LucasArts' latest entry in its long-running series of first-person shooters is finally done, and we've had a chance to play the retail build. For those not familiar with the series, Jedi Knight II places you in the shoes of Kyle Katarn, a rebel bounty hunter who is strong in the force. The game takes place nine years after the events of Jedi Knight, and Kyle has given up the ways of the Jedi to become a mercenary. The game starts with a cinematic that shows Kyle and his trusty pilot, Jan Ors, on a routine scouting mission, when they receive an urgent request from Mon Mothma to investigate the source of a mysterious and barely audible emergency transmission from the seemingly desolate planet of Kejim. This scene, like all cutscenes in the game, is rendered using the game's 3D engine, which is a first for the series. The overall effect certainly looks a lot better than the full-motion video that earlier games relied on--facial expressions and lip movement, for example, are clearly articulated, and the animations of the 3D models give a clear indication of their respective characters' body language. When Jan and Kyle land, they discover that the planet is overrun by Imperial storm troopers, and the action promptly begins.
Interestingly enough, this first mission has you fighting side by side with Jan, who proves to be remarkably self-reliant. She can hold her own against the troopers in this first level, her pathfinding seems accurate, and she'll even draw enemy fire away from you on occasion. Also impressive is that these storm troopers don't seem to blindly prioritize Kyle over Jan or vice versa, and they'll go after whoever poses the most immediate threat to them. You'll start out the game with just the Bryar pistol, though you'll immediately be able to pick up an Imperial blaster from the very first trooper you neutralize. Throughout the first mission, you'll also come across a stun baton that incapacitates its victim with searing bolts of electricity, as well as several thermal detonators that can be set to explode on a timer or on impact.
As you'd expect, the first mission requires you to solve several puzzles to progress to the second level. These puzzles ultimately involve activating several switches to unlock a series of doors--standard fare among first-person shooters--though they're presented somewhat uniquely in that you'll have to re-create the actual shape and color of the individual keys (they're almost hieroglyphic in nature) to unlock their respective doors. The level itself is fairly large and shows off the scripting capabilities of the game's Quake III: Team Arena engine nicely. At one point in this first mission, for example, a fuel storage facility explodes in a massive fireball, and an entire bridge collapses into a ravine. Many aspects of the environment are interactive as well: Display screens will shatter when shot, troopers will fly through glass panes, and some doors can even be destroyed by using stationary gun turrets.
It should be noted that Kyle doesn't start out the game with any of his force powers or even the light saber. As you progress through the single-player levels, you'll gradually gain access to new force powers, and some existing powers will be upgraded as well. While playing Jedi Knight II's multiplayer game, however, we were able to get a good idea of the entire suite of force powers available.
Jedi Knight II's multiplayer component is surprisingly deep--it comes with 11 unique maps and 28 different playable character models. What's more, when set to play as bots, many of these character models have a distinct set of attributes that include reaction time, accuracy, agility, favorite force power, and favorite weapon. The Luke Skywalker bot, for example, is incredibly agile and has a lot of force powers, whereas Lando Calrissian is deadly accurate with ranged weapons but has no force powers. The game has seven multiplayer modes that are essentially distinct variations on typical deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture-the-flag modes. When joining a game, you can choose which force powers to play with by distributing points to those powers, similar to how you use a skill tree in a traditional role-playing game. There are 16 force powers in the game--including choke, mind trick, lightning, and push--and each can be upgraded three times. You have only a set number of points to work with, though, so you can choose to play either with a wide variety of low-level powers or with a small number of advanced powers.
There certainly seems to be a lot to Jedi Knight II--its single-player campaign is chock-full of weapons, items, and expansive levels, and its multiplayer component is almost a game in itself. For more details on the game, be sure to check back soon for the full review. In the meantime, though, take a look at the latest batch of images and movies that we've added to our media index.