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Jedi Knight Screen

LucasArts Star Wars Game Universe Expands

...and with their usual quality, too!

By Steven Bilodeau

One of the challenges facing a game developer is getting the player familiar with the game's setting. Until that comfort level is reached, the gamer will not feel immersed in the experience. That's why you see so many games based on successful movies or television shows; the developer has a head start because the player already has a grasp on the background of the character or, at least, a vague idea as to the game's setting and plot.

Since it has such a well-developed story and is immensely popular, "Star Wars" is the perfect franchise for computer games. LucasArts, George Lucas's software arm, guards this property fiercely. Quality is the standard, even if that means long delays in getting the title onto the store shelf.

Jedi Knight is the sequel to their hit, Dark Forces. But where the earlier game was "Star Wars DOOM", Jedi Knight is "Star Wars QUAKE" with a whole lot of important extras.

You play Kyle Katarn, the character from "Dark Forces." The events of this game occur at the same time as those in the movies, but are not otherwise related. What this means is that the stories are completely original, but characters and story elements from the movies will make an occasional appearance.

The story is very well developed. Jerec, the evil Dark Jedi, has killed Kyle's father, a Jedi Master. Good vs. Evil always works well. Jerec also wants to find the Jedi Valley, a source of great power. So Kyle progresses through the game, mission by mission, pursuing Jerec. As this occurs, Kyle gets more weapons and learns to use the Force. The Force gives him powers like super-speed, persuasion, evil grip and so on. Whether you stay with the "Light" or the "Dark" side determines which Force powers you can get. As Kyle's character develops these powers, you'll find the game takes on different dimensions. It won't replay exactly the same. You can switch between first and third person perspectives with the press of a button.

The levels are extremely well done in that they are varied and detailed. Whether you're in the middle of an Imperial city with towering buildings or at your father's farm, the scenery is richly drawn. There is so much detail and logic in the layout that you can start to find your way around very quickly. With a 3D accelerator, the images are even more impressive.

The sounds are just as well done with all the Star Wars sounds and music to set the mood. You finally get to use a light sabre in Jedi Knight, and the sound of it activating is truly inspiring.

In between missions you'll see live action cutscenes with actors moving you to the next task. They establish the story and characters. So instead of just coming to the game for something to do, you come back because you want to see what happens next. It makes it more fun to get through each mission.

Jedi Knight lets you play against other human opponents - a much requested feature. You can connect via network or on the Internet through the Internet Gaming Zone ( Ready to fire that tow cable!

Shadows of the Empire

If you're happy to sacrifice story for action and graphics, then you might prefer Shadows of the Empire. This was originally released as a Nintendo 64 title with lots of fanfare and hype. Now it's been converted to a Windows 95 title. In order to get comparable graphics to the Nintendo version, it's been written so that a 3D accelerator is required.

Shadows of the Empire is a lot like the Rebel Assault games: it's meant for action. As Dash Rendar, you move from blasting Imperial TIE fighters to battling Stormtroopers in laser gunfights, and even flying snow speeders around the ice planet Hoth. Remember how they used the harpoons in the movie to trip those huge Imperial walkers? Now you can do that yourself!

You can't walk around wherever you'd like, as in Jedi Knight, nor can you fly your ship off a pre-determined path as in TIE Fighter. It's a more limited experience, but the millions of people who bought the Nintendo 64 version sure didn't mind. It looks, and plays, as good or better on the PC.

Breaking the MonotonyGo Directly to the Detention level!

For the ultimate in familiarity, how about combining Star Wars with Monopoly? Yes, the classic board game has been converted into a multimedia computer game from Hasbro Interactive. You're greeted by C3P0 himself just before you choose the player that will move around the board. Instead of a car or a hat, you choose characters from the movie: Han Solo, a Stormtrooper, Leia, Darth Vader and so on.

You can play against other human opponents or just by yourself against as many computer opponents as you want. This game definitely shines in multiplayer mode. You can simply share the keyboard with someone, or you can connect computers via modem, network or Internet.

When you roll the dice, your character will move from one property to the next. The whole board has been redone, so the properties are all from Star Wars. The community chest and chance cards have been replaced with Empire and Rebel cards. The only holdouts are the four corners, including the dreaded "Go To Jail" and the free money at "Go."

Star Wars Monopoly is fun, but time consuming. Each move is accompanied with a short clip from one of the three movies. While it's fun at first, the pause in loading the movie can get annoying after awhile, and there's no way to stop it.

Steven Bilodeau is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns at

Steven Bilodeau can be reached via e-mail at And for more computer news, visit JournalExtra, the World Wide Web site of The Edmonton Journal, at


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May 14, 2006