Jedi Knight is the second game in the Jedi Knight series (not to be confused with the Gabriel Knight series), coming two years after 1995's Dark Forces. I'm not sure why they dropped the original title for the rest of the games, but I have a theory that it's got something to do with the fact that Star Wars fans are obsessed with lightsabers. In fact I believe it's universally acknowledged that the only objective flaw in the near-perfect TIE Fighter (the greatest of all Star Wars games) is the fact that you can't roll down a window and lean out of the cockpit with a sword, slicing up passing capital ships and space jousting with X-Wings.
Sure people liked being able to run around as more of a Han Solo type as he went across the galaxy blasting things with his blasters, but Han Solo with a lightsaber is what they really wanted. So from this point on LucasArts made certain to put the word 'Jedi' on the covers in big letters, making it absolutely clear to potential customers that yes, you will get to swing one of those glowy swords around in this one.
(Some of the following screenshots will expand if you click them, some won't. It's an exciting mystery!)
|This is a picture, please do not attempt to click on the links.|
I don't know how that happened, it definitely wasn't deliberate, but I'm going to make an effort this year to bring a bit more balance back to the site. Fortunately there are enough Star Wars games in the universe right now that I can manage this without ever playing Kinect Star Wars!
Though if I ever end up owning a Kinect for whatever reason...
It seems like every villain in the Jedi Knight series has to get his own unique super ship even more dangerous than the last. It's all Empire Strikes Back's fault I reckon for giving Darth Vader that Super Star Destroyer, it set a bad precedent.
Fuck... it's no good, I can't do it! The more I try to ignore him the more he grins and bobs around in the background. That guy on the left... what the fuck were they thinking? How did no one on set realise that it doesn't matter how good the acting is, or how slick the compositing might be, when you've got a dopey comic relief character there turning the whole scene into a joke?
Speaking of Return of the Jedi, I remember that film implying that there weren't a great deal of Jedis and Dark Jedis and Sith and whatever left inhabiting that galaxy far far away, so I'm going to have to take a moment to work out where exactly this game fits in with the timeline so I can get it all straight in my head.
Alright to be fair I guess the original trilogy did introduce a surprise hidden Jedi once or twice every film, so it's not like it's impossible there's more of them. Fine then, let's go back and see how Rahn's doing. Did I mention that these cutscenes are PAUSABLE by the way? In a game made in 1997. Astounding.
Unfortunately Jerec catches him before he can put tentacle head guy out of my misery, with a cheap... lens flare attack, which I guess paralyses people. Then he simply walks over and slices the Jedi's head off with one good swipe of his evil red lightsaber and a whole lot of evil cackling laughter.
So we're not playing as this guy then.
MEANWHILE ON NAR SHADDAA - THE VERTICAL CITY.
Dark Forces, who's currently sitting in a bar watching holographic home videos. He's feeling a bit more sentimental than usual because his father has just been murdered. In fact he's waiting here to meet up with an information dealer to learn who killed him: a robot called IG-88... or maybe it was 8t88. I'm pretty sure it wasn't HK-88. Let's just call him Dave.
Dave the robot has good news and bad news. The good news is that he has learned that Kyle's father was murdered by the Dark Jedi Jerec, possibly the mostly deadly combatant in the galaxy with near unlimited resources at his disposal and an entire starship fleet trailing him around just to give his comically huge warship some scale.
The bad news is that Jerec has hired Dave to work for him instead, and he's actually come here to threaten Kyle until he reveals how to decipher this mysterious disk the robot found in his dead father's house. He's brought two goons with him as well to motivate Kyle into being more forthcoming.
Kyle explains to Dave that he's not impressed by his threats, so the robot walks away and leaves the thugs to it. It doesn't work out well for them.
LEVEL 1: DOUBLE CROSS ON NAR SHADDAA.
Alright so now I have to go chase down Dave the Turncoat Robot and get my disk back. Actually first I need to get it to stop printing 'Screenshot Taken' on the top of every screenshot. I really hate it when games do that; I'd rather be left wondering if it's taking shots than know for a fact that all my screens are coming out covered in text.
If I could get it to stop playing the Cantina Band music from the first Star Wars film that'd be nice too. LucasArts often seemed to think that making a Star Wars game gave them a free pass to skip out of composing an original soundtrack.
Fortunately I only ever see his face if I leave the game idle long enough for the camera to start rotating, so I'll just... not do that again. Problem solved.
I could just ignore the guy sniping me on the right, seeing as I can just step around his blaster fire and I can't get up there anyway, but I suppose the polite thing to do would be to fire three shots back up at him and show him that I care. I collected a Stormtrooper rifle from one of the other goons sent to kill me earlier, but the thing eats double the ammo per shot and likes to consider my crosshair as a suggestion rather than a guide, so I'm sticking with my pistol for now. There's no reload button or iron sights by the way.
Okay I can't go right, so I'll head down the alley to the left of the bar entrance then.
The game is very fast, but the laser blasts aren't as quick as light usually tends to be, so gameplay is more about staying mobile and dodging through fire than hiding from it. Sure I get hit a few times that way, but I've got a shield device on so all I need to do is hang on to life long enough to reach the next stash of health or shield belts. Neither of them regenerate and there's no checkpoints, but quick saves make my eventual success inevitable.
Hey did I just gun down Greedo the green greedy bounty hunter? Oh wait, no, of course not, Greedo died in the first movie when Han Solo blasted him at the Mos Eisley cantina, which would be... around four years ago at this point in the story. So that kind of raises the question of why it says this on the back cover of the game box:
Also this mentions something else I should talk about: the game's called Jedi Knight, but I haven't got a lightsaber or any force powers whatsoever. Kyle Katarn's just an average guy with a lot of training and the ability to carry a ridiculous number of guns. Do I care? Hell naw, I love first person shooters, but I understand why some people would consider these levels to be one long boring prelude that they can't skip past.
Like Dark Forces the game is halfway between the abstract level design found in Doom and Quake, and the more realistic style brought in by games like Duke Nukem 3D. It's designed to appear like an actual city, but the actual layout of it makes no sense whatsoever (in the best possible way). It reminds me a bit of Half-Life in that respect, but much more seamless; this level is huge.
|Star Wars: TIE Fighter (MS-DOS)|
But then one of Jerec's TIE Bombers flies over to give Kyle some payback, sending him flying to the ground with its incoming fire.
Speaking of things crashing into the lower levels, I still need to find where Dave's arm ended up. It was still holding Kyle's data disk when it dropped over the edge of the landing pad.
LEVEL 2: THE LOST DISK.
Then I bounced off the invisible level ceiling, sending Kyle plummeting a million stories to his death.
This particular band of bastards must have stumbled upon a cache of thermal detonators though, as now I'm getting grenades thrown my way more often than I'd like. I tried throwing a few back at them, but it seems that throwing isn't one of Kyle's strong suits, and they usually end up bouncing back and blowing me up instead.
I'm not still looking for the arm by the way, I found that almost immediately. Now I'm just trying to find my way back up out of this maze of pipes with the disk to somewhere Jan can pick me up from.
Simply jumping over onto it won't do me any good though, as it's carrying the crates over to a lift which takes them up to the next floor, and I'm not a crate. I'm going to need to come at this problem from a different direction...
All these warehouses and crates and puzzles are reminding me a bit of Quake II, except Jedi Knight actually has the better level design. Well, it's making more sense at least. Plus it even feels like a more modern game somehow, which is interesting as this actually pre-dates Quake II by a few months.
On the other hand, the Extended Universe occasionally likes to pull crap like you see in the screenshot above. Kyle's getting a vision in his sleep from the ghost of the dead Jedi, which is fine, no problems there. But it's a vision about how Jerec is looking for the Valley of the Jedi, which will give him the power... OF A GOD! He could destroy stars with a thought, eradicate billions with a whisper! C'mon Rahn, this is Star Wars not Final Fantasy VI, the Force is already plenty powerful as it is.
I realise that there needs to be something for the player to stop, and super space stations and robot armies have been done already, but I'm sure there's other things a guy like Jerec could be stopped from doing. Something that still works with the theme of Kyle learning about his father's Jedi past and the Force.
Jerec is busy elsewhere, so Sariss finally has her chance to prove that she can ham it up just as much as he can when she actually has lines. But she's sharing the scene with ol' tentacle head himself, and he's even worse! Boc is apparently supposed to be a sadistic lunatic, but on screen he mostly comes across like... like... uh...
... I know, he's someone trying to act like they're a dog! He just bobs about with that dumb grin on his face, trying to stay in frame and join in with the others. The poor Jedi doesn't quite get what's going on, but he's just stoked to be here.
These FMV clips really do feel like they took footage from two different stories and spliced them together. Kyle, Jan, Rahn, Kyle's dad and Dave the Traitorous CGI Robot (okay fine, he's called 8t88) all act like they're in a low budget Star Wars TV series, doing the best they can with the material they've been given. The Dark Jedi on the other hand are from Star Wars: The Pantomime. They're from Star Wars: Holiday Special '97. They're straight out of some alternate universe Star Wars/Power Rangers crossover.
LEVEL 3: THE RETURN HOME TO SULON.
By the way, check out this new gun I've found! It's like a crossbow but it fires green lasers... or something! It's a bit slow to fire but it can kill most enemies with a single shot (no headshots in this that I'm aware of) and I can hold fire to charge up a devastating five way shot! Downsides: the enemies have them too and can do the same thing with them. Things are gonna get a bit 'bullet hell' down at the ol' Katarn homestead tonight.
Alright, I need to get inside the house and then locate something that can read this disk. Fortunately it shouldn't be difficult to find my way around as this is one of the few games to actually have a proper 3D map! It's a miracle!
Alright fine maybe I've been wrong all these years, maybe 3D maps for first person shooters are actually a terrible idea! Or maybe this just isn't a very good map. I'm not entirely sure.
Duke Nukem 3D' and everything but... wasn't I supposed to be looking for something inside the house?
Oh whatever, I'll just keep going where the path takes me. The levels are pretty linear so far and haven't required a whole lot of backtracking (unless I've missed a key and had to go back for it), so I can't really go wrong by taking the most obvious path. On the other hand, there's sometimes sneakier, more rewarding ways to get around if look around a bit first.
- The ceiling to this room has a map to the ultra dangerous Valley of the Jedi drawn onto it. Sadly the entire ceiling has already been stolen by the Dark Jedi so that doesn't help me much.
- The droid has Rahn's lightsaber inside it. Seems like the kind of thing he should've held onto really seeing as he was clearly out doing stuff dressed like a Jedi in the intro.
But hey, on the plus side I HAVE A LIGHTSABER NOW!
LEVEL 4: THE JEDI'S LIGHTSABER.
Kyle does seem to wave his sword in different directions depending on which way I'm moving, but in the end all I'm really doing is clicking the mouse, running up to enemies to catch them with the swing, then backing away again before someone shoots me. I was having more luck sniping at them with my pistol really.
I think I'll be switching back to guns now. Maybe it's just because he's new with the blade and hasn't got any force powers yet, but so far this is mostly just like bringing a sword to a gunfight. Enemies die just as fast with a crossbow blast from half the map away.
They darted at me so fast that I panicked and stepped backwards right off the viaduct. Crunch. Fortunately the game has Hotline Miami-speed reloads, restoring my last save and bringing me back into the fight instantly. Maybe next time I should give the sword another try... nah, too slow.
They like to dodge out of the way of my shots and dart at me when they're close, so I'm going to have to be faster in future.
LATER, AFTER FINISHING THE LEVEL.
Alright it turns out that the power upgrade stars are actually earned by discovering secret areas, which seems like weird way of operating, considering how there's no way to go back and earn missing stars. First person shooters don't typically punish you too much in later levels for missing things early on.
The star on the morality scale is dragged further into the dark side by using dark side powers and murdering innocents, while using light side powers pulls it into the light. This only really has any effect when the story's wrapping up though, where you're firmly placed on either the light or dark side and eventually earn the appropriate FMV ending to match.
LEVEL 6: THE DARK PALACE.
I didn't realise how much I'd missed slaughtering these guys. There's a whole base full of them here, it's amazing. It's always nice to play a game that isn't afraid to put a shitload of enemies on screen at once every now and then. This is a really dumb thing I'm doing by the way, running right into the middle of them like this, and I love that it's working.
Doom and Quake use keys to send you backtracking through a map and make the levels last longer, but Jedi Knight just seems to want to make sure I'm paying attention so far.
This room actually forced me to use a walkthrough, as I figured out that the switches on each wall are both used to lower the outside gate (behind me to the right), but it never occurred to me that hitting them simultaneously would lower that inside gate I'm looking at as well. Now I simply have to crawl into one of those holes inside the teeth the top (where my crosshair's pointing), wait for it the gate to automatically rise again, then crawl into the locking mechanism in the ceiling before the bolts slam into place and crush me. So awesome.
LEVEL 7: YUN - THE DARK YOUTH.
He's a Jedi with years of training and duelling experience, I'm a guy who just found a sword, I'm not going to be able to win this fairly. Instead I'm basically just running up to him, swinging my sword, and running away again, over and over. If I hit him and get away with it then I quick save, if I take damage then I load it up again. It's a crappy way to fight a boss, but then it's kind of a crappy boss fight so somehow I'll find the strength to live with myself. I just want to move on to the next bit already!
My reward is getting to watch Kyle hesitate, looking genuinely confused about what to do here. This may actually be the first time he's ever considered sparing someone, he's more of a 'shoot first, keep shooting until they're dead' kind of guy, but this guy assumes that he must be a Jedi and now he's got Kyle wondering what a Jedi would do here. Sure it's the typical 'you killed 500 of my goons to get here, but if you kill me then you're a monster' cliché, but I like that it's got Kyle thinking about whether he actually wants to be a Jedi Knight like his father or just a mercenary with Force powers. Probably.
One thing that's interesting is that he'll be entirely self-taught. He hasn't got a Yoda to make him run around in a swamp lifting things with his mind, or even an Obi-Wan showing him out to deflect blaster bolts, he's stuck figuring everything out for himself as he goes. But hey, he managed to take out this guy right? Even untrained he has a fighting chance here.
Well I think this would be a good time to turn the game off. I've played a boss fight, I've used the lightsaber, I've gotten a Force power... I even managed to find some Stormtroopers to harass. Yeah I think I'm good here. Turning it off right now.
Dark Forces, but now I am the master.
Of course it helps that I have quick saves instead of checkpoints and limited lives this time around. It does take away some of the tension, but the frustration I'm spared is well worth the trade off. In my humble opinion.
Anyway I'm just going to follow these pipes through the fuel station until I reach the ship they're hooked up to, and then I really am going to turn this off. And by 'turn this off' I mean 'keep playing but not show any more of the screenshots'.
In case you're wondering, yes this does mean that the rabbity thing has his own page on Wookiepedia.
For some reason I have always considered Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight I to be the janky flawed black sheep of the series, an early attempt at a full 3D shooter that's technically playable but awkward even compared to its contemporaries like GoldenEye and Quake II. And that's why I'm really glad I played it again, as it's actually WAY better than I remember it being.
Gameplay-wise it's basically an evolution of what what LucasArts did with Dark Forces two years earlier (which was an evolution of Doom). It's about moving fast and filling the air with gunfire, and they've got all the basics down right. Enemies take a second to react to your presence, shooting them makes them react in pain, their shots can be evaded, it's all good. They're all idiots of course, but I'm considering that a good thing too. On the other hand the lightsaber is a let down and the grenades are a pain in the ass (and having separate keys for jump and Force jump is just weird), but the core of it is sound.
Visually... well you can see how it looks for yourself. The cruel passage of time has left it looking a bit ass, but it's got that authentic Star Wars style and the graphics are definitely functional. I was never struggling to figure out what was shooting at me, which is something modern shooters have taught me not to take for granted any more.
Audioally... it sounds just like Star Wars! I mean seriously, it has the Star Wars movie soundtrack playing off one of the CDs the whole time, all the tunes that sounded great in their original context but sure got old once I'd heard them in a million other games. It really is a shame that the game didn't get a theme of its own and that there's no dynamic soundtrack in game. It would've been nice to for Kyle Katarn to have a hero theme of his own kick in when he did something awesome.
I was lost and frustrated, stuck in crappy boss battles and killed off by hidden landmines. I walked backwards into instant death chasms, struggled looking for keys in the dark, and managed to blow myself up with my own grenades every time I was dumb enough to give them another try. I came across a thousand and one little things that pissed me off and not one of them dampened my enthusiasm for starting up the next level and doing it all again. I'd say it deserves a prize for that.