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Knight: Jedi Academy
Score: 7.9 / 10
On your way to Luke Skywalker’s Jedi
Academy to learn the ways of the Force, your transport is shot down and
ready answers as to why (and who) are in short supply. You just know
something rotten is afoot, but what? Eventually, it falls to you to save
the galaxy from a nefarious threat – like it usually does.
The “You” in this case is a padawan learner of your making. As you start
a new game you have to create a character. It’s not the same as
outfitting a character in an RPG (like say, Knights of the Old Republic)
– creating a new character is simple: choose a species, head, torso,
legs, and color. And because a Jedi is incomplete without a lightsaber,
you also get to choose your hilt and saber color. That’s where the
customization ends – at least until you start building up your Force
Unlike Outcast, the previous Jedi Knight game on Xbox, you start with
Jedi powers. Although Jedi Academy (JA) has a first-person shooter
heritage, I spent only a handful of minutes looking down the barrel of a
blaster. There are times when you have to use one of the many guns
included in JA, but for the majority of the time you’ll be in third
person mode with your lightsaber at the ready. You’ll also quickly
discover why Jedi earned the reputation of being such bad-asses…
defenders of peace and justice throughout the galaxy, whatever.
In short, Jedi are nearly unstoppable.
In the early going you might resort to gunplay – most of the familiar
weapons return – because your powers aren’t quite up to speed. But after
the first four missions, you’ll blow through the rest of the game with a
combination of Force powers and your lightsaber. That’s not to say that
it’s a cakewalk, it just seems a little routine. (Although fighting a
Rancor is still cool.)
Still there are a few additions to keep things lively, like
double-bladed lightsabers and two-handed lightsabers. Each comes with
their own set of fancy, acrobatic attacks to make full use of. You’ll
also have to deal with lightsaber locking, too, which is not a side
effect of Viagra as some have suggested. This happens more in the online
realm though. (More about the online aspects later.) Thankfully,
Vicarious Visions did a good job making the control comfortable so
actually performing all those flips and slashes doesn’t pose a problem,
particularly if you’ve had experience with Jedi Outcast.
JA is a good-looking game. It may not be the most beautiful game ever,
but it moves at a good clip and the lightsaber duels look very cool,
especially when you’re on a roll. I do have a beef with environmental
interaction, which reared its head in the opening level. At one point
you can chop down a tree – but only that tree! (And do it carefully
because it can fall on you.) As I progressed through the game I realized
how limited the interaction is. In The Empire Strikes Back, as Vader
fights Luke, he flings various objects and wall fixtures at the flailing
Luke. Now, that would have been cool! But that’s more of a personal bias
– most probably won’t even think about it.
After the single-player campaign has been won, complete with (cameo)
help from Luke Skywalker, Kyle Katarn, and Chewbacca you can move to the
online world where many hours will be spent. The classic modes are
included: Free For All (Deathmatch), Duel, Team Free For All, and
Capture the Flag. JA also throws a couple more modes into the mix: Siege
and Power Duel.
Siege presents defending and attacking teams. The attacking team has a
set of objectives to complete in a time limit and the defending team…
they defend. This mode sports a class mode very similar to the many
different iterations of Team Fortress Classic on PC: Heavy Weapons,
Scout, Tech, etc. The balance is good and works really well as a
multiplayer game if you’ve got team players involved. Power Duel – no,
not Jedi Power Battles – really tests your skills with the lightsaber.
This is a two-on-one deathmatch that really pushes you and should be the
true test of your Jedi ability.
A few of the multiplayer maps could have used work (i.e. making them a
little smaller) but for the most part they are of good size.
Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy has a very solid online component with a fair
single-player experience, which makes it a great buy for online gamers
and Star Wars fans. Even though you’ll rip through the story, Jedi
Academy still has enough fun to label it “Recommended”.