Review – Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (Switch)
There used to be a time when Star Wars video game releases were both plentiful and exciting. From the late 90’s through the 2000’s, there was something for everyone, be it X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, Lego Star Wars, The Force Unleashed, or anything in between. Even during this golden age though, some games stood above others and the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight franchise stood highest of all. The authentic Star Wars feeling it effortlessly channels, the series’ accomplishments as games independent of the license, it was the best of Star Wars gaming. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast remains just as much of a must play, with its story and combat just as exhilarating as they were almost twenty years go.
The most important thing to remember about Jedi Outcast is to not give up during the first level. Essentially a prologue, you’re playing as a back to basics Kyle Katarn with no lightsaber or force powers. While it does an unquestionably fantastic job of setting up the plot, characters, and mechanics, it does drag on just a tad too long especially for those who are here to Jedi up some stormtroopers. It does make the moment where you ignite your blade for the first time feel incredibly satisfying, but you have to stick with it in order to experience it. Once you reach that point though, the game only gets better.
The best thing about this game is the ephemeral way it makes you feel. For most games, talking about this feeling is a PR point, but Jedi Outcast truly channeled the idea of power and control that we all imagine being a Jedi would feel like. Not just in combat, but during exploration and puzzle-solving as well. From force jumping impossible distances, to using your push and pull force powers to manipulate the environment, or warping time itself with force speed, you always feel like you’re in control. Jedi Outcast is a product of old school FPS’s, where puzzle-solving and platforming-based exploration were just as integral to the gaming experience as the fast-paced shooting and slashing, so making them feel just as empowering as the combat was vital. They definitely succeeded.
The one thing about Jedi Outcast everyone always gushes over (aside from Kyle’s snappy comebacks) is the combat. I’m here to say it’s just as good as it has always been, a bar for lightsaber combat that has never come close to being matched outside it’s own sequel, Jedi Academy. Between the handful of force powers at your disposal, three lightsaber forms that allow you to choose between speed, power, or balance, and multi-directional rolls and flips, lighstaber duels are the elegant affairs from the movies we’ve always wanted to replicate.
There’s no best way to play either, with your personal playstyle being the most important factor. The slow methodical player might prefer the Red/Power lightsaber style accompanied by more plentiful and strategic force power use. Whereas a melee-focused aggressive player might prefer to go all in with the Blue/Speed form, with only minimal force power usage. Or anything in between, you play the way you want to play, the combat system can accommodate it. Even for those weirdos who would just prefer a good blaster, there’s a large variety available. Everything from Kyle’s iconic blaster pistol all the way up to the powerful Wookie bowcaster, ranged players are not lacking in choice or weapons that pack a punch.
Now onto the bad things: thankfully, there’s not many of them. The biggest issue stems from its history as a predominantly PC game. It may have released on the original Xbox and even the GameCube, but it was still a PC game at heart, and that remains true to this day. So while the gunplay feels amazing and responsive with a mouse, it feels much less so with a gamepad. To make matters worse, there is no aim assist to smooth things over. So while motion controls make things easier for Nintendo players, everyone else playing pure controller is facing a non-trivial learning curve. It’s not impossible, but it will feel like it at times. There is also currently no option to invert camera controls, so if that’s a problem for you I suggest waiting for the patch Aspyr says is coming. Finally, the menus are hard to navigate, being just the vanilla PC menus with a questionable lock on cursor to move around. Not unusable and hardly game-breaking, but certainly annoying.
While Star Wars games have historically always been free of the stigma that normally follows licensed titles, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, as well as the rest of its series, is still outside the norm. The strong darker-themed story, the expansive tightly designed levels, the exhilarating combat system that deserves every bit of praise it’s ever gotten, it set the bar for what a Star Wars game should be. Maybe one day we’ll get another Star Wars game that can give it a run for it’s money.
For a game from 2002, it could look a lot worse. The id Tech 3 engine does wonders.
The gunplay isn’t the best while using a controller with no aim assist, but the lightsaber and force combat is timeless.
Music, weapon sound effects, even the noises opening and closing doors make is as authentically Star Wars as you could want.
Fun Factor: 9.0
It takes some time to get started, but once it does there’s no letting up. Great level design matched with classic Star Wars storytelling and action.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is available now on PS4, Xbox, PC, Gamecube and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was provided by the publisher.