There have been a lot of Star Wars video games over the years. Whether taking on a side-scrolling reproduction of the movies, flying around in X-Wings taking down Imperial ships, or playing as prequel era Jedi in a beat ’em up game, there’s something for everyone in the Star Wars catalogue. One series of games that has always been held in high regards by fans has been the Jedi Knight series, and now that we’ve reached its 20th anniversary it felt like a good time to look back at Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.
Despite the name, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast isn’t actually the second game in this series, but the third. Following on from Star Wars: Dark Forces and Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, the game once again puts players in control of Kyle Katarn (Jeff Bennett), former Jedi Knight and mercenary who works for the New Republic after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Having almost fallen to the dark side in the previous game, Kyle has broken his connection to the Force, and given up on being a Jedi.
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Whilst investigating a supposedly abandoned Imperial mine, Kyle and his partner Jan (Vanessa Marshall) discover that the Imperial Remnant are mining kyber crystals. Travelling to a second planet, where the Imperials have established a stronghold, Kyle comes face to face with Desann (Mark Klastorin), a dark Jedi who seems to be leading the Imperial forces. When Desann captures and apparently kills Jan, Kyle swears to get revenge, reconnecting with the Force in order to do so. From here Kyle will travel the galaxy, visiting some iconic locations from the films, meeting well known characters, and uncovering a vast and dangerous plot during his quest to avenge Jan and stop Desann.
Much like with previous games in the series, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast has a focus on combat, and the first few levels of the game have the player fighting their way through Imperial facilities in first-person gun combat. Over the course of the game the player gets access to a variety of weapons from the movies, such as E-12 blaster rifle and the Wookiee bowcaster, as well as some new weapons. However, after losing Jan and reconnecting with the Force, Kyle retrieves his lightsaber, and this is where the fun really begins. The player can now switch over to their Jedi weapon, engaging in lightsaber combat with any foe, as well as wielding powerful Force abilities.
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Over the course of the game the player will need to use their Force powers to help solve puzzles, and to traverse some of the more difficult parts of levels, such as using Force jumps to navigate raised walkways and moving platforms. The player also gets the chance to learn new abilities, and to power-up the ones that they already have, opening up more avenues for them. Whilst the first-person shooting is top-notch, and well put together, it’s the parts of the game where you can run around as a powerful Jedi that are the most fun, especially if you put in the cheat code that actually lets you sever enemy limbs, rather than just leaving them with burn marks on their bodies.
Upon its release Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was met with positive reviews, with many publications giving it high marks. The game was praised not only for its engaging story and connections to the expanded Star Wars universe (the game even got Billy Dee Williams back to play Lando), but for the large levels, great sound design, and fun combat. The game managed to give players something new and exciting, yet absolutely felt like it belonged in the Star Wars universe; that it was expanding upon the canon and giving players one of the best experiences.
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Over the years Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast would sell 900,000 copies, earning the studio $17 million within the first five years, becoming the best selling game in the series. Thanks to the popularity, the game, which was originally released on PC, would get both an Xbox and GameCube version in the following years. Along with its sequel, it has now also been released on the Nintendo Switch, offering modern players a chance to replay, or discover, this classic piece of PC gaming.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was released in the UK on 26th March 2002.