Platform: PC

Genre: Action

Developer: Raven Software

Publisher: LucasArts

ESRB: T (Teen)

Released: September 2003

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Star Wars Jedi Knight:

Jedi Academy

Score: 8.1 / 10

 

Pros:

- Great multiplayer set-up

- Good variety of levels representing a spectrum of Star Wars universe locales

- Get to be a Wookie online!  

 

 

Cons:

- Graphics aren’t as polished as they could be

- Run-of-the-mill action title

- Controls get schizophrenic in driving sequences with a keyboard/mouse set-up  

 

 

Related Links:

Review: Jedi Knight II - Outcast (PC)

Review: Star Wars Starfighter (PC)

Review: Obi-Wan (XB)

 

"...Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy offers stimulating online modes that are reminiscent of Unreal gaming at its finest."

 

Anybody who was a kid about the time the original three Star Wars movies came out at least once brandished a lightsaber in mock battle, either a store-bought licensed model or a homemade Force-stick (mine was a plastic wiffle ball bat). Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (JKJA) brings those boyhood Star Wars adventures to the PC, and you’ll learn lightsaber handling techniques from the best, including Luke Skywalker himself, in your own quest to join the ranks of the famous and powerful Jedi.  

 

jedi knight jedi academy pc review           jedi knight jedi academy pc review

 

Starting out, JKJA lets you actually choose and design a character, albeit within a small frame of selectable characteristics, like species, sex, facial, body, and clothing attributes. But at least there is some customization here, not forcing you to partake a Jedi adventure as only Kyle Kataran, the mercenary star of previous Jedi Knight titles. Instead, Kataran is an instructor at the Jedi academy run by Luke Skywalker. Take the role of Jaden, a young Jedi-wannabe trying to learn the Force, its light and dark side, and the powers that come with being a true Jedi master. You also get to build a personalized lightsaber, and can upgrade your Force powers during the course of your adventures.

 

As a green recruit, you have to prove yourself in the Jedi way, and you will be sent on plenty of missions to learn and harness your Jedi powers to their full potential. Force powers are available to you, first in their least powerful form and gradually as mentioned before can be increased for full-fledged Jedi attack effectiveness. There is a full arsenal of guns and incendiary devices if you choose to fight that way, too, but the most fun is had wielding a lightsaber slicing and dicing foes.  

 

 

Again, there are the requisite Force powers that will be necessary to pass some of the puzzle elements in the game. These aren’t really “puzzles” in the true sense of the word, because none of them are really puzzling or require any mental strain on your part to solve. Players that played previous Kyle Kataran games will be instantly familiar with the Force powers: force speed, push, pull, the lightsaber throw, and mind tricks, among others. Using these powers does help, but for the most part aren’t necessary to defeat Dark Side Imperial opposition.

 

Missions tend to last relatively long (although peppered with a liberal sprinkling of shorter undertakings), giving you plenty of Jedi playing time. Raven Software did a great job of providing a varied selection of Star Wars locales to keep the game from getting repetitive with too many missions in similar terrain. Whether it is frozen tundra, sand-covered (and Jawa-infested) deserts, or futuristic cityscapes, expect to see plenty of the Star Wars universe including Tatooine, Bakura, Corella, and Hoth, among many, many other destinations.

 

What mission you take on is left up to you, but you can’t move on to the next group of levels in the game without eventually completing a required set, so there still is a linear feel to JKJA. Still, with as many different worlds you actually get to visit, the game doesn’t get boring in its linearity.

 

Controlling Jaden isn’t the easiest endeavor with the keyboard & mouse set-up. When you are carrying a gun or incendiary device, the game is played in first-person mode, which is more suited to the long-established mouse & keyboard schematics. But while using your lightsaber, driving a vehicle or riding a beast of burden, the game places you in third-person perspective, and JKJA becomes a lot less easily navigated with the same keyboard & mouse.

 

Its control is one of JKJA’s most uneven features, and unless you play with a joystick, you won’t be able to quickly pull off some of the acrobatic moves you will need to perform while lightsaber battling, especially when squaring off against “boss” characters. Much of the game’s action elements have a console feel to them that should dictate playing with some sort of joystick involvement in the control schematics if you want to experience JKJA’s full entertainment value as a single-player adventure. (Yes, JKJA is coming to Xbox.)

 

jedi knight jedi academy pc review          jedi knight jedi academy pc review

 

Putting aside the average single-player action, JKJA is made much more satisfying by having a well structured and completely entertaining online functionality. Here, mouse & keyboard control are much more at home. Designed strikingly similar to Unreal Tournament or Unreal Championship-style levels, there is a bevy of online modes to keep you plenty happy. Siege is JKJA’s newest online mode, but old familiars such as Free for All, Team Free for All, Capture the Flag, and Duel return. What impressed me most about JKJA’s online gameplay was how easy it was to connect to a game session and how relatively lag-free those game sessions were.

 

Either online or not, there is a big assortment of Star Wars weaponry at your disposal, including naturally a lightsaber, one of which is the double-sided lightsaber Darth Maul made famous. Rifles, guns, lasers, grenades, and mines are also readily available to fight the good fight.

 

Graphically JKJA plays the middle ground, not overwhelmingly notable by any means, especially with an average video card. But it is well rendered, particularly the detailed world environments you’ll travel through and above. JKJA’s character models are relatively solid, but struck me a little funny because of the small stature of many of the fellows and creatures you’ll encounter, the Imperial Stormtroopers most notably. These guys are a bit on the tiny and wimpy side, almost like they’ve been skipping the Imperial weightlifting-training regimen. JKJA is a good visual effort, but it could have been better.

 

It wouldn’t be a Star Wars game without the famous John Williams’ music tunes and climatic orchestral sounds floating throughout. Sound effects aren’t overly impressive, but the loud crackling bug-zapper sound of the lightsabers both you and your enemies use is dead-on.

 

Fans of all things Star Wars can expect many cameo appearances, including R2D2, Luke Skywalker, and my favorite Star Wars character ever, Chewbacca the Wookie. Good old Chewie! To me, nothing is more gratifying than playing online as the hairy hero himself with a lightsaber in hand.

 

Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy can be a bit too formulaic, but Star Wars fans will be able to ignore the standard gameplay of JKJA and completely get engrossed exploring and adventuring throughout the Star Wars galaxy. For the non-Star Wars aficionado, JKJA offers stimulating online modes that are reminiscent of Unreal gaming at its finest.

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(October 29, 2003)

 

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