Friday, 9 November 2012


Following on from last weeks major Star Wars announcements, Nick returns to the Sci-Fi genre to take a look at one of the franchises own attempts at continuing the sagas storyline...

Released: 1997
Developer: Lucasarts
Original Platform: PC

By Nick Murray, Videogames Contributor. 

Okay, okay... I know. A couple of features ago I said I was taking a break from sci-fi games for a while, and here I am writing an article about a Star Wars game. I think it’s justified though, with all the talk of a new trilogy now that Lucasfilm has been consumed by Disney, how could I not write about a Star Wars game? Let's just take a second to consider how exciting this really is. 

If any of the internet rumours are to be believed, we may be getting the chance to catch up with old friends, see what threats lurk in a post-Return of the Jedi universe, and learn the fate of the Empire after Palpatine's little tumble on the second Death Star. Actually, these questions have been answered in the countless books, comics and of course, video games – collectively known as the Expanded Universe. And it is one such video game that falls into this EU (as it’s referred to by fans) which I'm going to talk about today. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (which we will refer to as Jedi Knight from now on, Nute Gunray be damned if I'm writing that full title more than once) was for all intents and purposes my own personal Episode VII, as it was for many a gaming padawan. It was my first insight to a universe after the events of the original trilogy.  It had a new story, new heroes, new villains, but yet at the same time felt familiar to the franchie. It looked like and felt Star Wars. It sounded like Star Wars. It was Star Wars. While admittedly certain aspects of the game haven't aged particularly well, playing it recently revealed that as a piece of Star Wars history, it still raises the bar on what a Star Wars game could be. A bar that is seldom surpassed or even attempted to be met. 

Jedi Knight was released in 1997, and was a sequel to Dark Forces, a first person shooter set in the Star Wars universe. While a follow on from this game, Jedi Knight is designed in such a way as to be considered chapter one of a new saga. I always view Dark Forces as the prologue to the Jedi Knight series; it's not really essential that you play it, but for a more complete and rounded view of the story and characters, it's worth checking out. Jedi Knight continues the FPS style of it's predecessor, and basically runs as your typical shooter with some Star Wars ingredients thrown in for good measure. After the first handful of missions you get your hands on a Lightsaber, and with that you start to unlock your hidden Jedi potential, which comes in the form of Force Powers. These powers are divided into three categories - Light, Dark and Neutral. Light and Dark are pretty self explanatory to anyone versed in the Star Wars mythos, but just for clarification, Light Powers are less violent and more defensive, for instance being able to replenish your health. Dark Powers on the other hand are more aggressive, permitting access to such classics as Force Lightening, and that Vader favourite, the Force Choke. Neutral Powers grant advantages necessary for progression in the game, such as Force Jump and Force Sprint. What powers you unlock is of your own choice, and you can progress through the game playing as the kind of Jedi you want to be. This freedom also effects certain aspects of the story, based on the choices you've made along the way. While at times this is a good thing, there's one blatant example where it makes no sense at all. Without giving too much away, there's a point in the game where you're given the option of killing or sparing a character you've been as thick as thieves with the entire game. If you've been playing on the Light side, you'll spare her, which is logically where the story was going. On the Dark side however, you kill her for no real reason or conviction, you just do it. It feels very shallow and a bit of a let down to Dark side players. That one slip notwithstanding, the game mostly executes the Light and Dark styles of gameplay pretty well. In fact, it's worth playing through the game at least twice to experience both sides, and experience the alternate endings as a result. 

Anyone familiar with this game knows what I'm going to talk about next. It's the most memorable aspect of Jedi Knight. Light and Dark force powers, alternate endings and differing play styles are all well and good, but they're not what makes Jedi Knight unique. No, that achievement is held firmly by the cutscenes. The story itself is pretty basic stuff; set one year after ROTJ, you play as Kyle Katarn, a shadowy anti-hero of sorts who is seeking vengeance for his father's death. The man who killed him is Jerec, a Dark Jedi who has illusions of resurrecting the Empire while seeking the fabled Valley of the Jedi, where of course, some mystical unstoppable power exists. Nothing particularly special or original about that. What is special is how the story is told. Sure, we've all seen some pretty iffy cutscenes in games, and oh yes, I'm sure you've heard some horrendous voice acting, but none of them hold a candle to the collective acting calibre of the Jedi Knight players. Well, maybe I'm being a little unfair. It's not the worst game acting I've ever seen, but I think it seems worse because you can actually see the actors. Yes, the cutscenes use actual ‘actors’ providing live action performances, no CG here. Sounding wooden is bad, but at least I can't see the actor awkwardly moving about or attempting to convey emotion in most games, but with Jedi Knight you get both. Worse still, it looks like it was directed by Tommy Wiseau, and has cheesier special effects than a Doctor Who fan film. I'm sounding a little harsh, but truthfully it's one of the reasons I love the game so much. You just never see anything like this. I mean, there are plenty of examples of games opting for real life shot cutscenes, but not like this ((The original PS1 Resident Evil Opening? - Kyle). To give it it's due, the effects aren’t all that atrocious considering they're for game cutscenes and the budget of titles like this at the time. Sadly, this style of cutscene was axed for the game's sequels, something I've always been disappointed in. The hilarious cheesy cut-scenes definitely lend to the game’s character and charm and some of that was definitely lost in later instalments.

All in all this game is complete fan service. If it's decent FPS you want, you'll find one here, but there are better examples out there. If, on the other hand, you want a Star Wars themed shooter that endeavours to make a true continuation of the series then look no further. Jedi Knight to me was the first stab at a sequel to the ROTJ, it will always be my first Episode VII. As mentioned, it hasn’t aged particularly brilliant, so it may be a recommendation for the purists only. Since the announcement that a new Star Wars film will come in 2015, I've been nursing a hope that among the returning favourites such as Luke, Han and Leia, there's a little cameo appearance from Kyle Katarn, especially given the character is such a firm favourite in the fandom and, unsurprisingly, the actor has done very little since.

I’d say just don’t give him any meaningful dialogue to ruin, but if the prequel films are anything to go by, he may fit right in...

Next time I am once again fleeing the realm of Science Fiction, and entering the realm of Fantasy, of the decidedly less-than-Final variety...

NEXT TIME: Nick will be turning his attention to RPG powerhouse Final Fantasy.

Live on Friday November 23rd.

For more news, updates and exclusive content from (A)musings, be sure to 'like' our Facebook page and also follow us on Twitter!

(A)musings Website coming soon at 

1 comment:

  1. Aha the cut scenes in this games always had me in tears. Much like the ones in command and conquer, epic and terrible at the same time aha.


Sharing your musings! Let us know what you think...