2002? Weird. Could have sworn this came out in the 90s. Anyway, this is the next Dark Forces game, which drops the Dark Forces from the title completely, actually. This time the game was made by the wonderful Raven Games and the difference in quality from the last one is enormous because of it.
The first 1/3 or so of the game starts out in a typical FPS fashion and feels much like the previous games, except with a nice graphics upgrade and some better level design (mostly). Raven Games are no strangers to the FPS genre and they do a great job here, as usual.
What really sets this one apart from the previous Jedi Knight though, is when you get past that first 1/3 and get to become a Jedi again, and amazingly, it doesn’t suck this time. Lightsaber combat, while not perfect, is actually functional AND fun. The force powers are actually effective and interesting too. That was the biggest problem with Jedi Knight 1, the Jedi mechanics were fucking terrible and the only time you ever used your lightsaber or your powers was when you were forced to during the awful boss battles. The rest of the time you would just immediately go back to using guns because they just worked way better. Not here though. Here you will be like “Guns? What guns?”, and almost never touch one again for the rest of the game.
Now again, the combat isn’t perfect. It can still be a little frustrating when trying to fight other lightsaber users, as you sometimes feel like you’re just kind of flailing around waiting to get a lucky hit in (at least until you remember the good old “jump on their head” strategy…)
but for the most part it feels pretty damn good and at its time it was miles ahead of any previous attempt to do lightsaber combat.
The game did have its flaws, like the occasional standard retro level design and physics issues…
…but nowhere near as much as the uncomfortably large pile of ugly problems with the last game.
Overall it still holds up really well for its age and I’d still credit it as one of the best Star Wars games around even today.
Only one more to go now…
Jedi Academy came out very quickly after the popular release of Jedi Outcast, and while it was also by Raven Games, it did have a certain consolized feel to it. The game didn’t like me taking videos or pics of it so you’ll just have to live with my brief description.
You get to “customize” your character in this one, and by customize, I mean choose from 5 preset character skins and pick a lightsaber color.
You can choose what missions you want to take in the game, and by choose, I mean you pick from 5 different irrelevant missions between big story missions, the order of which has no effect on anything at all and you have to do them to make the story progress, so really there is no choice at all.
You can choose your weapon loadout for each mission, but you start with a lightsaber and weapons are lying all over the place every level anyway, so who cares?
The irrelevant missions are mostly very short and very easy. Sometimes they are semi-broken feeling, like the Tremors-ish “don’t touch the sand!” level where the monsters actually let you touch the sand quite a lot before bothering to do anything about it, or the really awful speeder bike level with just unbelievably bad camera and controls. Some of the levels felt like they were multiplayer versus maps that got shuffled into the main game somehow.
You can choose between the light side and the dark side, but your early choices don’t have the effect they say they do and it all really comes down to one choice made right before the end and picking the dark side doesn’t seem to do anything but give you a crappier ending. My evil purple lightsabered Greedo guy got to fight Kyle Katarn in the end, but wouldn’t even let me kill him. I just ran away and that was the end. Meh.
On the plus side, the graphics are a little nicer, the animations are a bit improved, melee combat is slightly smoother (though still mostly dominated by jumping on heads), and you can get dual lightsabers or a double-“bladed” lightsaber later on.
I don’t know, it was alright, but it’s unevenness and the heavy repetitiveness of the lightsaber battles in the later levels kind of annoyed me and made me glad it was over.
So that’s the end of the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight/whatever the fuck series. Had enough Star Wars games for a while now, but maybe when the next one comes out I can bust out some of the old Shadows of the Empire or Republic Commando or the old Battlefront. We’ll see. On to other things.