Star Wars Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight 2
"A Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side.” Immortal lines, and also the words which instantly betrayed Raven’s new project when the press release finally confirmed rumours on the 17th of May 2001. Jedi Knight II was in development. The wait was coming to an end. Quite a wait it was too; literally years since the initial Jedi Knight game wowed audiences as the most in-depth and convincing Star Wars shooter available, and one of the best examples of the genre. Ever since there have been clamours from the deeply enthused fan-base for a sequel; and finally Lucas Arts have caved-in; announcing a direct sequel, that, it would appear, is designed to coincide with the launch of the Episode II film. Unusually for the prolific high-standards of Lucas Arts, they’ve made the decision not to develop the game in-house, instead sub-contracting the project out to genre-Veterans Raven Software. Raven have such hits under their collective belts as Hexen II, Heretic II, Soldier of Fortune, and Elite Force. Not many developers have more experience than Raven, and their knowledge of the first-person action genre is exemplary.
In undertaking development of Jedi Knight II, Raven themselves will be constantly overseen by the watchfully creative eyes of Lucas Arts; ensuring that the game matches up to their high standards for this crucial Star Wars outing. The technology behind the game will be supplied from the great gaming-engine-factory of id Software and their uber-techno geek John Carmack, the impressive Quake 3: Arena engine being employed to bring George Lucas’ world to life. If the stunning Return to Castle Wolfenstein is anything to go by, then Raven have made a fine choice in id Software’s codings; as that game really shows the power and versatility of the technology. As do the initial screenshots from the game, I hasten to add. Raven have added to the technology themselves too, doubling the polygon count of characters and enhancing the reflective surface capabilities available.
Raven appear to have really thrown themselves into the project with great enthusiasm; no doubt inspired by the rich potential of the plot and atmosphere imbued in the Star Wars myth. As with the original Jedi Knight, the game will once again include first and third person perspectives. With the latter being better for control (and appreciation, no doubt!) of the light sabre, and the first-person perspective being the main focus overall, as well as the default. With the all-important light sabre duelling in mind, Raven are promising an intuitive control system, that is simple, yet allows for a variety of complex moves and animations – which will hopefully exploit the true child-hood fantasy fun of wielding the weapon. The action of the game at large should be far more detailed, thanks to Raven’s efforts in motion-capture, which should also make the multiplayer experience all the more vivid.
As with Jedi Knight, Kyle Katarn will once again be the hero of the day – at least in single-player – though a host of familiar faces will apparently be available to control in multiplayer. It is also confirmed that Luke Skywalker (for many years my Playground moniker) will be putting in an appearance during the single-player campaign; though not sadly the voice of Mark Hamill, as was rumoured at one stage. Once again, Kyle’s force powers will be present in the game, and will increase in power depending on RPG-style experience points. Something called ‘Mind trick’, for example, allows the player to distract enemies away from his position, and betray their thoughts. This pseudo- RPG element to the game will also include the use of NPC’s at various stages throughout the game; with whom Kyle can join-forces against the enemy.
Raven are keen to point out that, in stark contrast with their eighteen-certificated Soldier of Fortune, the game will focus far less on ultra-violence, and, whilst a little gore will be present, the action will none the less be very much “in keeping with the Star Wars universe”. This will be reflected in the gameplay as a whole too, as the focus will be leaning more towards plot-based exploration and puzzle-solving, rather than pure killing and destruction. A number of familiar locales will be brought to rich-life throughout the game, including the Cloud City, the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4, Smugglers Moon, and Nar Shaddaa, as well as some never before scene environments.
The music, you’ll be pleased to hear, is once again to be provided by the excellent John Williams (who most recently displayed his talent in the soundtrack to the Harry Potter film), and it will be his orchestral compositions that compose the bulk of the game’s soundtrack. The choice of music; it’s pace, volume and intensity, will be dynamic, and will therefore respond to the type of action unfolding in the game. A very exciting prospect.
On a personal note, fans of the series may well be pleased that I confirm that Jar Jar Binks will definitely not feature in the game; though the plot, which will include the inner-Battle in Kyle between the light and dark sides of the force, will incorporate an array of well-known characters. The story will be furthered throughout the single-player game, via a mixture of pre-rendered cut-scenes and in-game cinematics; a device used to good effect in the mission briefings of Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
Multiplayer will be high on Raven’s list of priories as well. With confirmed game-modes including team-based, standard death-match and Capture-the-Flag. With the use of the Quake 3: Arena engine, the implementation of multiplayer should prove quite easy for Raven; given the technology is originally designed with a multiplayer focus. The thought of epic Rebels vs. Imperial team-matches is quite an irresistible proposition, especially baring in mind the attention Raven are lavishing upon the greater use of the Light Sabre than in Jedi Knight.
So we draw to the inevitable conclusion of this preview – what more can I say? There is no more information currently available, sorry, you’ll just have to wait. As the launch date, estimated to be the second-quarter of 2002, grows nearer, we’ll be sure to update you further on the progress of this astonishing game. Let me leave you now with the words of a Raven representative, who said recently in an on-line chat session, when asked on the games advancements over it’s predecessor “We have enhanced the light sabre duelling and there are also significant improvements on the AI and of course the graphics.” Need I say any more. Thought not.