Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
LucasArts unveils a trio of games that should rise to the top of the PC game slush pile and excite Star Wars followers. In Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Kyle Katarn's Star Wars saga continues in true Jedi fashion with classic conflicts between good and evil, and the past and the future. In this first-person action/adventure game, you strive to become a worthy Jedi by foiling seven Dark Jedi who are trying to unleash the powers of a secret Jedi burial ground. And you can share the Force with friends; Dark Forces II is a multiplayer game.
Download Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
This amazing sequel to the original Dark Forces features some truly innovative twists: The ability to harness and use the Force, the inclusion of Lightsabers as weapons, and networking with up to eight people for multiplayer gaming.
Playing again as Kyle Katarn, you must seek out and combat the Dark Jedi. a group of seven knights who are searching for the sacred Jedi burial ground.
From the preview tape we saw, this looks like an exciting and impressive foray into the SW universe. Jedi Knight will take gamers into new worlds, both visually and technologically.
I have to admit, 3D shooters have begun to bore me. Forgetting about MDK for the moment, these games seem to be in something of a rut -- substituting graphically sophisticated gore and tons of money for any real spark of imagination. This is why it's ironic that , a product that is a small part of a gigantic merchandising empire, is easily the best 3D adventure game of the year. For better or worse, the lack of creative spark in is compensated for by high production values, some ingenuity, and good use of the groundwork laid almost twenty years ago.
The plot line centers around Kyle Katarn -- from Dark Forces -- whose father has been murdered by the evil Jarek. Kyle's goal in life is to find Jarek before he finds the fabled Valley of the Jedi (a place of enormous power), and kill him. Not exactly complex or intriguing on its own, but suitable enough to frame a video game around. Roughly the same goes for the movies that move the plot along between levels -- nothing you'd watch if it weren't a cut-scene in a video game.
Like Dark Forces, the controls seem infinitely customizable -- keyboard and joystick settings can be altered to your heart's content, as can a few game features like crosshairs and such. The former is especially valuable, because of the wide variety of control available.
As far as the movement and interaction with the environment goes, Jedi offers the standard 3D shooter fare, with a few small (and nifty) additions, such as:
There are twelve of these available, four fundamentals and four each on the dark and light sides of the Force. They're acquired during gameplay -- at the end of each level the player may or may not receive "Force stars," which he/she can allocate to different powers. The side you choose has a hand in determining the outcome of the game. It's not real role-playing, but it adds a nice dimension to the game.
The Lightsaber (Yesssssss!)
Now we're talking. Not making this weapon available in the original Dark Forces created something of a disappointment among avid Star Wars fans. LucasArts has made an attempt to rectify the problem by making it not only available but crucial to completing Jedi Knight. As the game plays out, seven Dark Jedi must be defeated individually, a task that is impossible without a lightsaber.
Some folks might find these duels a little bland -- it's basically you and your opponent slashing at one another. I found them both a refreshing break from normal shoot-'em-up gameplay, and they seemed to add a little more drama to the proceedings.
The 3D engine in Jedi is a step ahead of the pack (with the possible exception of id's upcoming Quake 2), with catwalks, conveyors, rooftops, awnings, and other miscellany being put to good use in terms of layout and gameplay. That alone might have been enough, but there are a few moments when the environment goes topsy-turvy, one of which is particularly cool; a "falling spacecraft" level in which you must evacuate the ship before you crash. Horizontal becomes vertical, visa versa, and so on. It's tough to tell if you've been a particular way before, because it looks so different upside-down.
One serious criticism: The game lists the minimum amount of RAM at 16 megs, but playing the low-res option is so tremendously disappointing that I could never recommend it. Unless you always play the low-end versions of everything and are used to graphics that never look like what's on the box, don't play this way.
The music is unbelievably good, having been composed by John Williams and drawn exclusively from 20 years' worth of commissioned work for the Star Wars trilogy. The result is a score that succeeds at covering the entire spectrum of a grand adventure story; it is a lush, suspenseful and heroic body of work. I suppose it should be pointed out that to some people, especially those who are roughly my age and have had this music burned into their gray matter since their formative years, it simply means adventure the same way a red light means Stop. In any case, and for whatever reason, the music in this game exceeds all others to date, period. On the other hand, the sound effects, while well-suited and designed, are generally not the focus of much attention.
The direct modem option for multiplayer is easily configured and has very little lag. There aren't as many levels as I might like, and the configuration isn't as free as it could be, but these are the usual design complaints -- all in all, I had a fair amount of fun playing. The most unusual caveat is this -- if you set the level to time out after a certain number of minutes, it disconnects the phone line. That's it. You're done. Go to bed. What a strange way to think people would want to play. It might not make a bad option, given the amount of multiplayer addicts there are out there, but still ... Even though they have a few quirks like this, the multiplayer options (including the Internet) ran incredibly well.
Minimum / Single Player: 100% Windows 95 DirectX-compatible computer required. Pentium 90 or faster required. 16 MB RAM required (32 MB recommended). 2X CD-ROM drive required (4X or faster recommended). PCI graphics card required. 100% Windows 95 compatible 16-bit sound card required. 100% Windows 95 compatible keyboard, mouse, or joystick required. Microsoft DirectX 5.0 is included with the game and must be installed to play Jedi Knight. Note: Your system may require the "latest" Windows 95 drivers for your particular hardware. Minimum Installation requires 33 MB free hard drive space (plus an additional 20 MB free hard drive space after the install for the swap file).
Multiplayer: Supports up to 8 players via IPX or TCP/IP Local Area Network. Pentium 133 or faster recommended for Internet play. Supports up to 4 players via 28.8Kbps or faster connection to the Internet. Supports 2 players via 14.4Kbps or faster modem. Supports 2 players via Null Modem Cable.
What Jedi Knight lacks in spark, it compensates for with the oodles of money that a giant like LucasArts can throw into the development process. Add to that good environments, great music, tons of options, solid gameplay, and smooooooth net connections and I can certainly say that fans of the genre won't be disappointed. All things considered, I'm giving Jedi an 85.