Star Wars Jedi Knight Collection
Jedi Knight - The PC-born Star Wars Legacy
Previously we looked at the Star Wars Racer and Commando Combo which featured two titles from the fabled 2000s era of gaming. During that time period, Star Wars' influence was unprecedented across consoles and PC platforms alike. One sub-series that remains a cult classic to this day is the Jedi Knight series.
Jedi Knight focused on the story of Kyle Katarn, one of the first "OCs" in the massive Star Wars universe and arguably one of the major players within the canon. The Star Wars Jedi Knight Collection takes two of the most popular games from the series, Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast and its sequel, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. In total, there were four games in the series with the first two, Dark Forces and Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight being PC exclusive. No prior knowledge is needed to enjoy the games however as they hold up to this day.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Understanding that Jedi Academy is a sequel to Jedi Knight 2, it begs the question. Why start with the sequel first over its prequel? That's because I've had fond memories of Jedi Academy during my younger years as I've never played Jedi Knight 2 prior to this preview. The allure of Jedi Academy was very simple. Players could insert themselves in familiar territories and become absolute badasses to the likes of Luke and Kyle themselves.
Before the game begins, players can create their own Jedi, with quite a lot of options to choose from. For reference, this game came out originally in 2003, the same year that the legendary Knights of the Old Republic was released. However, unlike KotR, which followed its own story from a distant past, Jedi Academy took place in the then-present time. This meant that your player would team up with the likes of Luke, Chewbacca, and many other familiar faces. The races the player could become were also diverse, ranging from humans to twi'leks and everything in between.
Its gameplay pulls no punches, immediately thrusting the player in a jungle as a means to serve as a tutorial. Players can jump, roll, slash, and perform impressive acrobatic maneuvers like the movies themselves. Playing on the Switch, however, it's easy to determine that the game is a PC port. The way the gameplay mechanics function is reminiscent of games like Unreal and Quake. This makes controlling the character as well as accessing weapons and Force powers a bit of a struggle at first. There were times when I would trigger a "mission failed" without knowing what was even going on. Once I got a handle on it, it wasn't too terrible
As one of the first PC games I've played, this console port is exceptional and as accurate as a keyboard and mouse game can transition to a controller. The game begins to show its age, as character animations and facial patterns are on the uncanny side at times. However, these compromisations in favor of its high framerate and gameplay are enough to enjoy. The multiplayer also works as well, even though it's one of those "Play against bots until people join the game" online multiplayer games. Overall while playing on PC is the most optimal way to enjoy Jedi Academy, it is still an amazing Jedi experience regardless of platform.
Star Wars Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast
Where do I begin but say that I am glad I began with the sequel over this as playing Jedi Knight 2 was a far different experience. Some of the criticisms I have for Jedi Academy appears in this game front and center. Perhaps while playing JA I was wearing rose-tinted nostalgic glasses, but this was something I wouldn't be affected by with Jedi Outcast. As this was my first time playing it, I'll be the first to say that this game aged poorly.
The game begins with Kyle, following the events of the first Jedi Knight as he leaves the Jedi Order and works as a mercenary. While the details that would lead to Kyle leaving the Order is mentioned in the previous game, it has an effect on Jedi Outcast's first level. Kyle and his partner must infiltrate an Empire stronghold for reasons and moments after the cutscene ends, the play is thrust into action. This is where the biggest complaint of Jedi Knight 2 and Jedi Academy come forth.
This is quite possibly the worst gunplay I've ever experienced in any shooter, which is evident that Jedi Outcast is not. The player can alternate between a 3rd-person and a first-person camera, neither of which helps with aiming. There is no precise aiming, no "aiming down sights," or anything of the sort. Aiming with guns is purely RNG as shooting when the reticle is red doesn't ensure the player will hit anything. This is because shooting will cause projectiles to "aim" in a "general" direction. I can aim dead-on at my target yet two of my six shots will actually hit an enemy.
Obviously, this is frustrating as the player could be dangerously up close and still miss their shots. Fortunately, this happens to the AI too meaning there's something terribly wrong with the game's aiming mechanic. Unfortunately, there are six troopers at any given time and only one of you. In the first level, with medkits running scarce, it's up to the player to pray that aiming works for them. I've gotten many pointless Game Overs just because the game refused to properly aim my target. If a player wanted to embrace their inner inaccurate Stormtrooper, then Jedi Outcast is the game for them.
Jedi Knight Unfortunately Shines Better On PC Due To Underlying Issues
Jedi Academy avoids the problems Jedi Outcast faces because the player is given a lightsaber and Force powers from the onset. If the player was forced to pick up a blaster, which they can carry around as a secondary weapon, it would suffer the same issues Jedi Outcast would face. As both games run on the same engine, it's obvious that both titles are better optimized on the PC than on consoles. Despite this, this combo is worth it for Jedi Academy alone as it was one of the early titles in Star Wars to enable players to be a Jedi unapologetically.
No gimmicks, no build-ups, just give the player a lightsaber and kill everyone. The true SW dream. That said, as with Racer and Commando Combo, players can purchase the games individually, generally for cheaper. Maybe others will have a better experience with Jedi Outcast, but for Star Wars: The Jedi Knight Collection, Jedi Academy is the winner and it's cheaper to buy it as a standalone game.
Star Wars: The Jedi Knight Collection is available on the Switch and PS4.