Forces has one major thing going for it: players get the opportunity to enter the Star Wars universe. All of the other first-person shooter games try to create a story that will pull you in and get you excited about playing. Dark Forces doesn't have to do this because the movies have already told the story. You already know who Darth Vader is and you know what a Stormtrooper is. Even though Dark Forces is not anything new, it works well because it is Star Wars.
Anyone that keeps up with the Star Wars gang knows that there is no such thing as sitting by the beach, sipping a lunar margarita. They are always getting mixed up in some galaxy-saving adventure and Dark Forces is no different. The game is level-based and each level has a different mission or objective. One thing all the levels have in common is you're up against a seemingly endless supply of Stormtroopers with the intelligence level of a sixth grader. Just like the movies, you can blast away at the Stormtroopers, killing groups at a time, but they will only get in one or two good shots. Don't get me wrong -- the game is by no means a cakewalk. There are enough enemies and challenges to make the game difficult. But the Stormtroopers just aren't very bright. For example, I snuck around a corner to find a Stormtrooper with his back to me. After blasting him, his partner, who wasn't more than 10 feet away, did not even look up. Needless to say, he didn't last very long either.
One of the coolest parts of the game are the weapons you use. I don't know about you, but I always thought it would be cool to use a blaster. I just loved the sound they made when they were fired. The developers did an outstanding job replicating the sound of the blaster. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought it was straight out of the movie. Like most first-person shooters, a big part of your survival is finding new and more powerful weapons. Dark Forces has plenty of opportunity for weapons upgrades. The first weapon you encounter is a Stormtrooper laser rifle and I found it to be the most reliable. No matter which weapon I would try, I always went back to this one. The only exception was the thermal detonators -- basically futuristic hand grenades. I found that lobbing one of these little babies into the middle of a group of unsuspecting enemies cleared the area quite nicely.
Now it is time for a necessary evil. I have to talk about something that nobody likes to hear about but must face: I found a HUGE bug in the game. First, let me set the scene. I had just been battling in one particular level for nearly two hours and was getting quite frustrated. The level was not really difficult, just long, and I kept dying from stupid mistakes. So after two hours, I completed my mission and I then had to find my way out to the designated pick-up point. Finally, I got out of the maze and into some familiar territory. I was celebrating that I had finally made it and was only one or two minutes away from completing the level. Then it happened. I stepped down a step and the game freaked out. The top part of the screen went completely black but the bottom part still showed the ground. Okay, no problem. I can still see the step that I was trying to go down, so I walk up to it and... blackness. I turn a little and have a perfect shot of where I need to go, but the game won't let me. After about ha lf an hour trying to get out, I decided that the game was really screwed up and had no choice but to quit. But wait! It suddenly occurred to me that if I ever found myself too close to a thermal detonator when it went off, it would injure me. I still had a continue left, so I decided to kill myself and see if it fixed it when it reloaded. Well, to make a long story short, I was now invincible. Why did I tell you all of this? Because I really look down on games that make you work your butt off and then you can't finish through no fault of your own.
Dark Forces has graphics that rival the better games in the first-person genre. They are a good mix of outdoor areas and inside corridors. The Stormtroopers are very real-looking and I found myself getting pulled into the action. There were some of the old rough edges and pixelization when you got too close to an object but, as I have said before, this is typical for this type of game.
Normally, I don't talk about the audio in a game unless it is really good or really bad. In the case of Dark Forces, it is really good. As far as background music goes, it sounds almost as if you are watching an actual Star Wars movie. What really stood out were the sound effects. The laser shots and explosions were great. Also, when the Stormtroopers talked, they had that same talking-through-a-mask voice that they had in the movies. This added tremendously to the game.
If you are a fan of the Star Wars series, you will have a good time with this game. If not, you may still enjoy it but not any more than any other first-person game on the market. Outstanding audio really pulled me into the game, but the "bug" also pushed me away. All in all, this is a decent game that could have been better, but could have been a lot worse.