Knight: Jedi Academy offers stimulating online modes that are
reminiscent of Unreal gaming at its finest."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
(Yes, JKJA is coming to Xbox.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.