Eurogamer: Jedi Knight Retro

By John Walker on October 11th, 2009 at 8:56 pm.

I can see our spacehouse from here!

Over at Eurogamer today I’ve a retro piece about the completely brilliant Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. Or Jedi Knight to its friends. It includes words such as:

“And by crikey, it’s good. It’s very, very good. It’s so good that you can only look down at the ground, shake your head in confusion, and slowly pen a letter to LucasArts asking them what the hell they were thinking when they abandoned FPS development and handed the reins over to Raven. With this, Dark Forces, and indeed the enormous Mysteries of the Sith expansion, LucasArts demonstrated a rare and brilliant skill with a genre that’s so often so mediocre.”

Read the rest here.

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64 Comments »

  1. dancingcrab says:

    Awesome game. I must played MotS at some point.

  2. robrob says:

    The article is spot on. I have a lot of happy memories of Jedi Knight even though I played it years after it came out. The FMV hasn’t aged, it’s just become charming.

  3. Vandelay says:

    You are clearly not a friend of this game, because we all call it Dark Forces 2, giving it the respect it deserves. As much fun as Outcast and Academy were, they were nothing compared to Dark Forces or DF2.

    I think what really stands this game apart from the later entries in the series is the fact that they never got blinded by the lightsaber. They made it great fun to use, but never at the expense of the other weapons. The second you get a lightsaber in Jedi Knight 2, you don’t want to use anything but and with Academy the other weapons were never needed any way. This comes partly from the fact it is a friggin’ lightsaber, but also because every other weapons was completely hopeless. In Dark Forces 2 you never felt bad when you had to switch to another weapon.

  4. FupDuk says:

    played this on release and played it again about a year ago. and dipped in to it in between. it’s a brilliant game despite looking a bit dated, however imagination fills in the lack of detail or something.

  5. DMcCool says:

    Wonderful game. I remember when my dad brought it, I looked at the back as he explained it was a game where you could choose to be good or bad, you decided what the story was.
    I was blown away. More than any game I had ever played it was -my- story, I know the good/evil bar has become a bit of a computer game trope but at the time it was mind-blowing (at least for a young, well, me). Being a hero because I -choose- to be a hero made it all so much more satisfying.

  6. Josh B says:

    I played this game and mysteries of the sith so many times its not even funny. Rushing at a stormtrooper with force speed and slicing through him with a lightsaber in 1997 graphics still isn’t old.

    Anyone remember how using gun #9 (atomic air blaster?? I never knew the name) on the level with all the space monkeys caused them to shriek in pain while flying into a wall or down a cliff?

  7. Darthey says:

    Brilliant game. The ‘escape from the falling ship’ level remains one of my all-time favourites.

    I always invested my force starts in the goody powers, though. Couldn’t bring myself to be evil.

    Once I completed the ‘evil’ ending just to get the cutscene, and felt guilty for a week afterwards.

    • bill says:

      I totally agree. Whenever there is one of those “memorable moments in videogames” threads in a frum, i always bring that one up.

      Though i had a different experience. I was walking the line between light and dark, and about in the middle. THen i hit the “crunch point” and got tipped all the way to the dark side. One point i was being mildly heroic, next i was becming evil, killing friends, and being blasted into a falling, SPINNING* ship while a voice echoed around my head “once you fall to the dark side….”

      *actually, after running around like a headless chicken, the ship exploding, and then replaying the level, i realised the ship WASN’T SPINNING, and it was actually quite easy. But it freaked me out so much the first time that i totally lost it.

  8. cliffski says:

    I loved this game, even though, like 95% of games, I could never finish it. I would HAPPILY pay full price again if they just tarted it up for re-release with higher res textures or whatever, as FPS games do tend to age really badly.
    Happy times

  9. drygear says:

    You should play the user-made level Imperial Siege on Derra IV: http://www.commandchamber.net/levels/review.php?id=10

    It’s kind of a variation on Into The Dark Palace, but even better.

  10. MrSafin says:

    I think that on a website somewhere (i think it was Massassi Temple) you can download the updated models pack for a new look on the game.

  11. Bib Fortuna says:

    For me the best game still remains the original Dark Forces (for DOS)…

  12. Dain says:

    I’d highly advise playing through the game with the high res model/texture packs and one of the glowsaber/saber combat mods like Guardians of the Galaxy or Saber Battle X (Although the trouble with those is that you’ll loose some guns in favour of different sabers)

    There are some really good single player campaigns out there too.. Birth of a Mercenary Special Edition (A Dark Forces prequel) and it’s unfinished sequel trilogy Life of a Mercenary are really good. There are still modders out of there pushing the engine.

  13. Scandalon says:

    I just want to know why I can never reach Eurogamer from my ISP…

  14. lumpi says:

    One of the few classics I missed. Now I feel like digging this up and experience the amazement of playing a 90ies, top-of-the-tops golden age masterpiece for the first time ever in the year 2009. Jealous?

  15. Anonymous Penguin says:

    If I recall correctly #9 was a concussion rifle and the flying things were called mailocs.

  16. Tom says:

    I can only agree that this game, and it’s add-on are great. Of course nothing outshines their prequel Dark Forces, but that should be obvious.
    For anyone who wants to re-live any of these gems, take my advice,FORGET about the steam versions!! Either buy or torrent the original versions some place and maybe think about using these very nice little projects:
    For the original Dark Forces: http://darkxl.wordpress.com/ not quite complete, but getting there, and
    For Dark Forces 2 aka Jedi Knight: http://www.jkhub.net/project/show.php?projid=242 mentioned somewhere above!

  17. Sunjammer says:

    Beh, Jedi Outcast was the pinnacle of this series in terms of gameplay, and second only to the first DF in terms of starwarsiness (it’s a word look it up). JK is absolute last on my list, even below Jedi Academy. I absolutely enjoyed JK, but even at its time it was a total mess of a game. The light saber combat was about as kinetic or reliable as a trip to your girlfriend’s bathroom for a particularly violent bowel movement. For all their good intent, compared to the rock solid DF, JK was pure flailmatics. The “duels” near the end (which were more like running at a dude and hoping you’d connect and then running away again) practically DEMAND Yakety Sax. The SPEED at which you run around that world doesn’t do much to solidify it either.

    Don’t even get me started on the visuals. Saying the models haven’t aged well is a bit off. They were ugly as sin at first sight as well. The game pulled off epic environments, but as soon as characters were dropped into it it turned into duplo starwars.

    Gah. It feels off saying bad things about a game i played and loved to death at its release, but going back to it today is an absolute nightmare. Can’t knock Lucasarts for trying though. They sure had ambition.

    • bill says:

      Heresy!!! ;-)

      That’s not at all the game i remember… but i guess we all have different views.
      I found the saber combat much more predctable than JO. Not as pretty maybe, and probably more simple, but at least i knew what move it would do.

    • Sunjammer says:

      I really, really got into JO. So much so i wrote a fan letter to Raven. I was really into martial arts cinema at the time and i felt JO was a near perfect blend of flying sword action and the starwars universe, much more so than Lucas mustered with his movies. Some of the battles near the end of that game were truly epic, whereas JK’s battles were in epic locales that never really contained enough calamity to match them.

      But it’s probably a matter of taste. I really can’t say JK was a bad game, more that it was sort of mad. That engine though.. Huhrhhgh… Not a pretty journey.

  18. Will Tomas says:

    I got DF2 from Steam with the Jedi Knight pack – loved Dark Forces back in the day but never played the sequel. Notwithstanding the music issues with the Steam version, I haven’t been able to get the higher res packs to work with it. Has anyone managed to upgrade the Steam version? Or is it impossible?

  19. Zyrxil says:

    This article is pure nostalgia. Granted I played it “back then” as well and am not affected, but still, Dark Forces II had absolute shit level design and terrible force leveling based on finding Secrets. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was easily its superior, many times over.

    • bill says:

      Huh? Outcast had the most DULL level designs of any FPS for years. Plus it totally failed to capture the feel of Star Wars. Nar Shadar looked like something from star trek (and felt about the size of a park).

      DF2 had awesome level design. For one it had the awesome verticality of the cities, which were much larger scale and more open than anything at the time (ie Quake2) or Outcast. Plus the levels were mostly based on massive environmental puzzles… and not long corridor crawls like Outcast/Halo/Etc.

      I still love the level where you are basically travelling vertically down for the whole level, but have to keep manipulating a giant crate through the level, and using it to progress.

    • John Walker says:

      No it wasn’t nostalgia. I played the game in order to write the piece. It’s based on my experiences playing it last week. But thanks!

    • Heliocentric says:

      If you want to challenge John’s integrity tell him he couldn’t do a proper retrospective because he is “a big weepy girl pants”, that will make him cry and also prove you right.

    • Vandelay says:

      To make Outcast’s Nar Shadaa level even worse, it was the level that immediately followed getting your lightsaber. So, when you eventually actually get the thing you’re playing the game for (and the only decent weapon in the game) you are forced down sniper alley, where you have to rely on the horrid inaccurate and dull weapons.

      Outcast doesn’t get good until the cloud city levels (even those are hit and miss – basically when the stormtroopers turn up), and then it becomes fantastic. But the previous levels are a complete slog. Outcast is by far the weakest of the series, for all its excellent lightsaber mechanics.

      I think I know what I’m going to be playing in the coming weeks.

  20. Matt says:

    I think in terms of gameplay, Jedi Outcast was terrifically (sp?) better than Jedi Knight. I know it’s got a reputation of having you rely on the lightsaber at the detriment of the other weapons, but my feeling that if you have a lightsaber, you really SHOULD NOT need anything else. The only reason why that didn’t apply to Jedi Knight is because the lightsaber controls (or the Force powers) didn’t work they way they should have.

    That being said, the level design in Jedi Knight was terrifically better than Jedi Outcast. When I think of level design in Jedi Knight, the first thing my memory brings back is the spaceport level (learning how to manipulate the fuel tanks to proceed), the giant tower level, or the escaping the ship level – very cool stuff. When I think of Jedi Outcast’s level design, I think of a particular room in what I believe was a star destroyer – You have to force jump between these little boxy rooms that are not connected to each other or anything else (and yet somehow there were stormtroopers in some of the little rooms). I can’t really think of any other memorable levels. Not a ringing endorsement of level design there.

    I guess my pipe dream would be to have Jedi Knight’s levels with Jedi Outcast’s gameplay setup.

    • bill says:

      I totally agree with you about the level design. I still remember almost all the Jedi Knight levels, but almost none of the outcast ones. The JK levels were about the first FPS to do large open areas. Even though Quake2 looked better, it’s levels were still mostly small and enclosed. JK had huge towers, flying ships, cavernous hangers, entire cities, etc.. And those levels you mentioned all have a special place in my heart. It was a great mix of environmental puzzles, exploration, platforming and fun.

      I can’t say i agree about outcast though. I hear great things about the multiplayer, but purely from a singleplayer viewpoint i prefered the JK lighsaber. It mght not have been as cinematic, but it felt more predictable and it fitted in well with the other weapons. In some circumstances it was great, in others you needed a gun.
      The saber in outcast always felt to random, i was never 100% sure what move it’d pull off. Maybe i just sucked.
      Outcast was also the only game that i finished without realising i’d gained a rocket launcher 4 levels back.. :-o the weapons truely sucked.

    • Sunjammer says:

      The JO lightsaber acts like a weapon in a japanese-style third person fighting game. Moving in various directions and even combinations of directions results in different moves. I had a MUCH higher degree of control over that thing, which elevated the game tremendously. I’ll be first in line to say JO is a boring mess until you get the saber.

      You can’t really overlook Jedi Academy either. It’s more of a vignette game than anything else, but it has some of the best lightsaber combat ever put into a game, much, much more appealing than the light-baton combat of STFU (haha, i didn’t notice that acronym until now, sigh). With practise you can absolutely DOMINATE opposition with well timed, well aimed attacks. I can’t think of higher praise.

      The one thing i felt JO did truly wrong was force grip. That power resulted in so much hilarity. Big wind up to boss fight, TA DA SHE DROPS IN, LET’S FIGH oh wait i already force-grab-flicked her off into space.

  21. DarthJarJar says:

    Wassa that game with da demo wheresa you run up inside da fuel pipe to a beeg beeg ship at da top?

    Meesa likey dat one a lot! Like my best friend Ani!

  22. Spacewalk says:

    As much as I like Jedi Knight I couldn’t possibly think of suffering through its implementation of lightsabers in this post-Jedi Outcast world. A mod that recreates …Knight levels in …Outcast would be just the ticket, maybe then I could have a lightsaber that has a swing animation that isn’t vastly sped up in first person and that didn’t handle like the axe from Quake with an alt-fire.

  23. Mman says:

    I first played it about a year ago while checking out various older FPS games I didn’t get around to playing. Some of the set-pieces, such as that palace level exterior mentioned in the article, are still on a stunning scale even today, especially considering the multiple player approaches it supports.

    It, along with the other games I checked out, also helped confirm that my feelings about changes in level design in 3D games as time have gone on are more than just nostalgia (I already knew that argument was a load of shit, but at least I’ve given myself definite proof now), and the article covered that somewhat too. Many earlier 3D games have a certain wonder behind them at the expansion to three dimensions, and they sprawl level design out in all directions as part of that, while it leads to more cases of overcomplexity and obliqueness (in JK’s case there were a couple of times I found the way very unintuitive, like pressing an almost completely unmarked computer panel, or areas that were simply so abstract it’s hard to get any bearing at all), it also strikes gold at various points and leads to some amazing layouts. That’s compared to newer games, that, as more standards developed, have a more consistent approach to level layouts but stay within a certain “comfort zone” without really stretching themselves outside of rare exceptions (and set-pieces). Admittedly, it may be a technical thing too.

    This reminds me I need to check out the expansion too, since, from what I’ve heard, it’s the rare kind that actually expands on the game in interesting ways rather than just being an above-average map pack

  24. Dain says:

    Better JK saber combat you say?

    http://massassi.net/levels/download_level.php3?level_id=1887

    You can find the same mod for MOTS on the same site.

    Or perhaps try this ‘un for size:

    http://www.massassi.net/levels/download_level.php3?level_id=1864

  25. Metal_Circus says:

    Hmm. Lofty praise. Does this work on Vista then? I may have to get it. (somehow.)

  26. hitnrun says:

    Great game.

    Can’t touch Jedi Outcast, of course. JK2:JO is, sadly – yes, I mean sadly – still one of the best action games available on any platform. Not “for its time” or “if you update its graphics;” it’s just plain old still one of the best, at face value.

    • JKjoker says:

      JK2 has the huge problems that the non jedi levels and the first few jedi level are incredible annoying and that the difficulty curve is screwed up it starts impossibly high (if you play on the hardest setting you can barely get shot and youll run out of ammo all the time) but then takes a dive so abruptly it makes casual games look like hell, once your jedi powers level up a little you are god, most ppl quit before it gets good (i finished it and i still havent been able to go past those levels when i tried to replay it last year)

      JK1 has much better non jedi levels, in JK1 the weapons were actually useful too, in JK2 you never put down the saber for anything other than sniping, JK1 had another problem/awesome thing (depending on how you look at it), levels are HUGE, whoever decides to take on JK1 has to keep it mind it puts any current fps length to shame

    • bill says:

      but even “for it’s time” JK:JO was a totally average game. The story was terrible. The weapons were worse. The levels were small, limited, linear and didn’t have a star-wars feel. The RPG elements weren’t as good as JK. There were no npcs. Most of the enemies were pushovers, but then you got the occasional saber battle on top of a instant-death pit.

      The game had a cinematic saber system. That was it’s only positive point. Totally deserved the 5/10 Edge gave it.

      Mostly it bugged me because it felt more like Elite Force than Jedi Knight.

  27. Muzman says:

    I think you Jedi Outcast fans have a rose tinting problem. At its best it was a lot of fun but it was one of those games that didn’t understand its own strengths. They kept mixing it up with some really annoying, time consuming puzzling and platforming. A lot. The great light saber battles v other wielders or crowds of mooks become few and far between as you go along, but they were the best aspect. It also has one of the all time worst end boss fights.
    Putting on realistic saber damage does make it extremely fun though.

  28. bill says:

    Huh? Outcast had the most DULL level designs of any FPS for years. Plus it totally failed to capture the feel of Star Wars. Nar Shadar looked like something from star trek (and felt about the size of a park).

    DF2 had awesome level design. For one it had the awesome verticality of the cities, which were much larger scale and more open than anything at the time (ie Quake2) or Outcast. Plus the levels were mostly based on massive environmental puzzles… and not long corridor crawls like Outcast/Halo/Etc.

    I still love the level where you are basically travelling vertically down for the whole level, but have to keep manipulating a giant crate through the level, and using it to progress.

  29. Abigbat says:

    Tried to replay recently but couldn’t get past the god-awful mouselook inversion…

  30. MrTest says:

    What ever happened to making big, ambitious shooters? I mean, seriously, when was the last time you looked at an FPS and said: “Wow, that’s amazing, well done that FPS Developer X!”

    I mean this year is dominated by ODST and MW2, and neither of them have much going on that we’ve not seen before a dozen times. FC2 was supposed to be this all-bestriding evolution, and it was just open world Duck Shoot.

    FPS studios: have some ambition!

  31. brulleks says:

    This was the game that turned me onto PC gaming. I’d seen other stuff like Doom and Warcraft, but when a friend showed me this on his PC I saw the future and knew I’d have to buy one some day too. I spent the entire night dreaming about the scaffolding level…

  32. bill says:

    This was maybe the best FPS ever made. The story was good (cheesy in places, but good).
    the level design was stunning.
    the weapons, force powers and sabers were all interesting and all had a place. The boss fights were dramatic and fun.
    the dark/light side choice was dramatic, and original (at the time.)

    Why don’t FPS games have environmental puzzles like that anymore? Before JK every FPS was just corridors and keys. In JK the whole level was the puzzle. But recently we are back to passive levels that are just well disguised corridors and lots of set piece battles to break them up.

    In 15 years of PC gaming I’ve replayed about 3 games, and JK was one of them.

  33. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    The first Dark Forces game was pretty good, too.

  34. RLacey says:

    Man, I enjoyed the bits of this game I played. But man, I have always sucked at lightsaber combat in all of the Jedi Knight games. And there’s nothing like an irritating boss fight to kill my desire to play.

  35. Ian says:

    Loved this game at the time, and I still have it in a box and everything.

  36. The Sombrero Kid says:

    agreed, the inhouse Dark Forces games were the best by far.

  37. The Sombrero Kid says:

    btw the best way to kill jerec is to stand in the door to the recharge thing and he’ll just keep trying to walk through you but he can’t were you can proceed to cut the shit out of him for as long as you need :D

  38. Stense says:

    I only played Jedi Knight the once, back when it came out (I lost the disc to the eons since). But that one polay through was enough to leave some great memories of massive and brilliant levels. The sense of scale was impressive then, and thinking back to it its still pretty impressive.

  39. woppin says:

    I played through DF1, DF2, and JK:JO, but couldn’t be bothered with academy. I don’t remember them very well, but as a series I feel they were games that complimented each other. DF2 was great because it had a solid shooter grounding and you also got the saber for the first time in an FPS, but I’m not sure I’d want to dismiss JKJO as easily as some on here, simply because I had an absolute blast with the lightsaber fighting.

    As a trilogy it evolves from a standard FPS to a lightsaber game….kind of like the storyline from DF2, which is a neat bit of symmetry. In terms of gameplay mechanics the later games were an improvement I think – the force powers and lightsaber styles and whatnot were great features, but I think the early games were in a class of their own from the storytelling perspective.

    Any mention of JK reminds me of the atrocious voice acting in Outcast… AAAAH…ADMIRAL FYAAAAAA.

  40. EBass says:

    Much much overlooked in the Panetheon of early FPS games. Forget Quake 2 and Unreal (which aside from a couple of clever narrative techniques and beautiful vistas in Unreal were very much descendants of the basic doom FPS template), Jedi Knight more than those two really set the ground for Half Life. An actual progressing story, friendly NPCs, huge variety in level design and scope (admittadly Unreal had that too), Enviroment puzzles, good pacing.

    Don’t think I could play it today though.

  41. cyrenic says:

    Anyone remember the final boss fight from Mysteries of the Sith? It was a bit clunky, but I appreciate that it was trying to do something different. I remember it taking me forever to figure out what the game was trying to get me to do :).

    Also, the first level of that expansion pack was awesome.

    • bill says:

      That was pretty controversial at the time. I remember a lot of people hated it. I loved it, it felt really star wars. (though i agree it was a little clunky in implementation).

      While MotS has a different vibe than DF2, i think i love them both equally. And MotS has to be one of the best expansion packs ever.

  42. Jon says:

    Inspired by the article, I tried to install the game on my machine, but when the installer launches it complains that my OS is x64.
    Tried googeling, didnt find anything though.

    Someone know of a workaround?

  43. Nick says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t mis-remembering how good the level design in JK1 was. I recall even when JK2 was released that I frequently though, whilst playing it, that it barely compared to the level design of its prequel and that the lightsaber combat was all it had going for it.

  44. We Fly Spitfires says:

    I honestly loved the cut scenes in that game. Now everything is just so cheesy…

  45. Pod says:

    Minor point: But DFII:JK featured dismemberment, but never made a fuss out of it. (I’m looking at you, Solider of fortune)

  46. Wedge says:

    I remember having a lot of fun with DFII, and the level design was definitely something unlike any other FPS I can think of. I had the demo on my laptop way back when and played the level over and over and over (it was the fuel tanker level I think). And I know I played a lot of it with a friend who had the game at his house. I do miss running about cutting off Tusken Raiders arms.

    I should look into getting this with the fancy remaken mods and all..

  47. SanguineAngel says:

    Everything that the article says about DFII is true. I really DO NOT understand why this sort of interesting level design has gone out of fashion. I miss it. I miss the genuinely virtigous level design. And I REALLY miss having to actually think about and figure out where to go and how to get there.

    I particularly dislike how most games seem to signpost every move you are supposed to make now.

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