A company named LucasArts ltd was working on their first “First Person” Star Wars game, Dark Forces. Long before Republic Commando and the Jedi Knight series was Dark Forces whiched helped make LucasArts who they are today. Dark Forces was released in the mid 90’s when pretty much every FPS released was considered a Doom Clone.
Dark Forces was a big risk that LucasArts took since it was their first venture into the FPS genre. The FPS market at the time was getting plagued with tons of doom knock offs and clones. Only a few have ever managed to stand out including Duke Nukem, Rise of the Triads, and Heretic. However in retrospect, Dark Forces ended up being more than a Doom clone due to some of its content.
Drk Forces had an original story written for it that did not center on any of the characters from the Star Wars movies. You take control of Kyle Katarn as he performs hired work (he’s a mercenary) for the Rebellion. This work involves him going toe to toe with the elites of the Empire, Jabba the Hut’s minions and even fellow mercenaries and bounty hunters.
The plot has you running around trying to foil the new menace from the empire which turns out to be a new kind of storm trooper called a Dark Trooper. Heavily armored and armed, they later become a threat to the Rebellion and it is up to you to put a stop to them before they go into mass production. But Kyle had more than the Empire to deal with as he had a price on his head which will have you fighting off mercenaries throughout the game.
The notable and most debatable aspect of the game was the engine of which Dark Forces ran on. The so called “Jedi Engine” as it was called was built from the ground up by Lucas Arts, however other have accused LucasArts of being lazy and only altering and updating the Doom Engine. Whatever the case may be the Jedi Engine allowed for some firsts in the FPS genre. Dark Forces was one of the first games to involve vertical looking. While limited this was a big improvement over the Doom games which allowed for straight looking.
Another improvement over Doom was the inclusion of rendered cutscenes before and after every mission. This added depth to the story and helped progress the game in a genre where John Carmack once said stories in a FPS were as pointless as a plot in a porn movie. Another notable set forward was the use of IMUSE for the games music. LucastArts used IMUSE to create and play real time music on events that took place in game.
However none of this should overshadow the action and gameplay that is presented in Dark Forces. One of the biggest features in gameplay was the alternative firing mode that was present in Dark Forces which allowed for certain weapon to fire of secondary shots like grenades or plasma bolts. Dark Forces is also the first game to include Alt Fire before it took off in games like Unreal and Unreal Tournament.
Another great plus for Dark Forces gameplay goes to the weapons. Each weapon is very unique and original. My personal favorite was the land mines which you can drop and explode a few seconds later or use their alt fire mode and they become motion sensor mines. The mines are a perfect tool for abusing enemies that are persistently pursuing you. Tons of creativity went into creating these weapons that actually didn’t exist in the Star Wars universe until the game was released. In fact most of these weapons like the Jeron Fusion Cutter, Bryson Laser Pistol, and the Packered Mortar Gun never appeared in any other games or novels in the expanded universe.
Probably the most disappointing thing about Dark Forces is the lack of a deathmatch mode which was quickly becoming a staple in FPS games. However this did not hinder the games success and it became of the best single player FPS experiences in the mid 90's. Dark Forces went on to being one of the best selling games of its time on the PC and eventually sparked a sequel.
The sequel, Jedi Knight Dark Forces 2, had Kyle Katarn going down the road of becoming a Jedi Knight. This game then spit out another sequel, Jedi Knights 2, which dropped the Dark Forces title and gave birth to the Jedi Knight series. However the entire Jedi Knight series would have probably never have existed if not for the risk that LucasArts took in creating their first FPS.
By the way for all you Jedi Knight Academy players, here is a mod that is a recreation of Dark Forces. Check it out sometime.
Dark Forces MOD ----> http://darkforces.jediknight.net/index2.shtml