star wars jedi knight ii: jedi outcast - switch Review
The video game often attributed as one of (if not the best) the best Star Wars games ever made has been re-released on today's current consoles. How does this 17-year old experience fare today?
I remember playing this game when it first came out and ill admit, I did not like it. The 13 year old me was used to playing more casual games that would often hold your hand, pointing you in the direction of each new objective as they came. I remember always being stuck and thinking that I had somehow 'broken' the game by not playing it properly. The 13 year old me was not aware that PC games were a lot more hardcore (for lack of a better word), they did not hold your hand and often told you very little about what needed to be done, instead leaving you to figure it out through exploration, trial and error. I ended up playing the multiplayer mode against bots as an overpowered Jedi, before choosing to sell it. Fast-forward 17 years and the game has been released on the Nintendo switch. Seeing the game on the Nintendo eShop for less than a tenner prompted me to buy it immediately. I had heard such good things about it throughout the years and, now a seasoned gamer, wanted to tackle this adventure with my new found abilities and my 'adult brain'.
Firstly, the game opts for a first or third person perspective. It follows a man named Kyle Katarn who starts the game as a mercenary but eventually becomes a Jedi (Kyle was also a Jedi in the past). When the game starts you are only able to use guns and a stun baton (that kills... 🤔), the game plays at this point like your generic first person shooter. It is evident how game design and gameplay has changed over the years. This game is really difficult, the level of precision that is required to shoot enemies consistently and accurately is ridiculous mainly due to how erratic and frequent their movement. Due to this, I have a feeling that the developers intended for this game to be played with a keyboard and mouse. Simply hitting an enemy can sometimes be frustrating. A large amount of enemies often populate an area and the A.I can sometimes seem brilliant but is often questionable. The majority of the guns in the game have laser projectiles that can be easily seen as they travel. The player can avoid these lasers (especially when getting shot at from a distance) which often results in strafe battles. This all changes, however, when the player finally gets his lightsaber. The lightsaber combat is still fun and exhilarating and possibly the best lightsaber combat available in any Star Wars game. I think this is due to its precision and difficulty. The game does not hold your hand and offers no lock-on whatsoever; which forces (no pun intended) the player to think about his attacks and have good spacial awareness. Players have 3 lightsaber stances: light, medium and heavy. When in a light stance, projectiles are deflected easily; in the medium stance, players can deflect projectiles but also have decent offensive capabilities and in the heavy stance players have high offense but low defense. It is vital to choose the correct stance and to know where all the enemies are as an enemy that is behind you will whittle down your health if you aren't careful. Battles escalate further when lightsaber wielding opponents are introduced. Players are also given 8 force powers to use which they learn or collect throughout the game. This makes for some nail-biting encounters which demand the players full attention. There is a level of skill to this game (watch some YouTube videos of skilled players to see what can be done) which makes players want to continually hone their skills.
The game design I found the most frustrating. It is often unclear precisely what needs to be done and figuring out what needs to be done rarely results in a feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes you may not notice a switch or command console you were supposed to press and this is simply due to the fact that it does not stand out enough or is a new type of switch that you have never seen before. Another example was when I was presented with a small pool of electrified water. I could see the pipe which was producing the electricity was in a room to the left of the pool behind some glass that I could not break and was stumped as to how to turn off the electricity. In the end, I resulted in looking at a walkthrough online (dont judge me, we've all done it) and to my frustration, found out that I had to shoot a small metal object next to me to blow a hole in the wall. This annoyed me because the object looked like a basic metal bin or some irrelevant object, I did not understand why the developers did not make it more evident that this object could explode. I had noticed it but did not think to shoot at it as it looked so useless and there had been a number of other objects that exploded when shot at, so was confused as to why one of these objects was not used instead. There are a number of other areas which had me lost and most were due to something that I had neglected to realise or consider. Admittedly, this may be due to my own shortfalls when considering how a game has been designed as I am used to playing games that are a lot more obvious or 'hand holdey'.
I think it is unfair to speak about the graphics of this game due to it being over a decade old, so am not going to dwell on them for long. The game does not look great but it does not look awful (considering how old it is). The sound design I found to be quite good. The signature Star Wars sounds of the blasters and lightsabers are all present and the voice acting, although not good, is not awful.
Overall Jedi Knight II is a blast. I can see why so many fans still regard it as one of the best Star Wars games ever made and it surprises me that the game did not receive any real sequel. Despite its shortcomings, I would recommend this game for any Star Wars fan who owns a Switch, but would tell others who own a PC or other console to maybe try one of the more recent Star Wars titles. The switch version does not include the multiplayer mode and although this may not be major for some people, I remember how much fun this mode was overall.