Originally created 05/06/02

Jedi Outcast brings movie-like spectacle to the PC

I hadn't felt the power of the Force in a while.

Jaded from years of substandard "Star Wars" video games, I didn't expect to be swayed by the latest spinoff, "Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast." But after a few weeks with the $49.95 PC game from LucasArts, I'm a true believer again.

I'm betting fans and non-fans alike will have the same reaction - this is simply one of the most detailed, engrossing games ever spun off the franchise.

At a time long after events in the movies, you play Kyle Katarn, a rebel agent who's dabbled with the Force but renounced it for fear he'll be drawn to the Dark Side.

The first few levels, dull and repetitious, don't depart from the standard first-person shooter formula. But when Katarn rediscovers his Jedi past midway through, things get interesting.

After a tough training course under the tutelage of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, you're able to magically push and pull objects (and enemies) with a mere thought.

The ability to jump to dizzying heights is achieved with a simple keystroke.

As you advance through the game, you'll gain additional powers, including my favorite: blue lightning that shoots from your fingertips, a deadly electric charge.

One minor quibble: Some of the levels aren't designed particularly well. After clearing enemies from an area, it's sometimes tough to figure out where you're supposed to go next.

Music and sound effects are exceptional in "Jedi Outcast," from the rousing opening score to the crackling, electrified whoosh of your light saber

Stellar three-dimensional graphics feature action at numerous locales. The Death Star and Cloud City on the planet Bespin are highlights.

Remember all those freaky-looking aliens from the cantina scene in "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope"? Similarly strange creatures make an appearance here.

Your foes are some of the most detailed and best-animated I've ever seen in a game. Shoot them and they don't just blow up. They'll stumble, lose balance, and fall over in a crumpled heap.

The game's included multiplayer mode offers typical online gaming fare with capture the flag and death match modes. Unoriginal, perhaps, but what other game lets you fight with a roomful of light saber-wielding opponents?

The frame rate was acceptable on my 1.5 gigahertz Pentium 4, with only a few stuttering moments during intense action sequences. I don't see it running well at all with the minimum requirements - a Windows computer with a 350 megahertz processor and 44 megabytes of memory.

Even if you don't plan on lining up to see "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones," "Jedi Outcast" is a fun, immersive game well worth the cost.

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