E3 2001 Hands-on: Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II

We get some playtime with the recently announced sequel to Jedi Knight.


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The most popular station at LucasArts' public booth at E3 was undoubtedly the one that was demonstrating Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II, the recently announced sequel to 1997's Jedi Knight. As we mentioned earlier, the game is currently in development at Raven Software, and it's powered by id Software's powerful Quake III technology.

LucasArts was demonstrating only one level of the game. While most of the level takes place within a large Imperial outpost, your character, Kyle Katarn, starts outdoors amid a light snow. The outpost is surrounded by jagged mountains and is situated on top of a tall platform. Venturing to the edge of the walkway leading to the main door reveals exactly how expansive the outdoor environments of that level are. While Katarn's ability to venture away from the outpost was limited in this E3 demo, LucasArts assures us that the Raven designers are taking full advantage of Team Arena's terrain renderer to generate expansive outdoor areas.

Katarn starts out with a blaster and a lightsaber. The blaster is equipped with a scope that's capable of picking off storm troopers and other enemies at far distances, and LucasArts demonstrated this feature by picking off guards patrolling the platforms above Katarn. Of course, as a Jedi knight, Katarn is best suited for combat with his lightsaber. When you activate the saber, the camera automatically switches to a third-person perspective, much like the way it did in Jedi Knight. While it'll be possible to wield the lightsaber in first-person mode, LucasArts says that saber control is much easier to achieve while in the third-person perspective. Most of his lightsaber techniques are taken directly from Jedi Knight--such as automatically deflecting laser bolts--but Katarn does have a new use for his handheld weapon: saber throw. At will, Katarn can fling his saber outward toward anyone, slicing them to bits before the sword returns to him like a boomerang. This move does require force points, however. Other force powers demonstrated included force push, lightning, and Jedi mind tricks. Normally, this latter power simply confuses enemies, making it easy for you to slip by unnoticed, but you'll also be able to interrogate victims of the mind trick to extract information from them.

Another new feature in Jedi Knight II is the game's buddy system. Through the course of the single-player campaign, you'll run into several NPCs, some of whom you'll be able to partner with. During the demonstration, LucasArts spawned in one such "buddy" while Katarn was facing a lightsaber-wielding boss character, and the ensuing fight looked remarkably like the spectacular fight between Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and Darth Maul in Episode I. Raven, no stranger to visual splendor, is incorporating a lot of eye candy into the game as well. Lightsabers leave red-hot scorch marks in any surface they touch, including floors, walls, and pillars. Additionally, the developers have implemented the GHOUL 2 animation system from Soldier of Fortune II into Jedi Knight II, and they've doubled the polygon capacity of the Quake III engine.

Overall, the single level we saw was impressive, especially considering that Jedi Outcast: Jedi Knight II has only been in development since February of this year. LucasArts anticipates that the game should be completed by this time next year.

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