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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
9.8
Visuals
9.0
Audio
9.5
Gameplay
10
Features
9.5
Replay
9.5
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
LucasArts
DEVELOPER:
BioWare
GENRE: RPG
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
July 17, 2003
ESRB RATING:
Teen
IN THE SERIES
Star Wars Kinect

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

More in this Series
 Written by Nick Doukas  on September 11, 2003

Full Review: ?Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good Blaster at your side.? Actually, you might want to re-think that one Han?


The Star Wars films have always had a deep feeling of history to them. Like you'd been dropped into the middle of an epic conflict that's lasted (in one form or another) for thousands of millennia. The huge cast of colorful alien characters, the immense galaxy and tremendous number of exciting worlds and species, the government, and of course, the conflict. These are the aspects of Star Wars that allow it to transcend its B-movie roots and become something much more. A fully realized universe; one full of people, animals, places and things. All of them carrying authentic weight.

Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic captures that SW feel perfectly. It's a brilliantly conceived and executed RPG that takes players on an intense journey throughout the galaxy during the Jedi/Sith War, 4,000 years before the events of Episode I. At first, you seem only a minor player, a well-trained operative on an anonymous Republic ship that falls under a Sith attack. After making your escape from the Endar Spire, you'll land on the Sith controlled planet of Taris, where you'll be tasked with finding a powerful Jedi and escaping the rock. From these humble beginnings, KOTOR takes you on a galaxy spanning quest that sees you trained in the ways of the Jedi, and battling the forces of evil to an epic conclusion worthy of the films.

Some of the more noteworthy aspects of the game are in the area of story and characterization. The obvious cool implications of the Star Wars license aside, you'll also thoroughly enjoy interacting with NPCs, as well as the members of your own party, most of whom you'll simply pick up (in neat little story arcs) during your travels. Yes, you'll get some cool droids, and your very own life-debt owing Wookie. It simply doesn't get any more authentic than that. All of your party members have history, motivations, and a great deal of personality. You can (and should) talk to virtually everyone you see, and the various indigenous beings, shop owners, political activists, and all manner of other creatures have plenty to say. The voice acting is most impressive, with some of the better thespians in the business handling key roles. Actually, KOTOR has possibly the best voice acting seen in a videogame to date, and a story that puts all of that incredible dialogue to excellent use.

Despite the huge amount of items you'll gather as you engage in the various side quests and general adventuring, not to mention the party and equipment management screens that you'll need to deal with, KOTOR's interface is surprisingly easy to use. Force powers, weapons (blasters, ion rifles, swords, vibroblades, and lightsabers), as well as various mines, grenades, armor, and clothing are all neatly assembled in clear concise menus that are easy to navigate. Equipping items is equally user friendly, and switching between each of your party members (up to 3 at one time), is a breeze as well. You'll move the currently equipped character with the left thumbstick, and control the camera with the right (click down for a first person vantage). The directional pad is used to cycle through the action menu, which is where you'll access a party member's skills, feats, items and Force powers. The icons in the action menu will change depending on whether the targeting circle is on a door, container, friendly creature, or an enemy. A highlighted icon can be activated using the A button, actions such as Open for doors or lockers, Dialog for friends, and Attack for enemies. The B button is used to cancel commands, while the start button allows access to the in-game menus, which can be cycled through using the left and right triggers.

Much of your time in Knights Of The Old Republic will be spent exploring and item collecting, as well as conversing with NPCs. You'll pick up various side quests by doing so, and working for different characters on everything from collecting bounties (yup, there's a Hutt to do business with), to becoming embroiled in a murder-mystery, is insanely fun. All of the side quests are interesting and entertaining, and mesh well with the cool plot elements and unexpected twists of the main adventure. Speaking of adventure, you're only going as far as your ship will take you, right? The Ebon Hawk is your transportation around the galaxy, as well as your base of operations. All but two of your party members will remain onboard once you make planetfall (all told, you'll meet up with a total of 9 different characters), and you'll be able to choose which allies accompany you on any given quest. Besides Taris, you'll also visit Dantooine, the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk, Anakin Skywalker's future home Tatooine, as well as several other locations. Each planet is huge, with sprawling vistas, settlements, forests, valleys and other stunning locations. It's simply impossible to describe the scope of the game. You really need to experience it for yourself.

One of the more intense elements of KOTOR is the amount of freedom you have in choosing your path. As a Jedi, the responses you pick and the actions you undertake will have grave implications regarding your status as a student of the light or dark side of The Force. Every situation you come across will allow you several different approaches to accomplish the task at hand. Similarly, the way you speak to NPCs and party members, or how you react to their situations, will have a dramatic impact on the outcome of any given scenario, as well as the overall adventure.

As you make your way through the worlds of KOTOR, you'll be thrust into combat with various Sith soldiers, Dark Jedi, corrupt officials, bounty hunters, and alien creatures. The game uses a simplified version of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules for combat and character generation, so at the outset you'll have the choice of 3 classes: Soldier, Scout, or Scoundrel. Each class has strengths and weaknesses that you'll need to take into account, depending on your approach to the gameplay. Soldiers are more powerful in combat, while a Scoundrel has superior persuasion skills. The Scout is a fair mixture of the two, with solid combat abilities, as well as good technical skills (at numerous points in the game, you'll need to hack computers, repair droids, or bypass security doors).

The combat itself is extremely cool, a pseudo real-time/turn-based engine that looks incredibly gorgeous in action. Once a group of enemies is spotted, the game auto-pauses (though you can disable this feature in the options menu), and targets the most immediate threat. At this point you have full control of the action. This takes a bit of getting used to at first, but before long you'll find yourself setting up your Jedi to attack with an advanced flurry, followed up by a powerstrike and Force throw, while your Wookie lays waste to the enemy with rapid fire shots from his Bowcaster. The white button is used to pause/unpause the battle, and the black button instantly switches control of party members. So you can micro-manage the fight, or let your associates do their own thing, since they will attack automatically if left to their own devices. You can set-up attacks in the action menu once you've engaged in combat, and pressing X will allow you to store up to three battle commands in the action queue. Once you restart the brawl, the characters will perform their commands each turn until they've completed them all. At this time, you can re-enter new attacks. This makes the combat quite strategic and exciting, while at the same time keeping the action moving fast enough for the fight to appear in smooth, flowing real-time. Blaster bolts ricocheting off of the walls, the clash of a sparking saber, and the explosion of multiple thermal detonators mark each encounter with that authentic Star Wars combat feel. You know the hallway full of Imperial Stormtroopers and Rebel Soldiers tearing it up at the beginning of A New Hope? Just like that, but with lightsabers too.

In addition to the various quests, KOTOR features several mini-games. At various times, you'll find yourself engaged in Swoop races (an early pre-cursor to the Pod racing detailed in Episode I), as well as a card game called Pazaak. In addition, during some of the space travel sequences, you'll need to man the Ebon Hawk's gun turrets and blow attacking fighters into dust.

Graphically, Knights Of The Old Republic looks good, and in some areas, downright fantastic. While some of the character models are a bit blocky, they do sport excellent detail, and every gun, saber, or item of clothing you equip is reflected in your characters on-screen appearance. The grasslands of Dantooine, the Sith tombs on Korriban, and the Dune Sea of Tatooine all feature sweeping, beautiful panoramas, fully detailed and bursting with vibrant colors. The character animations and particle effects are phenomenal, and Jedi battles feature glowing sabers erupting with exploding plasma, all stunningly rendered and brimming with cool little flourishes. It really has to be seen in action to be truly appreciated.

The in-game sound is equally good, with every blaster bolt, Wookie growl, and squalling bit of droid language faithfully recreated here. The music is incredible, utilizing some of John William's score, but mostly relying on an understated, perfectly implemented original soundtrack. It all works very well, and fits nicely with the pre-existing Star Wars music.

Bottom Line
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic is simply the greatest SW experience to ever grace a home console. It's also the RPG that Xbox owners have been waiting for since launch. The size and scope of the adventure, and the incredibly diverse cast of characters you'll encounter, combined with the epic story and tremendous number of amazing locations will absolutely blow your mind, and I guarantee that you'll never want the game to end. Exploring, fighting, and leveling up with your party will keep you glued to the screen for the foreseeable future, and you'll easily get 40 hours of play the first time through. There's real incentive to play through the game again as a dark character, so technically, you could see 80 hours of Jedi fun by the time you're completely finished. If you're a Star Wars fan, an RPG fan, or just a connoisseur of top-shelf AAA games, run to the store and buy Knights Of The Old Republic. It'll be the best $50.00 you've ever spent in your entire gaming career?seriously.


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