Dark Forces was LucasArts' first shot at making a first person shooter, made way back in the days when people could still seriously try to argue that new FPS games were just Doom rip-offs. Nowadays of course all games have become first person shooters, with all variety and innovation wiped out in the Great Genre War of the early 21st century, but please forgive me if I end up comparing it to Doom 500 times before I'm done anyway.
Fortunately for the small group of Rebels fighting back against the Empire, a rogue mercenary called Kyle Katarn has agreed to break into an Imperial base and steal the plans for them single handedly. Plus he's going to do it armed only with a pistol and in the buff, because he's that fucking good.
Once the intro's finished, this statue of Mon Mothma (leader of the Rebellion) helpfully explains the mission details: Kyle's going to have to break in to the Imperial Secret Base on Danuta, get this red circuit board thing, then get to the roof for extraction, all without being killed by the hundred or so armoured storm troopers guarding the place.
Coming around the corner from the entrance hallway I found these three just hanging around, minding their own business. So I immediately executed each of them with a couple of rounds to the chest from my modified Bryar pistol, grabbed their rifles, and carried on down the corridor.
I'm using the mouse to aim and keyboard to move just like in a modern FPS, but I have to use keys to look up or down and it's a little awkward. This stormtrooper rifle's got a little autoaim to it, especially on the vertical axis, so I can get away with just firing straight forward most of the time, but it's also inaccurate as fuck, spraying blaster fire all over the place. Just like in the movies!
Oh whatever, I'll just shoot them when I'm up there.
A FEW HALLWAYS LATER.
I think it would be fair to say that this definitely a Doom era first person shooter in look and feel, with shield pick-ups replacing armour and stormtroopers instead of imps, but I'm not finding that to be a bad thing. It's all about stepping out of the way of enemy shots and lining myself up to spray fire at them until they fall down. All entirely bloodless though of course, this is Star Wars after all.
Well anyway that's my job done. We pass the Death Star plans on to Princess Leia off screen so that the events of Star Wars can play out and then we get back to our own storyline. You know, I have to wonder how many Star Wars games have had a 'steal the Death Star plans' mission in them by now, because I'm sure there's been a few. The Rebels must have ended up with stacks of them lying around in the end.
LATER, AFTER THE FIRST STAR WARS MOVIE.
TIE Fighter up again without realising? I'm getting the best kind of deja-vu from these cutscenes. They've used the same actor, Scott Lawrence, to play Darth Vader and he pulls off a pretty convincing James Earl Jones I reckon. LucasArts must have thought so too, as he was the official videogame Vader until 2006.
MEANWHILE, IN THE REBEL FLEET.
|Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight|
But there's only two way you can interact with people in gameplay in this: guns and fists, so I'm getting concerned this might be leading towards a boss fight.
Okay there's nothing in this area but sewer gates and this switch. This very Duke Nukem 3D looking switch that probably toggles each gate open in turn and... oh fuck I'm going to have to go wading in shit aren't I?
C'mon Kyle, quit shooting the fucking window frame and kill the evil floating hurtball already. Oh fuck it, I'm just flicking that lever on the left then making a run for it. I'll figure out what it activated later.
SEVERAL WET AND WILD SEWAGE RIDES LATER.
To be honest, I don't hate first person platforming as much as some people seem to as long as it isn't too harsh, and this seems pretty tame. I can even switch on the overhead map if I need to see exactly where I'm landing. Plus I'm just grateful the game even lets me jump at all. Can't do much bouncing around in Doom, that's for sure.
Oh hang on, am I mean to be going through that corridor he's standing in front of? But it's all the way over there, across a river of sewage, I'll never reach it! Wait, I remember setting up a 'speed mode' key in the setup program, maybe that's like a run button? The only trouble is... I set it to something halfway across the keyboard and I can't redefine the keys in game. And there's no saves.
But I'm sure if I can just stretch my fingers over a little further I can hold it while moving up and hitting jump.
BUT THEN, A FEW ROOMS LATER.
I suppose it worked out for the best though, as now I know what happens when you get killed in this. Surprisingly it only put me back a few rooms and I respawned with all the enemies still dead. Though it did cost me a life.
Yep, it's a post-Doom first person shooter with LIVES. Don't see many of them around and there's a good reason for that (it's not a great idea).
It's not ugly though either, at least not to me with my rose-tinted nostalgia amplification goggles on. I honestly truly think the game looks fine the way it is. They've made a real effort to make the textures and level designs look like the original movie trilogy and I think the graphics are sophisticated enough to be recognisably Star Wars.
Nope there's no switches around to open those doors, I really am totally stuck here. I suppose I might have missed something along the way, but backtracking along icy walls is just tempting fate.
GoldenEye's by two years. Not a very interesting fact (or a very interesting screenshot for that matter) but I felt like mentioning it. Because it is awesome. Also it blows my mind that this and GoldenEye are only two years apart.
Sadly you can't harvest extra lives from earlier levels (though I gave it a shot).
MUCH JUMPING AROUND CLIFFS LATER.
I've just had a sudden flash of recollection. I don't remember much from this game, but I do remember to fear the ceiling turrets. I could just be talking bullshit here, but it's almost like my gun doesn't auto adjust to compensate for their height, so it's a struggle for me to fine tune my aim to kill them before they cut a chunk out of my health. I only dare to peek out from behind this Ewoks Suck wall for a second at a time though, that's for sure.
OH SHIT THE DOOR'S AUTOMATICALLY CLOSED BEHIND ME AND THE TURRET'S TURNING AROUND! THE TURRET'S SEEN ME AND I CAN'T GET OUT OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK!
OH THANK FUCK I ESCAPED. These damn turrets man, they give me turret panic.
And then I walked down the corridor and got killed by a random stormtrooper. Shameful.
It's like they're specifically trying to keep out impatient thieves. Still, it's better than having to hunt down the blue key to make progress I suppose, not that the game's entirely free of that.
Now I just have to creep back across these treacherous ledges without falling into a chasm right before the finish line, then I can finally get back to my ship and go get a nice cup of hot chocolate from the heated beverage planet.
So is Star Wars: Dark Forces: Jedi Knight 0 actually any good then, or is just another crappy relic of the 2.5D era, deserving to be forever overshadowed by its fan-pleasing lightsaber-weilding sequel? Well to be honest I wish I could like it more than I do. I mean I've been enjoy the gameplay just fine for what it is, but it's so easy to get stuck for ages, wading through dead stormtroopers in empty corridors in frustration trying to find that one damn switch I've overlooked. I appreciate it having a map, but the thing's entirely unmarked and the levels can be a maze. Markers pointing out things like 'combination switch' or 'overly complicated locked door puzzle' in areas I've visited already could've helped. Still, it's better than each level being an entirely linear straightforward path.
Also swapping the limited lives with quicksaves or checkpoints would've made me happier, but I realise that's just personal taste. Plus even on medium difficulty I've been collecting through exploration as many as I've lost through incompetence, so it hasn't been a huge issue so far. You know, on the easy levels.
But yeah, I want to like it more, but I still like it a lot. It's a clear step above most of the classic pre-polygon shooters I've played lately, and I'd rate it close to Doom and Duke Nukem 3D in quality. I'd probably even happily play through the whole thing again right now if I didn't have a massive backlog of other games I should be playing.
Any thoughts about Dark Forces, the Jedi Knight series or Star Wars games in general you feel like sharing? Just want to say something about my writing or the site overall? Comments are always welcome.