Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast Review — Step Aside Cal Kestis, Kyle Katarn Is Here
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast still provides the best lightsaber combat in any Star Wars game to date.
17 years after its original release, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast has returned on both the Nintendo Switch and PS4. This port is pretty barebones but should come to satisfy fans of Star Wars video games and this longrunning series in particular. There are some annoying bugs and some bad design choices that are simply a product of this game’s age. Thankfully, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is still one of the best games stemming from the series’ now non-canon extended universe.
Players will take on the role of Kyle Katarn, a Jedi who sits somewhere between the light side and the dark side. The Jedi Knight series has four games and one expansion. If this is your first time checking out Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, no prior knowledge of the series is needed to get enjoyment out of the story. There are references to things from the other games that may go over a newcomer’s head, but ultimately, the plot is straightforward enough to follow. Movie references are also sprinkled throughout making for a game that still feels like it takes place eight years after the original trilogy.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and its sequel Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy have a cult following of players that still go back to each game for the deeply satisfying lightsaber combat. This combat can be experienced online in the original versions of each game. What’s baffling is that this port completely omits multiplayer. The developers have said that it’ll be included in Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, which is admittedly the better lightsaber game. However, it’s sad that many of the maps in Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast will be locked on the original game. Thankfully, the title can still be actively played on PC.
The design of each level in Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast will throw a lot of players off. Whereas games tend to hold each players’ hand a bit more in this day and age, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast relies on the player becoming familiar with the environment and thinking about which force powers can help them move forward. Sometimes this requires the player to look in very unconventional places, and that’s not an exaggeration at all. If you’ve played the game before then it’s a breeze but it can be quite jarring for newcomers and those who are revisiting the game after so many years.
In one aspect, these design decisions garner a lot of praise as they encourage exploration in otherwise small areas. However, sometimes the solution doesn’t always feel very fair. I found myself saying “how was I supposed to know that,” more times than one. Thankfully, plenty of handy guides are available online for those who get stuck because, you know, this game is pretty old. There’s no shame in getting caught up somewhere so don’t get too frustrated. The solution is usually right in front of you in a place you wouldn’t expect.
The opening levels of Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast don’t immediately have Kyle, the main protagonist, wielding a lightsaber. At the end of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Kyle abandoned the force so throughout Jedi Outcast, he eventually is drawn back to it. This adds a sense of growth and progression that’s very linear. The sequel, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy would expand on progression in 2003.
Shooting in Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is super cumbersome and never really feels good at all. Guns and other tools are required though at multiple parts in the game so players will have to become used to the very outdated shooting mechanics. These outdated mechanics also carry over to the enemy NPCs who’ll begin shooting you as soon as you turn a corner. It doesn’t take long to get a lightsaber though and it certainly acts as a heavy motivation moving forward in the game. The level where you first get to use it on enemies is made all the sweeter just like it was in 2002.
Kyle Katarn is still a likable protagonist despite his very vanilla appearance. He’s witty without being Han Solo and determined without coming across as a Skywalker. Being a Jedi who blurs the lines between light and dark makes him a more complex character who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. The story itself is impressive even today, bringing the likes of Billy Dee Williams back for Lando Calrissian as well as some voice actors who do an admirable job at replicating iconic characters from the movies. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast has its moments of campiness but ultimately acts as a satisfying Star Wars story that still holds up.
Aspyr should be commended for also included Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast’s wide range of cheats that alter the gameplay experience. Different lightsaber colors, a god mode, and more are so cool to see in the game again. In a world where cheat codes have been turned into DLC and microtransactions, it’s quite sad to see these things in a game again.
This port isn’t perfect and contains some pretty annoying bugs. Much of the game becomes platforming in the latter half and loading saves can randomly cause Kyle to run without any input from the player. Of course, this results in his untimely demise. This glitch is sporadic and was always annoying every time I encountered it. Sometimes it would require multiple loading screens to finally get Kyle to stop moving with some forceful pushes on the analog stick.
For whatever reason, the game also doesn’t let you have one primary save. Every time players stop to save, an additional file will be added and a little over halfway through the game I was told that I had no more room for saves. This isn’t necessarily a glitch but it was still annoying that I was forced to go into my data and delete files.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is undeniably a classic. This game is a wonderful look back at a time when Star Wars and video games were a lot simpler. While the exclusion of multiplayer is a real bummer the story itself and low asking price make this a must-play for fans old and new. Hopefully, some of those annoying bugs will be patched out over time.