I'm always wary of established brands - there is perhaps
a tendency for people to become complacent with them, and
sell inferior products simply based on a name. Luckily, if
that is indeed a trend, JK2 (as I'll now refer to the title)
bucks it, and reminds me not to rely on rules for more than
the briefest guidance.
So before we start, look over to the right- JK2 is good,
very good. I'll not jump up and say that JK2 is the best possible
game out there - it's not, there are a small number of flaws
with the game that disappoint me, mainly because they could
so easily have been eliminated.
I hold a few rules up as cardinal rules for single player
games - among these rules is this "A game designer should
never put any trap in the game that can't be avoided by a
clever and observant player, first time, without having seen
it before". A hypothetical example of this would be a
bridge that is scripted to collapse when you cross, but will
cause your death if, perchance you're running at the time
(with no warning). To my mind, Raven break this rule once
or twice in this game, and it's a testament to how much I
enjoy the game that I don't mind much. As advice, whenever
you play this game, make good use of the quicksave feature.
This actually leads into the one area that probably accounts
for 90% of the small things that I think are wrong with this
game. The things that are on occasion lacking from this game
are hints and explanations - why do you have to go up this
core to get where you want to go? Often, the levels, while
being linear, present no sort of explanation for the reason
that you have to take one route, despite it seeming to be
a particularly strange one. Many things also become a matter
of pressing every button until it's blue (apparently this
is the colour the Empire assigned to Rebel friendly button
There are likely to be one or two places in the game where
Raven completely baffles you. I suggest you at least know
one or two sites that stock walkthroughs, even if you don't
like using them. You'll find some in the site's links section.
Minor weaknesses aside, Raven have turned out a great single
player game and storyline (which it should be noted, isn't
Starwars cannon (aka what actually happens in the universe),
so if the storyline doesn't mesh with Starwars 7 when it comes
out, don't bother yourselves too much).The story is told though
in game comments and conversations, with FMV being used only
to show spaceships traveling between levels. The characters
are all well done, with good voice acting and skins, although
there are some join lines around the face on some characters,
and the way they bare their teeth when talking is a little
weird. The main character, Kyle Katarn, actually reminds me
a little of Chuck Norris.
Some reviews have criticized the start of the game and the
gameplay before you get the lightsaber, but frankly, I can't
see what they're complaining about. Starting off the game,
you get a fairly gentle introduction to everything which any
First Person Shooter player will pick up with ease. Getting
into using the lightsaber is much better left until you're
comfortable with the game, and the same goes for the force
powers. Force powers, it should be noted, are by default assigned
to the function keys, which makes them quite difficult to
reach in the middle of combat, and will penalize you both
online and in the single player game (Force Push and Pull
are very effective for groups on later levels) I strongly
suggest that you remap the force keys to keys surrounding,
but not including, WSADEB.
As you progress through the game, your freedom of movement
increases dramatically as you gain extra force powers such
as Force Speed and Force Jump, but this in no way compares
to the staggering number of moves that you can pull off. Pulling
out your lightsaber switches you to a third person view (although
you can turn this off), all the better to swing with and all
the better to appreciate the agility of your character. Many
moves similar to those in 'The Matrix' are there, including
running along walls, flipping off them and somersaulting in
every direction - with a bit of practice, your character will
move like a Jedi, which makes the experience all the experience
all the more worthwhile.
You'll probably get very annoyed with the enemies who sport
the thermal detonators (grenades) or the sniper rifle equivalent,
but the story and the slick gameplay, coupled with the outrageously
fun lightsaber will pull you along this game.
56k modem lines are getting a bit outdated now, and it
shows in the way that Valve have rolled out Steam technology
for broadband users. So it is with online gaming, while you
can just about manage most games, it's that much more difficult
to find a server, and you'll find that broadband users have
an advantage. If you're stuck with a 56k line, JK2 is still
very playable and also includes bots for offline play, but
to get the best experience, you'll want a faster connection.
JK2 includes several gametypes, including Free For All (deathmatch),
Team FFA, CTF, CTY (Capture the Ysalamari), Duel, Jedi Master
and Holocron Deathmatch. Duel pairs off 2 players at a time,
with the rest spectating on some smaller dedicated levels,
you may find it a better use of your time to simply play FFA
on a server with only Sabers (with or without powers) as players
on these levels have the option of challenging each other
anyway (When a challenge is accepted, 2 players become invulnerable
to others, cannot harm others and must kill each other using
only the lightsaber (no force powers)) and players will often
(on certain servers) pair up and bow to each other, then fight.
Playing on one of these FFA servers therefore eliminates the
waiting time between rounds.
From the other game types, I would class CTF as fairly weak
- Force Speed is highly unbalanced, and without force powers,
it's just not the same. Jedi Master is intresting, but I doubt
is will hold anyone's attention for a very long time - it
features a single lightsaber that you can pick up that will
give you all the force powers at full strength, everyone else
then tries to kill the Jedi master, a very difficult matter
if the Master decides to run away. It's quite frustrating
because of the difficulty of catching up to the Master and
the lack of the ability to kill anyone but the Jedi Master
when someone has the saber.
The multiplayer is great fun, and the robust Quake 3 netcode
will actually prove a relief to those used to getting WSAEINTR
errors and the like in Counterstrike, but I doubt that it
will permanently pull many people away from the more standard
deathmatching or team based games.
JK2 is built on the Quake 3 engine, and the graphics and
design are all sumptuous. Levels have the same staggering
vertical scale as some of the structures in the films and
the Stormtroopers and lightsabers just look 'right'. There's
certainly no question that the Quake 3 engine can handle colour
and not just drab red-browns when you look at this game.
Graphically, JK2 is excellent, I can't fault it one bit.
Music in games often gets on my nerves after I hear it
for a while repeating, but somehow JK2 manages to avoid this
completely. The classic Starwars themed music is there in
abundance, and it adds real mood and authenticity to the title.
Sound wise, the game is also spot on. Lightsabers, droids,
doors and Stormtroopers all make the right noises, to the
point were you don't even notice it unless you specifically
think about it.
JK2 is an excellent game, that benefits from the stability
of the Quake 3 engine and does everything in terms of feel
right. There's some faults with the single player game, but
the overriding quality that is present though the entire product
means you should easily forgive them. This game is well worth
owning if you're either a fan of FPSs or the Star Wars universe.
Daniel 'Inept' Speed (firstname.lastname@example.org)