It’s about time we got to see the iconic “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” title screen on a Nintendo Switch. After what feels like an eternity without any Star Wars games on the hybrid console players can finally dive into an older, but the still legendary, title in the form of Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.
The now seventeen-year-old game first release on PC back in 2002 where it garnered critical acclaim for its engaging story and revolutionary lightsaber combat mechanics. Now as the Star Wars brand burns brighter than ever, Jedi Outcast is getting another shot with a new audience, unfortunate warts and all.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast Review
Jedi Outcast is a remnant from a different time.
The core canon (fancy word for officially recognised story in a franchise) of Star Wars used to look quite different before Disney acquired and essentially rebooted it in 2012. Nowadays we are used to the ever-expanding litany of new Star Wars stories (the sequel films, TV shows, video games and countless books) but at the time of its development, Jedi Outcast was telling its own version of events in a post Return of the Jedi landscape.
As the two in the title implies we are dropped right into this game’s overarching narrative. You’ll play as space mercenary Kyle Katarn who has long abandoned his Jedi training, severing his connection to the Force and falling into the for-hire life of a merc.
Currently, under the employment of the New Republic (headed by series favourite Mon Mothma) Kyle and his partner Jan Ors are deployed to investigate an ostensibly abandoned Imperial outpost.
Star Wars fans, even those who haven’t played this entry before, will undoubtedly know where that kind of cold open leads to. The plot that unravels in Jedi Outcast is surprisingly compelling, even after all these years in cryo. There are some very silly sci-fi concepts thrown around but in the way that made the older Star Wars stories enjoyable; it’s dorky as Sith but you just don’t care.
Patience, My Young Padawan
It’s unfortunate then that Jedi Outcast seems intent on turning off players with its off-putting opening levels. If you’ve read my work before you know I don’t tend to shy away from dramatics but this truly is not hyperbole; the first few hours of this game are flat out bad.
The Imperial outpost mentioned above and the following mission to an enslaved mining colony will push your patience to the limit with poor level design and infuriating gameplay.
It’s important to know this upfront because once you do finally obtain your lightsaber and leave these opening hours behind you the game significantly improves. Getting there is the problem however and if you don’t temper your expectations appropriately you may find yourself Force pushing your Switch into the nearest wall. So let’s talk about why this is the case.
Time Is A Flat Texture
Primarily the main issue you’re going to run into during these opening hours is the first-person shooting gameplay. Given that Kyle has left the Jedi ways behind him he does not immediately have access to a lightsaber, forcing you to endure hours of combat using only a small selection of rifles and grenades.
Thanks to the game’s exceptional audio design picking up a Stormtrooper’s blaster rifle at least sounds like fun but trying to hit your target is an exercise in tedium.
Enemy AI darts around erratically while also, somehow, running right at you with reckless abandon. Paired with a reticle that feels both too sensitive and too floaty, the first person levels at the beginning of the game are a chore.
The level design and puzzles don’t make matters better either. Generally speaking, this port looks decent enough, especially the crisp lighting and liberal use of iconic Star Wars imagery, but muddy textures make finding specific details a nightmare.
Many of the game’s puzzles require the flipping of certain switches which look exactly like the non-interactable panels littered throughout the place. Meanwhile, progressing is often gated by awkwardly platforming onto objects which again look like flat environmental art; even the Force couldn’t show you where to go with these.
That Saber, It Belongs To Me
Fortunately, the moment you get a lightsaber in your hand everything changes. When equipped the game shifts to a third-person perspective and you’ll get to experience possibly the best iteration of lightsaber combat in any game.
There’s an effortless flow to saber combat as the weapon feels weighty and, some button spamming aside if you panic, each swing is a deliberate offensive move. Carving through troopers and barflies like butter is a blast in its own right but facing down in lightsaber duels with the game’s real enemies is tense and deeply gratifying.
Of course, with a lightsaber comes Force powers and Kyle’s growing arsenal of abilities keeps the game humming along nicely. Jedi Outcast’s use of Force powers is designed to make you feel like the kind of Jedi you’ve always wanted to be.
You’ll have access to a solid line up of powers from both the light and the dark side such as Force push and pull, enhanced movement abilities and even lightning. Each Force skill operates in tiers with each upgrade improving the area of effect or duration of each skill.
I Find Your Lack Of Features Disturbing
What’s less gratifying is the stripped-down nature of this port of Jedi Outcast. Functionally speaking it’s a bit of a mixed bag; the game runs very smoothly and, textures aside, often looks and sounds exceptional in either handheld or docked mode. There is an unfortunate issue with the save slots however, limiting your number of available saves and even bugging out and refusing to load others from time to time.
Jedi Outcast on Switch also lacks the game’s multiplayer component, a fan favourite from both this title and the soon to be released on Switch sequel Jedi Academy.
Aspyr, the folks behind this port, has stated that some version of this mode will be patched into the port sometime in the future but it’s still disappointing to see it released without it. There’s also an entirely unnecessary motion control aiming scheme which I turned off after five minutes and never looked back, as well as some fun HD rumble shenanigans for good measure.
It’s unfortunate that time, and some port bugs, drag this classic Star Wars title down further than it probably should be. The opening missions are an outright poor design choice, subjecting players to unwieldy controls and dull environments, but pushing past them rewards you with a fun, action romp through a galaxy far, far away.
For $9.99 this isn’t a terribly hard game to recommend but newcomers need to be aware of the hurdles they’ll experience (keep a walkthrough tab open, trust me).
The bugs are another issue entirely, one that hopefully Aspyr will iron out before the release of the infinitely more fun and campy Jedi Academy next year. For now, though, those looking for some classic lightsaber fun on the go could do worse than Jedi Outcast.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the developer.
Game Title: Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Game Description: Ex-Jedi Kyle Katarn is drawn back into the ways of Force when a mysterious faction of dark side Imperials threatens the safety of the galaxy once more.