The Force still strong in game

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Recently I got it into my head (and also because I was ill) to rewatch every “Star Wars” movie. Every single one.

And though I’m still on the hunt for a copy of the made-for-TV “Ewok” films, I mostly succeeded in this marathon task.

Sickness compels one to do strange things. Anyway, it also brought on a compulsion to revisit an old favorite of mine on the PC, the video game “Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.”

It was released in early 2002, an odd time in the history of “Star Wars.” This game came out in the buildup to “Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” but due to its development it was mostly worked from the “Star Wars” material available at the time. And that was mostly from the franchise’s original trilogy, Episode I and A LOT of books and comics.

Jedi Knight II is very much a game of its time, looking a lot like the original films and having a story set in the continuity of the post-film novels. But it is packed with Jedi awesomeness that had been introduced in Episode I.

The design also was a product of its era. “Jedi Knight II” was branded as a first-person shooter, which is mostly true. But this was a time when game developers were pushing the envelope pretty hard on what a shooter could be. The basic weapons take full advantage of the more fantastic milieu of “Star Wars,” allowing them to go beyond boring, “realisitic” weapons. Everything from blasters and Wookie bowcasters to thermal detonators and lightsabers makes an appearance.

Speaking of lightsabers, this game is called “Jedi Knight” for a reason. While you will use your ranged weapons a lot, the moment you get the lightsabers and complementary set of super powers, compliments of The Force, the game goes from a well-made shooter to quite possibly the best Jedi simulator made.

You can jump half a story up, block blasts from Storm Troopers, mind trick enemies so they don’t know you’re there, and push thermal detonators back at the aliens who threw them at you. If you’ve seen a Jedi do something in one of the movies, you can do it in this game.

But this game is more than that; it’s also an often fiendish action adventure. Fights are tricky and reward smart tactics to a degree that’s rare in today’s games, much less in a shooter.

Should you use Force speed and rush in? Try to push back the explosives being lobbed at you with Force push? To say nothing of all the ways you can approach lightsaber duels with Dark Jedi.

Everything about this game is impressive. The levels look and feel big and, more importantly, feel like “Star Wars. All the sound effects and music in the game are taken from the movies, so you’ll hear the classic sizzle of lightsabers clashing to the John Williams orchestral score. Storm Trooper blasters sound like Storm Trooper blasters. And the story is a fun and pulpy tale that fits the tone of the films and owes and awful lot to the novels that came after.

An oldie but a goodie, “Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is available from a number of inline sites for $10 but can be found for much less.

Noah Hinz is an art and game design enthusiast living in Walla Walla. Contact him with questions, game suggestions, playing, or anything else related to games at noahhinz@gmail.com .

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