M. Giant's
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Friday, May 24, 2002  

Obviously my claim to Star Wars apathy last week turned out to be nothing more than 28 kilobytes of hot air, since I had tickets for the next night’s 8:30 show in my shirt pocket twenty minutes after I posted. I didn’t go in expecting the movie to change my life, and I wasn’t disappointed.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been getting a kick out of inhabiting the SW universe in other ways. I’ve been playing LucasArts’s Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast for the past couple of weeks. It may be called Jedi Knight II, but the first Jedi Knight game was actually Star Wars: Dark Forces II – Jedi Knight. So really it should be called Star Wars: Dark Forces III – Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast. Then we could look forward to games with infinitely recursive titles like Star Wars: Dark Forces VII – Jedi Knight VI – Jedi Outcast V – Jedi Master IV – Jedi Exterminator III – Jedi Ix-Nayer II – Sith On It and so on. Hey, it doesn’t make any less sense than Final Fantasy X, which pretty much reflexively undercuts the purported finality of the first nine.

Like its precursors, JKII puts the player in control of the movements of interplanetary badass Kyle Katarn, a freelance sometime Jedi perfectly suited for dangerous missions by virtue of his personal deflector shield and ability to rise from the dead with the touch of an “Escape” key. Eight years after the most formidable power in the history of the galaxy got spanked by an army of furry Precious Moments characters,* Katarn is dispatched to investigate a mysterious threat to the New Republic. Much violence and mayhem ensues, most of it directed at Katarn.

As much fun as it is to actually be able to deflect laser bolts with a lightsaber, a lot of the fun of the game derives from the fact that you get to walk around inside environments that are brilliantly translated from the movies. The design and rendering is first-rate. Wherever you’re standing, wherever you look, it’s immediately apparent that you’re in the Star Wars universe. Most of the game looks more convincing on the screen than parts of Attack of the Clones.

Obviously, if you’re going to find your way around in this world, there are a few things you should know.

- The New Republic has been in place for eight years, but they still haven’t gotten around to enforcing any safety regulations. Or perhaps those regulations are simply unenforceable, because after building soaring, narrow catwalks threading their way along the brinks of infernally deep ventilation shafts, the architects didn’t have enough material left over for things like, you know, railings. I’m not just talking about off-limits maintenance areas, either. You could be walking along a public boulevard in sunny, beautiful, downtown Bespin, and if your foot slips off the curb you’ll be dead before you hit the ground. Of starvation. No wonder the streets are abandoned. The cloud city’s population was probably decimated within a month of the introduction of Rollerblades.

- There’s only one way to get from point A to point B. There may be a few rooms or alcoves along the way filled with free ammunition, portable high-yield explosives, or aliens who don’t have anything to do all day but stand around waiting for you to show up and kill them, but overall it’s pretty hard to get lost. A corollary to this is that while many walls are covered with computer consoles and control panels, the only ones you can interact with are the ones that are immediately relevant to your mission. In some areas, the only way to proceed is via a Force-assisted superhuman leap. Why these areas aren’t littered with the bones of people who were unfortunate enough to lack a vertical four times their own height is a mystery to me.

- A thermal detonator only has about a six-foot blast radius, which means everyone who panicked at the sight of one in Jabba’s court is an even bigger wuss than I thought.

- Gonk still rules. He shows up here, every once in a while, trudging slowly back and forth and placidly muttering, “gonk….gonk…..gonk…..” If you’re feeling mean, you can take a pot shot at him and he’ll panic. He starts going “GONKGONKGONK” and stumbles into the nearest wall. Not that I would ever do that.

- Lando Calrissian has one fly hooptie. You run into him at some point in your adventures, and he gives you a ride in his bangin’ space-pimpmobile, the Lady Luck. It’s like a 70’s love van with a hyperdrive, all done up floor-to-ceiling in red leather upholstery with a belly turret and a locked door that presumably hides a planet-sized stash of Colt 45 (I’m sorry, but I’m required by law to make that joke). Surprisingly, Billy Dee Williams himself provided Lando’s voice for the game. You can totally tell. He keeps saying “Bezzbin” and everything. Luke Skywalker also makes an appearance, but someone else does his voice. I guess Mark Hamill is above voice acting or something. Oh, wait.

- Above all, pay attention to the musical cues. If you’re wandering around aimlessly to the strains of Princess Leia’s Theme and it abruptly segues into the Imperial March, you better have your weapons handy. All ten of them. Tangent: what’s with first-person-shooter games giving you more weapons than Rambo? Max Payne is a pretty cool-looking dude, but he would be a lot less intimidating if he carted his arsenal around in a Radio Flyer like he’d have to in real life. And I don’t see how he can pull off those slick bullet-time somersault dives and not blow off his digital cojones with all the firepower that must be stuffed down the front of his pants. Uh, end of tangent.

- The sinister force behind the game’s events is referred to as “The Imperial Remnant.” The word “imperial” implies the presence somewhere of an emperor, but we all know that he’s been dead for eight years. So who are these guys working for? Who’s building their top-secret research facilities? Who’s buying them their snazzy fascist uniforms and sparkly white armor? Who’s paying for all the weaponry that Katarn keeps looting from their corpses after he kills them? Maybe you get to find out later, but I haven’t yet. It’s not clear who thought that the word “Remnant” would strike fear into galaxy, either: “We don’t want trouble from the Remnant.” “You mean that scrap of carpet in the attic?” I guarantee you, if people started throwing the phrase “Nazi Remnant” around in 1953, there’d be a lot fewer skinheads right now.

Yeah, obviously I’m hooked on this game. I think that’s partially because it’s just nice to be able to be into something Star Wars-related while the movie’s out and the culture is temporarily immersed in it. I can only hope that if Episode III isn’t good, it’ll at least come out at about the same time as Star Wars: Dark Forces IV – Jedi Knight III – Jedi Outcast II – Jedi Tearer-Of-New-Assholes.

* My grammar check suggested I change this phrase to “An army of furry Precious Moments characters spanked Eight years after the most formidable power in the galaxy”. I just thought you might enjoy that.

posted by M. Giant 3:41 PM 0 comments


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