Monday, 4 May 2015

Star Wars: Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast (PC)

Developer:Raven|Release Date:2002|Systems:Windows, Mac, Xbox, GameCube (but not PS2)

Today on Super Adventures I'm taking a look at Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, the third in the Jedi Knight series. Poor Dark Forces: it was the one that started the games off in the first place but Jedi Knight was the name that stuck. Because it has 'Jedi' in it and every Star Wars fan wants to be a telekinetic space samurai.

I've played this before, but it's been so long now that all I remember about it is that the lightsaber combat is a step up from the last game and it probably does the shooting better. I mean you'd expect it have decent gunplay considering LucasArts passed the series on to FPS veterans Raven Software for this one, who were coming off Soldier of Fortune and Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force at the time. It seemed like Raven were getting around to all the big space sci-fi franchises in turn and giving them each a shooter, but instead they switched to making Marvel action RPGs weirdly, and now they make Call of Duty DLC.

The game has a 'mods' option right in the menu, which is cool, but I won't be touching any of them. I want the pure, unedited, non-Special Edition Jedi Outcast experience. Well, the single player experience anyway, I won't be showing multiplayer, and I won't be turning it off until I get to a proper Jedi duel.

Warning: This may contain spoilers for the earlier Jedi Knight games, including the fact that the hero becomes a Jedi Knight.

(Click images to expand them into bigger images.)

The game begins with the traditional opening crawl to set the scene, then cuts to a (skippable) cutscene showing elite Republic mercenaries Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors tightly packed inside their tiny spaceship cockpit on their way to another shoot 'em up level.

Our hero is looking pretty close to his Jedi Knight incarnation, with the same outfit and beard, except considerably less 'live action'. He's rendered in-engine this time (id Tech 3/Quake III engine if you're wondering) and the animation is a little bit on the retro side, even for 2002. There's no motion capture here, and the characters flap their jaws like they're Half-Life scientists.

Also the new voice actor sounds like he should be playing Kyle Katarn's dad, and it really hasn't been that long since the last game.

See, my carefully constructed Star Wars timeline shows that in-universe it's only been... damn, seven years since the Jedi Knight. We're a third of the way to 'Star Wars Ep VII' here. Still, the new voice makes him sound like a different person, and I prefer the old Katarn.

In real life the games were released less than five years apart. Jedi Outcast came out in late March 2002, just a month and a half before 'Episode II: Attack of the Clones'. In case you were wondering.

We're way past 'Return of the Jedi' at this point, and the Rebellion has won their star war against the Empire and become the New Republic. Well, mostly; there's still a remnant of the Empire left, which is now called the 'Remnant', and we're here to raid one of their bases and kill all their Stormtroopers. Apparently Episode VII will reveal that the Empire actually became the 'First Order', so this is all well and truly non-canon now. They're even making another film about the theft of the Death Star plans, so Kyle doesn't even get to be the guy who did that any more.

Anyway, canon or not, Stormtroopers need gunning down, and Jan's tagging along for a change. Usually she stays in the ship and flies around until I need picking up, but... hey, where's the ship? Jan, what have you done with our new ship? It might look a bit crap compared to the one I blew up in Jedi Knight, but we need that to leave the planet!

Jedi Knight was about Kyle discovering his Jedi heritage and mastering the Force through days of intense excessive violence until he was able to defeat an experienced Dark Jedi master in close combat laserswordplay. But he apparently got sick of all the back flipping and telepathic choke grabs between games, so he's left his lightsaber at home and has gone back to shooting people with guns again. Seriously, Jedi Knight II: The Further Adventures of Jedi Knight doesn't give you even a single Force power to start you off.

Guns are cool though, everyone likes guns. Except when the bloody things won't hit anything you aim them at. I mean my rifle is fairly accurate, plus there's a bit of auto-aim on it that I can't turn off, but I'm firing slow moving energy bolts at fast moving enemies and the two rarely connect. I'm glad Jan's here now, as she's getting more kills than I am.

Oh. It's one of those kinds of games then.

Second time around I made sure to get everyone's attention and kept them off Jan while she totally failed to get the front gate open. So I found a side door and took a lift up to another lift where there was a switch that activated a defence turret which I used to blast the door to pieces. So now we're in (and I'm hitting quicksave).

Man I'm gunning down a lot of Stormtroopers on this level and his is only the first corridor. I walked down a bit to shoot a guy guarding a locked door at the end, and a whole squad of them crept out of a side door behind me to shoot Jan. "Let's see some ID," shouted one, as I was gunning down his friend.

It took a fair amount of shots, but I killed them all eventually. Or maybe it was Jan... the important thing is that they're all dead and now I need to go on alone to open up some of these doors.

After running into nothing but locked doors, I started shooting at suspicious looking crates and one of them exploded, blasting a hole in the floor for me to jump into! So now I'm stuck down here in a maintenance tunnel instead, with this generator looking thing blocking the way out. It looks like there's enough room to squeeze past, but I get zapped when I try.

Oh, I see! I can shoot this thing as well to blow it up and open up the path. Jedi Outcast Rule #1: If you're stuck, try shooting stuff.

But then it exploded in a massive fireball, which incinerated everything in the tunnel without warning, including me. Jedi Outcast Rule #2: The game hates you. Reload and try again.


Jedi Outcast Datapad Objectives screen
I found a place to duck inside and hide from the fireball second time around, and fought my way through more corridors flooded with Stormtroopers to reach a computer console with a strange blue symbol on it. So now I'm trying to reach a main array, whatever that looks like.


I love Imperial architecture; everything's got to be big enough to fly a spaceship through, just in case. Also they never put railings on the walkways, as that gives action heroes something to run behind when they infiltrate the base. Stormtroopers have a hard enough time hitting things when they have a clear shot, they don't need thin metal bars in the way.

Oh I get how this works now. I was trying to input my clearance code into the console to unlock those two doors, but they're already open. It seems I need to go into the green and red sections to find the switch to turn this console on. This is some proper old school level design.

Jan called me on the radio asking for help, but I couldn't find my way back to the entrance in time. Bloody old school level design.

You know what true old school first person shooters (almost) always had? An automap! Jedi Knight's twisty three dimensional wireframe map may have been a failed experiment, but at least they put something in. Games like Wolfenstein: The New Order prove it's entirely possible to pull it off in a true 3D shooter, and it's a shame that by the late 90s barely any FPS did.


Okay, I saved Jan, activated the console, entered the three codes and unlocked the door to the base proper (no hacking minigame!) And now I'm stuck again.

That arm couldn't look more like a set of steps leading up to that hallway, but I can't reach it from down here. I started off in that room up there on the other side of the windows, but I can't find a door to get inside on that floor. Oh hang on, it turns out that I can just smash the window open and walk through! Jedi Outcast Rule #3: Window glass is always unbreakable, except when it isn't.


I eventually learned that the Imperials were up to something involving lightsaber crystals, but I killed them all before they could tell me what. Worse, they didn't leave any completed lightsabers around for me to take so I'm still stuck using my crude and uncivilised sack full of blasters for now. We at least have a good idea where they got the crystals from though, so now I'm going to blow up a mine.

Jan's staying in the ship this time thankfully, where she can shoot down TIE Fighters instead of getting shot by Stormtroopers. She's the pilot, Kyle's the commando, that's why when he finally got a chance to fly his last ship at the end of Jedi Knight he destroyed the thing beyond repair in less than five minutes.

Star Wars: Jedi Knight (PC)
R.I.P. Moldy Crow; you had a weird name but you looked awesome. Actually it looked suspiciously similar to the new ship now that I think about it. His new craft is called the Raven's Claw by the way, which may or may not have something to do with the game being made by Raven Software.

My job on this planet is to cripple the crystal mining operation. No one mentioned anything about killing everyone in here while I do it, but I'm sure it was implied. I'm also pretty sure that this guy in my crossbow's crosshairs is going to just step out of the way of these bolts I'm firing. Enemies actually take a reasonable number of shots to kill, and a headshot speeds up the process dramatically, but first I have to make the bullets hit them.

And I'm stuck again. There's a floating truck that carries stuff across the facility and I'm pretty sure I need to hitch a ride, but there's only one room in which I can get on top of it and I get cooked alive if I go in there. I've searched this whole damn mine several times over and I can't find a way to turn down the heating.

A security camera reveals the answer: a pipe extends out from the room below to allow the hot air to escape outside. Now I need to figure out where this camera is pointing and get my ass over there. Then I simply have to wait for the pipe to extend, drop down onto it, wait for it to retract again, then pull a Mario and run down the inside all the way to the machinery to put a few space bullets into it before I'm fried.

To be honest I learned this by reading a walkthrough, because I couldn't figure it out myself. In my defence though, the pipe extends below the balcony, so it wasn't exactly making its presence known.

Valve are famous for rigorously playtesting their games, figuring out what parts of their levels are giving people trouble and using all kinds of design tricks to make it clearer where they're meant to go. I'm sure Raven must have done much the same thing, except opposite.


A dark cave full of little bitey things, well that's just awesome.

They're a pain to shoot, so I decided I'd just run past them all instead. It was working great until I had to stop to press a button on the wall, then they all swarmed me like off-brand piranha headcrabs and it was over in seconds. They're making me miss the cliff racer things in Jedi Knight.


There you go, actual TIE Fighters! It's nice to see something absolutely unmistakably Star Wars in here, because with all these grey walkways around I felt like I was back in Star Trek: Elite Force. The game's even got the same kind of shield and weapon energy recharge machines lying around, though I suppose that really comes from Half-Life. I've no regenerating health or shields by the way.

It turns out that the Imperials were forcing colonists to mine the crystals, and I've managed to open up the cells and let them run wild. Thankfully I don't have to escort them all personally, though I do have to find the prison warden and convince him to let everyone out (with a gun, not words). It's so weird having all these people around all of a sudden that I'm not supposed to shoot on sight.

Oh COME ON! After I led him all the way up a huge staircase at gunpoint too!

The warden refused to move at a sensible jog like every other character, so I had to slowly walk behind him, keeping my crosshair trained at him all the way from his office to this door switch. Then the door opened and these bitey things sprang out without warning and murdered him. So now I'll have to do it all over again because apparently there's more doors left to open and I forgot to quicksave.


After getting the miners safely onto a Republic transport ship, I raced to my own ship only to find that Darth Raptorface had gotten there first and he's captured Jan!

I've been trying to ignore how glitchy the shadows look at times because they make the Stormtroopers look good, but it's pretty obvious now that they're not working out. Probably just a side-effect of playing a 2002 game on a modern system, but either way they can't stay.

Darth Lizardhead (or Desann to his friends) is making his first appearance here, but he quickly establishes his villain credentials by having his apprentice take Jan into his shuttle... and then execute her. Just because he knows it'll piss Kyle off. Truly Desann is the most badass animal-head Star Wars character since that horse who became an X-Wing pilot.

Hohass "Runt" Ekwesh
Sadly he's non-canon now too. Damn you J.J. Abrams, you went and ruined Star Wars! At least we'll always have Chewbacca.

Anyway I'm sorry to ruin this shocking character death for you, but to be honest I don't think that Jan is really dead. Because it hasn't flashed up MISSION FAILED, JAN ORS HAS DIED yet.

Blaster rifle, blaster pistol, Wookie space crossbow, stun rod... where's a bloody lightsaber when you need one? I'd throw a thermal detonator at him if I thought there was any chance he wouldn't just throw it right back with his mind. Katarn is a proper old school FPS hero with a limitless capacity for guns, but there's nothing here that's going to harm a Jedi outcast.

Desann picks Kyle up, chokes him a bit like Darth Vader, and then just walks away because this is so far from a fair fight that it's embarrassing for him. He flies off in his shuttle, leaving the mercenary alone with his rage.

Kyle's got a plan though, as in Jedi Knight he became one of the few people in the galaxy who knows the location of the Valley of the Jedi, which contains a big glowing beam of energy that can re-establish his connection with the Force! The last game also established that it gives you the power to "destroy stars with a thought, eradicate billions with a whisper", but Kyle's apparently not using that feature. Sure you really shouldn't be playing around with the Force at all when you're motivated by grief and anger because it leads to the Dark Side, but it'll probably be fine!
Uh oh, it turns out that our villain deliberately tricked Kyle into going to the Valley of the Jedi so that he could secretly follow him there and turn his army of Imperial troops into Dark Jedi. Damn you Raptorface, you cunning bastard!

Kyle doesn't know about any of this though, and continues on to the temple on Yavin 4 (the Rebel base that the Death Star nearly blew up in the first movie) to meet an old friend and get his old sword back.


Hey it's a Luke Skywalker cameo! It's a shame that every trace of charm had to be drained out of the character to make him fit in with the rest of the cast (plus they've even taken the furniture). I miss the FMV cutscenes from the last game; they might not have fit the in-game graphics but at least they could show characters acting.

Here I finally get to learn Desann's dark backstory. He was lonely on the planet of the T-Rex people because he was the only one with Force powers, so he left and became a student at the Jedi Academy. One day he killed a fellow padawan for 'being weak', then ran off to become a supervillain. He's not the deepest of characters.

Kyle's not all that interested in sticking around and chatting though, as he's got revenge on his mind and he needs a lightsaber for that. But Luke tells him that he'll have to be tested on his primary Force skills first and directs him to the ruined temple nearby. Man, the guy's had almost a decade to set up a proper Jedi training base and he's still sending students down into the crumbling ruins to test the most basic powers? No wonder his kids are going nuts.


A floating pre-packaged Force Push cube? Really? Back in the day a Jedi would have to practice lifting pebbles in a swamp with a muppet on his back to attain this kind of power, but now I just need to grab the box and I've got the skill.

In Jedi Knight I chose what powers to unlock and upgrade with a menu between levels, but here it seems I've got no choice in the matter; my abilities are just handed to me as I go.

I still have to prove I know how to use each skill before I'm allowed to continue though. This has always been a bit of a puzzle game, but here it's been made explicit.

Now that I have the Force Push power I can shove things forward when my cursor turns blue and swirly. Pull is sold separately. First I need to turn these wall panels around to reveal a glyph, then I slide the floor tiles along until the centre tile matches. This uses up a bit of Force mana, but the stuff recharges fast.

After this I've got pulling puzzles, running puzzles and jumping puzzles, with my reward at the end being a shiny lightsaber of my own! Actually literally my own lightsaber, as Luke put the thing down here to troll me.


It took me until a third of the way through the game, but I finally get to cut loose with Jedi powers, and man this lightsaber combat is a real step up from Jedi Knight. Kyle's been practising in the years between games, and now I can chain different attacks together just by holding the button and running around. Plus when I'm not swinging the blade around Kyle can pretty much deflect anything these folks can throw at him and send it back their way. Well, everything but the thermal detonators, but I have Force Push for that.

On the downside the game's playing the Mos Eisley cantina music again. Because of course it is. There's a reason why TIE Fighter has the best soundtrack out of all the Star Wars games, and it's partly because it actually has its own soundtrack, instead of playing dynamic clips of movie music.

Sadly the lightsaber is absolutely crap at blocking the snipers that are all over the buildings out here in the streets of Nar Shaddaa. The other enemies in the game have had the decency to hesitate a moment before shooting, but all I have to do is wander into a sniper's sights with low health and Kyle is instantly evaporated! Wrong sci-fi universe Raven, disruptors are from Star Trek, you should know that!

If they're not sniping me from windows in the distance, they're throwing thermal detonators at me from above. I hear grenades falling all around me, clinking around and beeping, but there's nothing on screen to show me where they are. Whichever way I run turns out to be the wrong way and Kyle explodes.

I've put my blade away and switched back to first person view again because it was really wasn't helping much here.

Who thought it'd be a good idea to give the player Force powers and a lightsaber immediately before a level where they're utterly useless? Well except for Force Jump, I'm getting a lot of use out of that one, leaping between buildings, trying to figure out where the game wants me to go. This isn't just scenery you're seeing here, I can run around the sides of all of these buildings, getting sniped at all the way by assholes hiding in the dark.

Well the game's going to get fun eventually, I'm sure of it, and I'm going to stick with it until it happens dammit! After I've taken a long break.


Oh shit... look at those beautiful lightsabers in action! Obviously this guy has a red blade so we could never be friends, but imagine what we could accomplish if we teamed up, all the Stormtroopers we could kill! If I ever get to fight Stormtroopers again that is.

I wish I could describe lightsaber duels in this, but I'd have to understand them first, and I'm not quite there yet. There's a lot of jumping around and blades clashing together, but Kyle's the one doing all the reacting to the attacks coming his way, while I focus on his movement. It seems that fights can be over ridiculously fast if I can get my blade to intersect with the Dark Jedi's body once or twice, so I'm trying to get behind him without letting him see my own back and it's a pretty frantic dance we're doing here.


This is it. This is the reason I started Super Adventures all those years ago, I realise this now. It was to whine about this moment, this corridor.

I mean look at this crap. On my left I've got a mission critical droid that's mindlessly wandering forwards into a hallway rigged with laser tripmines. On my right I've got huge open windows and a row of snipers shooting at me! I just don't have the time to deal with this situation before the robot blows himself up.

Aha, turns out the secret is to Force Push the robot backwards off the lift we came here on... oh no, wait, that blows him up. Shit.


In the end I just sat my fat Jedi ass in the way of the droid and blocked his path while I lobbed grenades down the corridor at the mines. I don't even want to think about how many quickloads it took for me to pull that off.

But things are much happier now! I've got all these Stormtroopers to play with and they're all utterly harmless now that I've Force Pulled their guns away. I'm sure I've seen a few of them pick their old gun back up, but they refuse to use it afterwards. Except for the ones who carry keys that is, those guys are determined to get themselves killed (so they can give me their key). To be honest the difficulty has sort of flatlined since I became utterly unstoppable and learned to heal myself with the force, but at least I'm smiling now. The hardest bit of the levels has always been finding my way around anyway.

Also there's a weird R2-D2 and C-3PO cameo under those stairs over there. Though he doesn't actually sound anything like C-3PO so maybe they're just... cosplaying.


Surprise, it's an instant-fail stealth level! The entire game up to this point has been running, shooting and lightsabering, but now I've got to sneak around without being seen or heard because if any of these guys hits the alarm it's all over. Not because blast doors slam down or poison gas is pumped in or anything like that, no Kyle just thinks that it's a fight he can't win and surrenders. Yeah...

What kind of lunatic rogue developer suddenly introduces a mandatory stealth level during the last third of their run and gun action game? Oh wait, Raven did the same kind of thing in Elite Force didn't they?

And so Kyle is captured, and the camera does the same kind of 'cell door slams, Stormtrooper walks down corridor outside' shot as in the first 'Star Wars' movie. I love how the perspective here makes it look like Kyle's a naughty 12 year old that's been sent to the headmaster's office.

To be fair, the solution to this stealth stage turned out to be pretty much the same solution that I've used in every other level. Jedi Outcast Rule #4: You've walked past the way out five times already, you just haven't seen it yet. There was another way into the stealth room from above, located right next to a convenient light switch. I just blacked out the room, switched on my night vision goggles, and crept through unseen.

Then seven levels later I beat the whole game, but I've subjected you too many pictures already. And that's after I cut all the shots of the Lando Calrissian escort mission!


Star Wars: Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast is a game about being stuck; completely hopelessly stuck in a labyrinth of doors and precarious walkways. I think I must have spent half my time running back and forth down the same corridors, attacking every window, shooting at machinery, headbutting suspicious walls, and trying to activate anything that looked like it had buttons on it. If I was very lucky I'd spot a grate tucked away along the ceiling or a section of the floor would automatically drop down to the next area, otherwise I had to open up the walkthrough again.

On the plus side, the game respects the lightsaber, possibly more than any other Star Wars game I've played. The blade burns through anything it touches, whether you're swinging it or not, so you can just walk into someone and it'll kill them (or use it to cut a spiteful line down the scenery when you fall to your death). It blocks pretty much any laser bolt that comes your way, it kills almost anything in a single hit, it can be thrown and eventually steered through the air, there are three different saber combat styles to suit different opponents, and best of all if you stand in the rain the raindrops fizzle when they hit the blade.

Combat isn't as satisfying as I expected though because enemies can dodge bullets, the lightsaber always takes a half-second longer to swing than I wanted, and I eventually realised that it was smarter just to use Force Pull to disarm everyone instantly because it's faster, it never misses, and it didn't leave me defenceless while I did it. Which is funny because I assumed Force Grip or Force Push would be the overpowered moves given the Empire's continuing fondness for chasms. The game has definitely retained the awesome cavernous rooms and idiosyncratic weird-ass Star Wars architecture of Jedi Knight, though it's somehow even more of a pain in the ass to get around in it.

I'm torn on the game really. It uses the Star Wars setting well and the Force abilities are cool, but it's got a mediocre story and the game design is frustrating. I think I have to give it a star, it inspired me to stick with it to the end after all, but it's the kind of game that seems better in retrospect than when you're actually playing it and I can't honestly say I enjoyed it for the most part.

As always you can leave me a comment if you feel like, I read them all! Except for the spambot ones, those get automatically deleted. But the rest of them I totally read.


  1. What's for next review? Usually you always give bit spoiler for that?
    Anyway i'm quite shocked that Raven make FPS that shoot inaccurately.

    1. Oh the guns aren't inaccurate, at least not any more than you'd expect from a Stormtrooper weapon. If you stand perfectly still, and the enemy stands perfectly still, you can down them in a single headshot pretty consistently. It's just that once you get the first of the group, their friends start running around and shooting, then you start dodging their fire, and it becomes chaos.

      The reason I didn't put a 'next game' picture there is because I didn't know what the next game would be. Things are not running smooth lately, as I've been distracted with other things, but I might edit it in now just to make it look better.

    2. What I do not like is that the blasters have lower rate of fire than current weapons and projectiles are slow enough to be visible, something unacceptable in a futuristic lore in my opinion: the Jedi would have to move at lightning speed rejecting supersonic projectiles ...

  2. This game is fine, but the Force powers are not very spectacular and if someone uses a main melee weapon in a era of generalized range weapons, it makes sense that he / she can defend against all ranged attacks, but in this game against snipers, it is best to act as a sniper.

    You will review Jedi Academy? Both games are very similar, but Jedi Academy has new Force powers, use of lightsaber at the beginning and dual and double-bladed lightsabers.

    1. I'm almost certainly going to play Jedi Academy at some point, but not for a while. It's a bit too similar to put close to Jedi Outcast, and need to take a break from sci-fi games anyway. Especially considering what's coming up soon...

  3. Has level names a la Unreal.


Semi-Random Game Box