I remember the lead-up to this game pretty fondly. That wallpaper image of Kyle Katarn dragging his lightsaber through a wall was my desktop wallpaper for some time even before the game came out. I distinctly recall showing it to my Dad (bear in mind that I was 14 when the game came out) and asking him if he thought it was cool or not.
In true to himself fashion, my Dad simply stated that it seemed like a “grossly inappropriate use of a lightsaber.” But what does it matter? IT’S COOL! My teenage mind was pretty easy to please. But Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was a game that I fell head over heels for.
But that also was how I felt while playing the game. In it, you continue the story of Kyle Katarn, former Imperial soldier, turned mercenary, turned Jedi, turned mercenary again. Katarn has given up his Jedi abilities out of fear of going to the Dark Side and with his pilot more-than-a-friend Jan Ors to investigate some disturbances on the planet of Kejim. What unfolds is plenty of excuses to shoot stormtroopers, bounty hunters, and more along with some of the best lightsaber-based gameplay this side of Yavin.
But aside the combat were some, at the time, ingenious force powers. You had your normal powers like Push, Pull, Speed, Jump, and Lightsaber Throw, all of which were considered neutral abilities by the game. But the one power I had the most fun with was Mind Trick, a Light Side ability.
With Mind Trick, you could get an enemy to leap off to his doom, and others would get disoriented or believe they heard a noise. At the time, it was a revelation to me to have an ability change depending on the current situation. But the one thing that the game will be remembered for best to me are the lightsaber mechanics.
You could do a lot with the saber, especially once you mixed Force Jump into the mix. The game allowed you to enter a Saber Lock with enemies (where the sabers clash and there’s a struggle), or you could perform a slash as you are flipping the air off of the nearby wall. It was combat that felt truly fluid and caught the energetic style of the prequel saber fights.
But the one thing I recall not liking, especially after the rich and branching story of Dark Forces II, was the linear story and forgettable villain. The main villain was Desann, who, as far as I can tell, wanted Jedi to be strong. But, he felt those that didn’t match his definition were to be killed. As such, he didn’t last long as an apprentice under Luke Skywalker. But after that it was unclear what his motivation was. Could’ve been power for power’s sake, but it never seemed like he had any grand designs or plans. To me, the story fell a lot flatter then the build up Dark Forces II had.
Dark Forces II had a bigger reliance on guns, but it had very distinctive enemy Dark Jedi, and a story that would change based on your actions and chosen Force abilities. It also crafted a story that made Kyle Katarn’s destiny deeply intertwined with the Jedi throughout his family’s past.
Point is though, if you want a fantastic game where you are a Jedi and you feel disappointed by Battlefront, this game (and Dark Forces II) should be at the top of your list.