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Graphics: While not as graphically outstanding as Quake 2, or even GLQuake, Mysteries of the Sith features great Direct3D accelerated graphics, and loads more textures than Jedi Knight. I did notice the occasional “tear” in wall and ground textures, particularly in the outdoor areas. The addition of the colored lighting is much appreciated, and really adds ambiance to the environments. Check out this screenshot of an underground moisture farming complex (a multiplayer map) for a peek. You should know, however, that the colored lighting is limited to the structures; there are no colored lighting effects when you shoot your different beam weapons. One thing particularly noteworthy about Mysteries of the Sith is the use of game engine-rendered cutscenes. While not as flashy as the full-motion video sequences of Jedi Knight, they are even more effective for two very important reasons. The first is that the player must use his or her imagination (remember that?) to “fill in the details” of what the characters and environments really look like. Kyle Katarn can be anything I want him to be…so can Mara Jade. I don’t have to accept that they look like second-rate actors wearing leftovers from the LucasArts prop department. The second is that the transition into the actual gameplay is much more natural, almost seamless. This continuity is crucial in maintaining the flow of the storylines.
Interface: My only gripe with the interface of Mysteries of the Sith is the installation program’s insistence of checking for the original Jedi Knight CD. It’s a one-time thing, but it’s still a pain. Other than that, it’s one smooth ride. Mysteries of the Sith actually installs into its own directory, not the Jedi Knight directory, and is run using its own executable and launch menu. Setting up a multiplayer game is just as easy, and the match creation screen makes it a snap to set up different types of multiplayer free-for-alls or team games. Within the game, all of the controls can be mapped to any keys the player wants, which is necessity in a game with so many key functions. I’d be lost if I didn’t have instant access to my Force Grab!
Gameplay: Throughout Mysteries of the Sith, the depth and interactivity of gameplay are unlike anything found in the other true-3D shooters available today. As strange as it may sound, Mysteries of the Sith reminds me more of Duke Nukem 3D than it does anything else. Switches can actually be activated by hand, instead of by just “bumping into then” as is the fashion in most new 3D games; there are security cameras which can be monitored using viewscreens; although there are no vehicles like speeder bikes, there are controllable gun turrets and hover sleds; items can be destroyed and walls blow open…. At one point, Mara even disguises herself as a Tusken Raider to gain entrance into Jabba’s Palace (the eye-probe thingy from Return of the Jedi is a particularly nice touch). I really can’t remember the last time I was this fully immersed in a 3D game world. Granted, I’m a self-confessed Star Wars geek and was really looking forward to this game, but it more than exceeded my expectations. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the overall design of Mysteries of the Sith; the additions, enhancements, and gameplay elements are a testament to that.
Sound FX: Although I can’t help but subtract half a point from this category due to that annoying “gender” sound bug, the sound effects as a whole are outstanding. Instead of merely rehashing the original lines of digitized speech from Jedi Knight, Mysteries of the Sith uses all new lines for the stock characters, like the Stormtroopers and Officers. This was totally unexpected, and really proved to be a refreshing change after hearing the same lines so many times in Jedi Knight. There are even several lines of dialogue translated into the Huttese language. Now that’s authentic. The game’s other sound effects are just as impressive. Go underwater, and you’ll get that “echoey” effect. Stand on a cliff, and hear the wind whistle. What really sold me on the sound effects is one simple little audio bit — the sound made by the Heavy Blaster pistol. It’s just perfect; Han would be proud.
Musical Score: Oddly, the makers of any LucasArts Star Wars games are sort of “stuck” with a pre-chosen soundtrack — John Williams’ score of the entire trilogy. Lucky for them its one of the best movie soundtracks ever recorded, and never seems to get old. There’s a lot of music there, and Mysteries of the Sith manages to use the right piece at just the right moment.
Intelligence & Difficulty: Again, I was pleasantly surprised. The enemy AI in Mysteries of the Sith is vast improvement over that in Jedi Knight (which was great to begin with). My biggest gripe with the artificial intelligence in Jedi Knight was the inability of the enemies to defend themselves after I pulled their guns away using the Force Grab. I could walk into a room full of Stormtroopers, rip their blaster rifles away, and then just slaughter them at leisure while they ran around like frightened school children. Naturally, I was expecting the same thing in Mysteries of the Sith. Imagine my surprise when I disarmed a Scout Trooper, totally expecting to “finish him off” without any hassle, only to have him charge me, fists wailing, and beat me into a pulp. Yup, that’s right — I got punched to death. I’ve never been so happy after taking such a brutal beating.
Overall: The mother of all add-ons, Mysteries of the Sith is a monumental achievement not only in expansion packs, but in narrative 3D games as a whole. Simply put, it is more fun than Jedi Knight, and better than I had ever expected. If you’re a Star Wars fan, or own the original Jedi Knight, you must run out and buy it as soon as it’s available…not because of any calling of the Force, or the bidding of the Emperor, but simply because it is a testament to great 3D game design and an example for other game makers to follow. The developers drew from the greatest source of inspiration there is…the trilogy…and it really paid off. Mysteries of the Sith really is the “Ultimate Star Wars Experience.”
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