Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2
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A Look At Some Very Early code and a chat with the team some months ago had already indicated that Jedi was going to be a very special game indeed. The engine that the team had developed was unlike anything we'd seen in a game of this type and could seemingly handle a high count of multipolygon characters, water, dynamic lighting and gravity effects with consummate ease. The aim was always to produce a 'living' environment that would deliver a damn good kicking to the likes of Quake, Unreal and anything that the 3DRealms bunch could muster, while at the same time making it as versatile as possible and easy for level designers to use.
"We wanted to be able to say to the level designers, this is your world, go and create the best levels you can," maintains project leader Justin Chin. "This engine can pretty much do anything we want it to. There's nothing else like it. We can create massive levels for the player to explore and build, with multiple levels, slopes and wide open spaces - it's just awesome. It's this technology that will keep LucasArts at the forefront of game design. This is the beginning of a new era for us."
Of course, such graphical lushness comes at a price, and although the levels we saw had all the elements in place, things were chugging along in only a half-screen window on a Pentium 120, although this was largely down to the sound cutting in and slowing everything down - a problem that LucasArts are confident they can easily fix when everything's finally been pulled together. This is very early code remember, and as such all the debugging shit is still in there, and it's slowing everything down massively. Once all the objects and textures have been sorted, they'll start working on the frame rate, and providing your machine can handle the rigours of Windows 95, your Jedi Knight won't limp along in jerko-vision in the standard-res modes. Depending on what view you're playing in, it will look as good as either Tomb Raider or Quake in default resolutions. And as you would expect, Jedi Knight is designed to take advantage of Direct3D and specific 3D accelerator cards, and extra frames of animation, translucent effects and an improved frame rate will transform it into something that's just as remarkable as Tomb Raider running under 3Dfx and Open GL Quake.
A Knight to remember
It almost goes without saying that some of the levels have to be seen to be believed. When you switch to the third-person view you really get a sense of the scale and enormity of some of the levels, especially when you venture outside. Picture the scene: you're being pursued by a horde of Stormtroopers and while dashing down a corridor, you spot a doorway leading outside. As you dodge laser blasts, you use your Jedi powers to make the long leap through the opening to safety. Outside the door you spot a speeder bike. Normally in a game of this type you'd run over to it, realise that it was part of the furniture, let off a few rounds to see if it had any effect, and then leg it But this is Jedi Knight. It's all about operating within a realistic environment that you can inter with. Remember that rogue laser blasts knock chunks out of walls. It's a speeder bike, you're being chased - what would Luke do? Exactly. You climb aboard the bike and make your getaway, leaving the Stormtroopers in a blaze of blaster fire. As you speed off into the distance, you find yourself under much stronger laser fire. Where the shit did that come from? Then you hear that noise. You feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise. You're being chased through a ravine at what seems like a zillion miles an hour by a TIE Fighter. Shit. Time to ditch the bike and take cover. You can expect this sort of intensity when you play Jedi Knight. It's that kind of game.
Not only does it boast a level of complexity that other developers have only ever dreamt about, but Jedi also sports characters that are so well animated, they make the Marine in Quake seem like a Lego man. The lead character Kyle, doesn't just walk, he slinks about the levels like a cat. Let go of the mouse and you can watch him breath and look around. You actually find yourself using the third-person ew just so you can watch him move, and when you come under fire, it might be more appropriate to switch to the more conventional first-person viewpoint. Just like Mario64, it's a game that's almost as good to watch as it is to play.
Thankfully, the control system doesn't disappoint either. Kyle has got plenty of moves and animations ready up his sleeve and the keyboard/mouse combo that LucasArts have developed works surprisingly well, especially if you're used to the W/A/S/D/Space-plus-mouse configuration favoured by so many Quake players. Making Kyle leap, thrust and parry soon becomes second nature and with a bit of practice players should be able to engage in some pretty intense melee sessions with other Jedi wielding mighty light sabres. Particularly dextrous players will even be able to use it to defend themselves from blaster shots, which is a very important consideration indeed, because the light sabre is supposed to be the most powerful weapon in the Jedi Knight universe. If it was overly difficult and cumbersome to use, the whole Force thing would evaporate into sheer nonsense. Chin is understandably pleased with this particular aspect: "We just went with what we felt worked best. We've all played Quake and the keyboard/mouse combination was obviously the way to go. Kyle's a complex character with lots of moves. We had to keep it simple and instinctive for the player, but at the same time make it versatile. If you can't get on with it, we are working on a joystick system which is pretty neat [motions holding a light sabre and then picks up a ThrustMaster flight stick that's sitting on his desk] which will hopefully work just as well."
There are a lot of 3D Quotre-athon games scheduled for release in the next few months, what with Hexen 2, Quake 2, Daikatana, Half Life and Unreal ad due out before Christmas. However, from what we've seen so far, Jedi will be up there battling it out with the best of them for the top spot. And with the all-conquering Star Wars licence stamped all over it, how can it possibly fail?
Download Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP