poniedziałek, 2 maja 2011

Short Review #22: Dark Forces II - Jedi Knight

I'm a big Star Wars fan, and I count Jedi Knight II and Jedi Academy among my favourite titles. I remember playing the Dark Forces II demo to death in my pre-Pentium days, loving that one level and loving the lightsaber. Jedi Knight + Mysteries of the Sith (the expansion) was one of my charity shop / entertainment exchange buys, but I couldn't get it to run on my laptop for some reason, so I only played it recently on the "main PC". And I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed.

The FPS action bits of the game are quite enjoyable, though there are some weapons which are pretty much unusable (grenades which can't be thrown away for shit and proximity mines you plant RIGHT UNDER your feet and they are instantly armed), and others which are way better than others (there's no reason to use the pistol once you've got the rifle, and no reason to use the crossbow at all once you have the Repeater). But yeah, those bits, generally fun. However, once you get the force powers and a lightsaber, the gameplay starts becoming rather frustrating...

This is because this game was obviously less capable than the designers thought it was. Using the lightsaber feels clunky and clumsy, leaving little reason to use it at all unless you need to. The choice of Force Powers is very weird, some of them are useless (like Pull), others are really hard to use efficiently (Jump doesn't work nearly as good as it should), and generally I tried to avoid using them... which seems strange, considering how this is a Star Wars game with "Jedi" in the title. Worst are the lightsaber duels with the many Dark Jedi you encounter. You just can never know if you're going to hit the guy or not, and if yes, if you're going to damage him in any significant way. It's a total crap shoot.

The plot itself is pretty mediocre, you've got a group of Dark Jedi (where did they come from is anyone's guess), led by a guy named Jerec, who finds out the location of the fabled Valley of the Jedi and goes there to power up. Kyle Katarn's father is killed by Jerec, and so the ex-Republic Commando comes into action. The plot is presented via movie-like cutscenes, and boy, the term "ham & cheese sandwich" gains a new meaning with these! The acting is almost universally TERRIBLE. The delivery, expressions and dialogue is plain crap, sometimes so bad it hurts. Virtually all the characters are over the top, the only one being roughly ok being Jan Ors. Even Katarn is played with a lot of trying too hard, and the actor himself doesn't look right...

I haven't completed the game because I got stuck on the final boss fight and decided I just don't care much. I have the expansion, but don't plan on playing it. I could give a pass on all those previously mentioned flaws, but there's one other thing which drives me crazy about this game - the long, complicated and sprawling levels. I got stuck on a regular basis, having to resort to walkthroughs to continue playing. I think this is just a symptom of the broader problem - the game was simply on a historical threshold, a boundary between the old FPS games like Doom and Quake (and the first Dark Forces which was basically Doom with a Star Wars setting) and the new ones, the ones that wanted to innovate. Another game released the same year was Quake 2, and it was great because it didn't try to innovate, but instead went for improving the formula it knew and fell comfortable with. I have to congratulate Jedi Knight for trying, but ultimately, it's a pretty (not beautiful) failure.

My final rating is a rather weak 6/10. A game which I would only recommend to die-hard Star Wars fans. Nobody else should really care enough to play this game at this point.

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