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Hmmm where to begin? Ok for those of you who have played the last game Jedi Knight - Outcast, skip the next paragraph while I explain the setting to those who are new. Go on you won't learn anything new.
Ok then Jedi Outcast and the previous Jedi Knight games saw you in the role of Kyle Katarn, bearded Jedi saving the universe from all number of evil bad guys. The series has been hugely popular and allows all of us who grew up with the star wars movies to live out our fantasies of being Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader depending which side you bat for so to speak. This essentially involves you fighting you way through a star wars first person shooter, but with the added and significant bonus that at some point you’ll pick up your light sabre, and a number of cool Jedi powers. The games are set just after the film Return of the Jedi, with plenty of storm troopers and other bad guys still around who need mopping up.
Ok so were all up to speed and I can begin. Jedi Outcast put you in the role of Jaden Korr, a promising young Jedi, who joins the Jedi Academy (hence the name) run by Luke Skywalker and Kyle Katarn. You begin by setting up your character, the name Jaden is happily from a programming point of view easily put on a boy or girl Jedi, so you can choose male, female, and a few of the other races from the films. You also get to choose from a limited selection of clothing most of which wouldn’t be out of place in the Village peoples wardrobe, but don’t get me started. You also get to choose what your light sabre will look like, choosing from a selection of hilts and colours. I like a nice evil red one personally but I hear purple is popular.
So after you’ve chosen how you look you get down to business. The levels are each nicely designed and you do get plenty of star wars feel from them. There are 3 sections to the game, each containing 6 missions/levels, you get to choose which order to do them in and only have to do 5 to move on. After each set you are presented with a plot/boss mission that moves the story along and sets the scene for the next missions. The plot as you’d expect revolves around a bad guy out to take over the universe, I won’t spoil it for you, it won’t be winning any Oscars but it happily does the job in keeping you interested and placing you in all number of fights.
Now where this game and all of the series differs from a first person shooter is in the force powers and light sabre. In this incarnation you start with a sabre and to be fair you’d be mad to use any other weapon more than a couple of times in the game. Sabre attacks are executed through series of movement key presses and mouse clicks, but the whole thing is pretty intuitive and you’ll soon be pulling of moves the star wars kid can only dream of. As for the force powers they come in a number of flavours and progress throughout the game. They are used by spending force power on them, which slowly builds up over time, meaning you need a little time to recover from using each one. There are three types:
Core powers, these grow by one power level every set of 6 missions, so they start off weak and grow powerful towards the end of the game:
Force Jump: Basically the most essential move in the game, using it, a Jedi can pull off some huge jumps and acrobatic moves.
Sabre Toss: Throws your light sabre out in front of you, to hack off limbs and generally kill stuff.
Force Seeing: Changes the view to a weird hazy screen that allows you to see people through walls and generally get an idea of whats going on. A new addition, that I like, adds something to all that I sense your presence Jedi stuff.
Force Speed: Effectively slows the world around you, so while you move at normal speed everything else goes really slow, great for running under doors and killing people before they even knew you were there. Think bullet time for all you Max Payne fans.
Force Pull: Pulls objects towards you; can be used to pull an enemy onto your sabre attack.
Force Push: Pushes objects away, best used to push enemies of cliffs or off their feet so you can rush in and slice them up while they are down.
Light & Dark Force Powers, these can be upped individually by one point at the start of each of the three sets of six missions up to a maximum level of 3. So choose wisely you can’t max out everything, but if you spread them to thin you’ll get no real advantage.
Force Heal: Uses force power to heal you, at higher levels you can do this on the move, at lower ones you have to stop and wait.
Mind Trick: Tricks a character into being your friend, fighting alongside you and helping you out.
Force Protection: Decreases the damage from attacks that hit you, effectively a shield.
Force Absorption: Absorbs force power used on you by other Jedi so you can use it.
Force Grip: What Darth Vader loves doing in the films, grip a distant enemy by the throat and strangle them. At the highest level you can also move them, throwing them into walls and off ledges.
Force Lightning: Throws bolts of lightning in an arc in front of you, Lots of fun, highly recommended.
Force Drain: Drains health from other characters and heals you.
Force Rage: Puts you into a rage, and makes you faster and more powerful, at a cost to health.
The force powers and sabre combat really make the game, careful thought has to go into where to position the relevant buttons on your keyboard and mouse, but this is all fully configurable and when you get it right, pulling of complex combinations is child’s play.
The multiplayer game is of course a lot of fun although it doesn’t capture the atmosphere like the single player version. Once you get bored of the novelty of having a light sabre you’ll probably return to your current favourite online shooter.
Graphics wise the whole game looks crisp and beautiful throughout, with small improvements on the previous game. The sound is good throughout and I especially like the ‘crump’ sound when someone lands at the bottom of a cliff, very satisfying.
Performance wise, I would say you do need a good machine. Anything over 800-1000 Mhz will be happily up to the job though, with the game offering support for pretty much any modern graphics card and plenty of scaling options if your machine struggles a bit.
All in all the game is fantastic fun to play, easily offering the best Jedi experience yet. It seemed a little short to me, but that may be because I was having so much fun. Most people will probably play the game twice anyhow, once as a good guy and once as the next Darth Vader. One ore thing of note is that the community and modability is high with a level editor no doubt on the way, You can expect plenty more single player content to be released free on the internet in the coming months or if you are so inclined can no doubt have a go yourself.
May the force be with you, now get off your bum and go buy it.