Looking for a great port of an excellent PC shooter? Keep looking...
In the console world there are definitely some pros and cons to buying a system that is deemed viable by a wide variety of publishers. In one particular area, specifically with ports of games from the PC, there is usually more bad than good. That isn’t to say that bad games are being converted from the PC market; just that many good PC games don’t work well or are poorly executed on console systems. Jedi Outcast is most definitely one of these titles.
In the game you’ll take control of Kyle Katarn, an ex-Jedi and mercenary, who gets drawn back into the fray through a series of events beyond his control that could threaten the galaxy. Through the course of the game you’ll make use of a variety of weapons, of course including the versatile and ultra-cool lightsaber itself. In addition, you’ll also be challenged to make use of various force powers in order to overcome obstacles and occasionally maybe force push a stormtrooper or two off a cliff.
While the core gameplay hasn’t changed in the move to the GameCube, unfortunately the great game waiting to be experienced has a wide variety of obstacles standing in the way of this conversion being at all enjoyable. The foremost problem in the game is unfortunately one of the most crucial, and that is in the area of control. Let’s face it: with the exception of a handful of titles, it is absolutely unbearable to play first-person shooters on a console system. None of the available control schemes in Outcast ever feel natural or fluid in any. Unlike some other console shooters, there is a real need to move and aim at the same time in Jedi Outcast if you wish to be effective, and the controls simply don’t make this workable. One area that complicates matters even more is that there are many levels and areas with places to fall to your death all around, and any flaky control makes this sort of thing even more frustrating. A final element for which the console control unfortunately falls short is in the control of the lightsaber. In the PC title there was a good flow to the controls aided by the mouse, but with the move to the GameCube, it feels like the array of moves has been abbreviated or at least doesn’t come across as effectively.
Another area where things can get downright painful is in terms of graphics. It generally isn’t a good sign when you’re starting up the first level in the game and you already can begin to see stutters and jitters in the framerate. This isn’t even being evaluated on a nitpicker’s scale of fluidity; average gamers won’t be able to help but notice all sorts of graphical glitches here and there in the game, and yet there are still much more attractive games on the system without these problems. Add in the fact that the cinematic cutscenes that were rendered in real time on the PC have been pre-recorded for the consoles and look just downright terrible. Why they weren’t done in real time or couldn’t have been cleaned up is a mystery.
A final area of concern with the title that was true even in the excellent original PC version of the game is the pacing of the game. Truthfully, until you get a good third of the way into the game, it can be a real drag. You won’t begin with any force powers or your trusty lightsaber, so initially you’ll be spending quite a bit of time blasting away with a variety of weapons and at that point the game is quite dull. Once you get your lightsaber and the initial force powers the game does begin to pick up, but even then for a level or two it doesn’t hit its full groove. Once you do finally hit about the half way point, the game truly does hit its groove and provides a good deal of entertaining challenges and possibilities. Cutting through a room of troopers and then finishing the last one off with the quick throw of your lightsaber has its own distinct appeal, as do any number of unique combinations of force powers and tricks you can use for disposing of your enemies in a wide variety of situations.
In the end, Jedi Outcast ends up being a pretty terrible port of an excellent PC title. The trick to enjoying the GameCube incarnation will be coming to terms with the control and graphic inadequacies in the game and then being able to make yourself get over the “hump” so that you can enjoy the meat and potatoes of the whole experience. If you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan who doesn’t have access to a PC, this may be your only opportunity to experience the thrill of choking people with your mind ala Darth Vader, and it may be worth it. Unfortunately for the more casual gamers, it is hard to recommend the game for even a rental, due to a combination of factors that will likely turn off a majority of people who will pick it up.