Ten years ago, in our very own galaxyâ€¦ Star Wars fans were treated to an exciting FPS romp, with all the lightsaber action and force-related trimmings, in the shape of Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. Now â€“ amidst a flood of such nostalgic re-releases â€“ comes the LucasArts Classics edition of Jedi Knight, along with its expansion, Mysteries of the Sith.
For those of you who donâ€™t remember (ten years is, after all, a long time â€“ something the gameâ€™s graphics attest to), Jedi Knight follows the mercenary Kyle Katarn â€“ an ex- special agent of the Galactic Empire, now working with the Rebel Alliance â€“ as he learns the ways of the Jedi. Controlling Katarn, you begin in more traditional FPS shooter style with just a gun (well: a laser gun, but this is still Star Wars). However, as you progress, you acquire force powers, and better still (for most die-hard Star Wars fans), a lightsaber.
Mysteries of the Sith takes up the story five years after the original game, and includes Mara Jade, one of the most popular Star Wars characters who doesnâ€™t feature in any of the actual movies (being introduced in Timothy Zahnâ€™s novel Heir to the Empire). Left behind early on by Kyle, who has been instructing her, Mara goes undercover for the New Republic, dealing with the politics of the galactic underworld in an attempt to get Kaâ€™Pa the Hutt to supply weapons to the Republic.
Jedi Knight was early to the party with introducing moral decisions and consequences to video games. Nothing complicated, but stuff like the killing of innocents sends you further towards the dark side, and thus opens up a different path for your force training (the powers we all know we love, like the telekinetic throwing of objects and Darth Vaderâ€™s signature strangling grip).
Probably the gameâ€™s best aspect, however, was its multiplayer. At times it is buggy, but there is really very little that matches up against a good lightsaber duel. The sheer fun of going head to head in Jedi Knight, combined with the gameâ€™s huge capacity for modding, kept it popular long after its release.
But this is all old news. The real question is: what about now? Is this really a game worth coming back to, ten years on? There is a certain charm to it â€“ especially the full motion video sequences, of which Jedi Knight, impressively, contains almost an hour of (oh the cheesy wonderfulness!). But the graphics really show their age (as is so often the case with 3D). Sure itâ€™s only $15 - and for the original game and the expansion, that is very reasonable - but if youâ€™re used to looking at todayâ€™s games, going back can be very hard. Iâ€™d far more eagerly recommend the later games in the series.
Mind you, if youâ€™re running an old system, or planning a LAN party and looking for a low-end title that you can install legitimately on many computers for limited moolah, and want something a little bit old-school, but not 16-bit old-school, this is just the ticket. Unfortunately, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m talking to very many of youâ€¦
Now I feel a little bad. I donâ€™t mean to disrespect Jedi Knight. I liked Jedi Knight, especially playing it multiplayer. But as a re-release, Iâ€™m reviewing it as it stacks up today. And by todayâ€™s standards, it just isnâ€™t up to much. On the other hand, itâ€™s $15, and â€“ as Emily points out â€“ when you press that space bar, the doors in the game open with a very satisfying noise. So if youâ€™re considering going to a bad movie, you should get Jedi Knight instead. (Or save that $15 towards buying a toy lighsaber â€“ whatever floats your boat.)