LucasArts' Dark Forces was the first Doom-style shooter to hold its own when compared to the original. Set in the Star Wars universe, Dark Forces brought several innovations to the genre, including a great storyline, more variation in level design and some excellent new game mechanics, such as jumping. Many players were disappointed, however, by the lack of any multiplayer features. This oversight, coupled with the game's extremely short length, made Dark Forces a great game with tragically limited replay value.
The designers of Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II have taken such criticisms to heart. The game not only will address the multiplayer issue in an ingenious manner, it will be one of the first action games to utilize a branching storyline in which players will have the opportunity to choose their destiny.
Reprising the role of Imperial defector Kyle Katarn, players will now have to learn the ways of the Force in order to stop a powerful Dark Jedi named Jerec and his six minions. As Katarn learns the arts of the Jedi - including levitating objects, acrobatics, seeing through walls, healing and, most importantly, the use of a lightsaber - he will have to decide which side of the Force to lend his powers. Choosing the Dark Side will lead the players down one path, learning the most destructive uses of the Force. The Light Side requires restraint and discipline, and only the positive elements of the Force may be drawn upon.
One of the most interesting elements of Jedi Knight is the way in which you develop your powers. Drawing upon traditional RPG elements, the game will award experience points to players as they utilize the ways of the Force. Different areas will grow stronger the more effectively they are used. As Project Leader Justin Chin explained, "We're trying to base the whole game on characters and abilities. What molds your character is the single-player game. As you play the single-player game, you'll develop abilites." What is most exciting about this element of the game is that a player's experience will carry over to the multiplayer arena, where up to eight players can compete in all-out kill-fests or team play.
Jedi Knight utilizes a next-generation 3-D engine similar to Quake, with polygonal characters instead of sprites and a full range of movement. When players are swimming, it will look as if they are swimming. If someone is running forward and shooting behind them, you will see the person looking over their shoulder and firing. Jedi Knight will also incorporate full-motion video cut-scenes which look as good as those of Rebel Assault II, but pose less of a threat to the action.
If all goes as planned, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II could be to Quake what Dark Forces was to Doom. With all the hype surrounding the coming flood of Quake-killers, Jedi Knight may stand apart in what threatens to be another crowded year for first-person shooters.