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Of course, it’s impossible to discuss Jedi Outcast‘s eclectic collection of weaponry without mentioning the most important offensive tool of all: the lightsaber. This Jedi symbol and Holy Grail of melee combat is now more versatile than ever, enabling Kyle to perform a wide variety of hacks, slashes and spins that vary depending upon his movement. For instance, strafing left while attacking will cause him to use a sweeping left slash; if you’re retreating back and to the right, hitting the attack button will instead result in a broad stroke that starts low and quickly travels up and to the right. Katarn’s relative position to the enemy also plays a factor in his swordplay: if an enemy is directly behind him, simply tapping the attack key will see Kyle stabbing backwards with his lightsaber, impaling his unseen enemy. However, what perhaps has the greatest impact upon saber combat is the stance or style employed by the fighter. Initially provided with but a single stance the Classic or yellow style you eventually progress to others that offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages in close-quarter battle. While the Classic stance features a steady balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, the Quick stance enables you to fire off a series of blows much faster than is ordinarily possible. However, its attacks inflict considerably less damage than its counterparts and likely won’t be able to make contact with an actively defending Jedi opponent. On the other hand, the Strong stance is incredibly damaging and will often break through medium-level defenses; however, it requires Kyle to spend extra time winding up for his swings, thus leaving him wide open to counter-attack. Success with one’s lightsaber often derives from wisely adapting the right stance to the right situation.
Any game with “Jedi” in the title wouldn’t be worth its galactic salt if it failed to complement lightsaber duels with sufficient use of the Force, which is something that Jedi Outcast amply provides in due time. As he slowly comes to re-attune himself to the all-encompassing power of the Force, Kyle finds his former talents gradually returning, though the method in which this occurs is probably the most obvious difference between this title and its predecessor. Whereas the previous game in the series allocated players a fairly healthy degree of control as they made their way down the tumultuous path to Jedi Knighthood, this particular outing offers no such freedom; the advent of each new level automatically unveils additional powers or upgrades to existing talents, causing your skills to progress in a linear and pre-defined fashion. Restrictive at first, this system gradually unfolds into a palette of unimaginable power as Katarn gains his bearings and comes to rediscover his understanding of the Force.
Star Wars purists and fans of the original will be glad to note that, much like its predecessor, Jedi Outcast features a fully-fleshed set of Force powers that once again allow our grizzled ex-mercenary to gradually transform himself into a truly impressive Jedi Knight. However, as his ever-pessimistic views and his constantly baited anger weigh against his former pursuit of right and might, Katarn struggles to maintain a distinctly delicate balance between the Light and Dark sides of the Force. As a result, he finds himself able to draw from either side in limited amounts, though half of the total eight fall into neutral territory. That doesn’t necessarily make them any less dangerous, however; Force Push and Force Pull might sound somewhat benign, but they certainly don’t seem that way when you’re using them to send someone hurtling off a narrow catwalk, or to knock them to the floor in order to more easily cleave them in half. Force Jump has been similarly improved, as not only may you now attain nigh-ridiculous heights, but you can also land upon and bounce off your opponent’s shoulders to send them sprawling while you position yourself to take advantage of their vulnerability. In a surprising twist that seems to be have been borrowed from Max Payne, the use of Force Speed will actually slow down and stretch out the world around you, supplanting its use in the original Jedi Knight in which you simply became supercharged, blindingly fast and somewhat awkwardly handled. The actual Light and Dark powers are notably more active in their application: while Force Heal and Force Lightning are fairly self-explanatory, it’s worth pointing out that the Jedi Mind Trick will simply befriend, confuse or blind the afflicted instead of literally turning you invisible as it once did. Finally, rather than merely holding enemies in place, higher levels of Force Grip can used to lift people into the air, bounce them off walls, and drop them into bottomless pits. It’s an interesting mix of Force talents to be sure, and it’s one that uniquely suits Katarn’s unconventional approach to the Jedi arts.
By combining his innate grasp of the living Force, his battle-hardened combat instincts and his mastery of the lightsaber, Kyle Katarn is now amply capable of putting his collective experience to use in the form of acrobatics. It might not sound particularly useful nor will the term alone strike fear into the blackened hearts of his enemies, but this very ability can often prove to be the difference between life and an embarrassing death at the hands of a Stormtrooper. For instance, dodging a constant stream of gunfire or an errant swing of a hostile lightsaber can be as easy as ducking and rolling out of the way, while a hasty retreat can be achieved simply by jumping and backflipping onto an overhanging walkway. Tactical advantages can now be gained much more dramatically and with greater cinematic flourishes than ever before as you can somersault off a wall to quickly land behind your opponent. If that fails to provide you with the opportunity you require, then you may wish to wall-run for a brief time, either to attack from a more unique vantage point or to be able to kick-flip and land in a more advantageous position. Whether it’s simple visual trickery that evokes the films’ best action-packed moments, or a strategic twist that enhances your chance to land a few extra blows in combat, this new sense of superhuman agility adds volumes to Katarn’s repertoire and helps to make Jedi Outcast the fascinating experience that it is.
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