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Developer:
Raven Software
Publisher: LucasArts
Platform: PC
Release Date: March 26, 2002

by Nimish Dubey




There are games that make the news and stay in it. There are those that never make the news and fade into obscurity. And then there are those who create a flutter when they arrive but are then forgotten.


Jedi Outcast belongs to the third category. When it was released in 2002, gamers were swearing that they had never quite seen anything like it in terms of graphics and gameplay. Yet not too many people seem to remember it today. Sure, you may stumble across it whenever you see a Greatest Games list, but for the most part, the game seems to have been forgotten in the hype and hoopla surrounding other FPSs like Half-Life and Doom, which is a colossal pity. Because, hark me, Jedi Outcast is not only one of the best Star Wars games ever made (matched perhaps only by Knights of the Old Republic), but every bit as good as any of the others. In fact, I will go further – in many respects, it is vastly superior to them.


But to cut to the chase, the game comes on a single CD, it installed smoothly and made no restart demands on my system (Windows XP Home, AMD Athlon 64 2800+, 512 MB RAM, GeForce 5200 FX with 128 MB VRAM).


Jedi Outcast, like its predecessors in the Jedi Knight series (Dark Forces and Dark Forces 2) follows the fortunes of Kyle Katarn. A mercenary, Katarn took on the Empire when he discovered that it had been instrumental in killing his father. Although strong in the Force, Katarn is not a proper Jedi as he has received no formal training, although he is rather nifty with a light sabre. One of his earlier adventures actually took him over to the Dark Side, following which he handed his light sabre to Luke Skywalker, not trusting himself to wield it again. He and his partner Jan Ors are content to fly reconnaissance missions for the Republic and do their bit for the Empire.


And that is where Jedi Outcast begins. Kyle and Jan (you play Kyle, incidentally) have been asked to check a remote outpost which has shown signs of Empire activity. They do just that and stumble upon a conspiracy to overthrow the Republic, involving building special warriors and equipping them with special weapons (custom-made Dark Jedi, as it were). At the centre of the conspiracy is a Dark Jedi, Desann. Once a part of the Republic and a Jedi who worked with Skywalker, Desann now is plotting its demise. Kyle's first encounter with him ends in tragedy. No, I am not going to tell you what happened – suffice to know that it was bad enough to make Kyle go back to the Jedi Academy and ask Luke Skywalker for his light sabre. Once he gets it, he proceeds to rattle it with a good deal of vim and vigour as he sets off in pursuit of Desann. After all, there's nothing quite like a spot of revenge to get a game going.


Jedi Outcast is one of those games that seem determined to defy classification. Although fundamentally an FPS (though you can switch to third person mode whenever you wish), it is not basically a “if it moves, shoot it” kind of game. There are a number of puzzles and more than a decent amount of adventuring and stealth thrown in. And if the folks at Raven had stuck to the format of allowing players to choose Force powers themselves (as they had in Dark Forces 2), there would have been an RPG element as well. But even so, there is more than enough to make the game highly unpredictable - you never really know what is around the corner. A frenetic light sabre duel might be followed by a session of simply avoiding snipers hell-bent on incinerating you to a crisp, holding your position for a definite time while one of your friends attempts to get your spaceship working, or trying to figure out which keys to hit to open a door or a set of fuel tanks.


Helping you on your way is a handy bunch of Force powers. As I said earlier, the developers seem to have opted to keep Kyle permanently on the Light side, so he gets his Force powers accordingly. Mind you, even those are a lot of fun (although Darth Vader fans will be heartbroken to know that there is no way they can use Choke to strangle enemies to a painful death). Force Speed allows you to dart past enemies before they can blink, Force Jump would get you atop Everest within minutes, Force Heal allows you to play physician to yourself, Force Lightning throws bolts of lightning on your foes, Force Grip chokes them a bit, Force Persuasion hypnotises them for a while and then, there is the little matter of the light sabre...


It would not be an understatement to say that it is the light sabre that makes Jedi Outcast such a spectacular experience. The favoured weapon of the Jedi looks simply gorgeous, unlike in Dark Forces 2 where it resembled a huge tubelight. It emits a bluish hue and raindrops sizzle and evaporate as they strike it (I spent an entire minute just watching this, at the end of which I found myself killed at the hands of a couple of startroopers who clearly did not share my fascination). Kyle can throw it to slice through enemies and objects and catch it as it returns to him in boomerang fashion. It is also a highly effective means of defence, deflecting bullets back at the enemy. But it is at its best when it comes up against another of its kind. Jedi Outcast has a fair share of light sabre duels and these are nothing short of astounding with sparks literally flying every time light sabres clash. You will often find yourself locked eye-to-eye with your opponent, light sabres crossed, as you attempt to overpower them.


Which brings us to the opposition, and Jedi Outcast acquits itself honourably in this regard. Amongst those standing in Kyle's way are sabre-wielding Dark Jedis, armoured Jedi wannabes, deadly insects, startroopers, droids, turrets and colossal robots. And they do seem to be pretty sound in the brains department. Although not in the same league as Half-Life, the AI in Jedi Outcast makes battles a lot more difficult than traditional shooters. You cannot fire a shot into a room and then do a bolt, hoping that the enemy will come trotting behind you. The presence of snipers in some levels is a formidable threat – most of the time, you cannot detect them until they take a pot shot at you. The turrets can be a pain too with their non-stop gunfire. Finally, there are no really insurmountable bosses in the game – if you persist and watch your step, there's a fair chance that you can beat just about every major enemy. Some might feel that this makes the game too easy but I like it. I wish I had a penny for every game that I gave up just because a particular boss seemed to be just too hot to handle.


But all the light sabres, locales, puzzles and enemies would have counted for naught in the absence of a good storyline. And this is perhaps the strongest point of Jedi Outcast. The game has, in my opinion (most humble, I insist), perhaps the best storyline ever seen in an action-oriented game. Consequently, you feel that much more involved in the game and not in it just for the adrenaline rush provided by bumping off the bad people. The transformation of Kyle Katarn into a Jedi is fascinating, especially as he starts out being skeptical about the force (hardly surprising, considering he strayed into the Dark Side in the Dark Forces 2 expansion pack). Star Wars movie fans will be delighted to know that Luke Skywalker puts in an appearance or two and even helps Kyle in the odd battle. The cutscenes are not of the highest quality, but they hold the story together quite well. This is one game that you will play, not just because you like the gameplay, but because you want to find out what happens next in the story!


Great story, puzzles, adventure, Force powers – you know, it is difficult to find any weak spots in Jedi Outcast. One could say that it is a bit too linear – there is almost always only one way of progressing. One could also point out that while the game does have its share of stealth, fighting one's way through is the only option at times. Sure, the light sabre is fun but non-stop warfare can get on one's nerves. And one could definitely moan about some of the puzzles being a bit too subtle, leaving one with no choice but to head to the walkthrough pages.


Mind you, none of those would stop one from going back time and again for more—even if you have never seen Star Wars or have not liked the series.


You do not have to be a Jedi wannabe to love Jedi Outcast. Even Kyle Katarn (the game's hero) was not!


System requirements: Windows 95 OSR2/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium II or Athlon class 350 MHz or faster, 64MB RAM (128 MB RAM required for Windows 2000 and XP), 16 MB OpenGL compatible PCI or AGP 3D Hardware Accelerator, 665 MB HDD space, DirectX v8.0a


Rating: 95%




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