Publisher: LucasArts Entertainment
Developer: Raven Software Corp.
N Amer - 11/19/2003
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Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy Review
It wasn’t too long ago that the Xbox got a taste of a PC favorite set in the Star Wars universe and Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast gave Star Wars and Xbox gamers something to cheer about. With George Lucas working on his prequel trilogy, games set in this universe have been pouring in but none have been able to come close to the brilliance of both Knights and Outcast. Then Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy shows up. Does this game deserve a spot in your growing library?
It has been a few years since a farm boy from the desert became the powerful Jedi who helped destroy the Empire and now Skywalker hopes to restore the order of the Jedi Knights that had been wiped out many years ago by his father’s hand. On her way to Skywalker’s Jedi Academy on the planet Yavin, a young hopeful by the name of Jaden Kor is suddenly thrust into action and shows the right potential that Skywalker--as well as Jedi Knight Kyle Katarn (hero of the last two Jedi Knight games)--has seen in the young apprentice. Yet something dark and sinister lurks near and Jaden goes on a quest to find out exactly what is going on.
The interesting part about this story is that you are the one who gives a face, gender, race and attire style to Jaden . . . as well as choosing the hilt of the lightsaber he or she will get to wield. You can choose to be a Rodian male or a Twi’lek female, it’s entirely up to you. Unlike Knights of the Old Republic, the story offers nothing different depending on what gender or race you choose. The game does, however, take note of your actions. If you harm innocent droids, for example, your path to the Dark Side becomes evident only with the selection of Dark Side powers. You’ll be able to use Force Grip (a power Darth Vader seems to favor quite often) and even Force Lightning (used by power Sith Lords).
The game still feels like the Jedi Knight games and this really works well with Jedi Academy. Once again a first-person perspective is mixed in with a third-person view of the action (often seen when using your lightsaber) and once again the game moves along smoothly either way. There are many times when Jaden must use weapons to eliminate snipers and there are many times. At the start of each level, you are given a choice of the type of blasters and explosives you can take for each mission. The lightsaber, though, will most likely be a weapon of preference for most gamers. The good news is that you start with one from the very beginning so, unlike the first two Jedi Knight games, you don’t have to anxiously wait the level that grants you the use of this beloved weapon.
You start the game as an apprentice and this means you begin training under the close eye of your Master, Kyle Katarn. Your missions as an apprentice begin as tests of how you handle each situation that requires your attention. Because Skywalker wants to re-establish the Jedi’s as peacekeepers, your first missions range from rescuing a merchant in the planet Blenjeel to recovering a lost droid in the sandy planet of Tatooine. The real missions begin soon after and by then gamers will come to master a few Jedi tricks such as Force Heal to Force Absorb.
The great news is that the game constantly reminds you that you’re playing a Star Wars game so it throws in some very familiar features. One mission will have you accompanied by Chewbacca and another mission tosses you in the familiar ice planet of Hoth where you will encounter the same type of beast that attacked Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. The bad news is that the game still doesn’t quite offer you a helpful hint when it comes to locating objects or switches you need to interact with the move the game along. You also need certain characters alive to complete a mission so you have to watch their back as well.
Thankfully the Jedi Knight series continues to offer a number of multiplayer games and this game certainly carries on the tradition of adding duels, the always entertaining free-for-all battles and even a mode that has you teaming up with a buddy to take on two or more other friends. Yet the icing on this already sweetened cake is the fact that you can now play this one online using the Xbox Live service. Thank the gaming gods that they listened to the fans who pleaded for online multiplayer action. After all, who wouldn’t want to get into lightsaber duels with Star Wars fans?
Jedi Academy is not the best looking recent Star Wars game and this is quite a shame, really. There is clearly a lot of clipping issues that crop up very often and it’s hard to seriously pay attention to cut scenes when the main character’s shoulder suddenly phases right through somebody’s chest. Some characters are also not rendered properly and you’ll notice that many characters have square torsos that don’t look very appealing. The environments, though, fair a bit better . . . but not by very much. From afar certain places look nicely rendered but up close the locations take on a rather plain look. What the game does right visually is the special effects. Blaster fire looks just like it does in the movies and the lighsabers striking each another illuminates the screen . . . it’s really that beautiful.
Sound-wise, I have yet to run across a Star Wars themed game that doesn’t masterfully recreate both the sound and the music of the films. Once again that familiar John Williams score opens the game wonderfully and then continues to flow within the game’s levels. Many of the musical arraignments will be very familiar and very welcome in this game but it is the sound effects that really win big points here. The game faithfully recreates everything from blaster fire to the low humming of a lightsaber. The voice acting is also very good, although sometimes it’s a bit unusual to find some aliens that speak English.
Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy might not impress the likes of Master Yoda but he will definitely be proud of all the great things this one has to offer. Aside from the pretty interesting story and creative options that allow you to change everything about the main character, the game offers plenty of multiplayer fun online or offline. While there are a few things that could have been handled a lot better--the visuals, for example--the game is still action-packed and fun to play.
#Reviewer's Scoring Details
The game feels a lot like Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and this is actually very good news since the controls were pretty smooth as a first-person shooter and during the majority of the game’s third-person perspective. There are a few new moves added to this one, though, and many of these moves make lightsaber fights more intense. You can also use dual lightsabers and the Darth Maul-inspired double-bladed lightsaber. It just doesn’t get any better than that for any Star Wars fan.
The graphics in this game are actually something of a major disappointment considering the fact that last year’s Jedi Outcast was a neat-looking game. The game wonderfully recreates familiar backdrops that fans of the Star Wars franchise will easily recognize, but there is a plain feel to every environment--including the impressive level set on the icy planet of Hoth. Aside from the bland textures found in most of the environments, some of the characters take on a rather “blockish” appearance during animated cut scenes and during the game’s action. The game also suffers horribly from heavy clipping. One thing the game does right visually, though, is the special effects--most especially the lightsaber effects.
Once again that John Williams score never ceases to be boring no matter how many Star Wars titles use it. Here the classic score from the original trilogy is used throughout the game as well as some original compositions that blend nicely with each cut scene or action sequence. The voice acting is also very decent but what really catches the ears attention are the sound effects that are as cool as the ones heard in the films. Lasers whine in hallways and the sound of a lightsaber coming to life is by far one of the sweetest sounds imaginable.
The Jedi Knight difficulty setting will definitely give you the biggest challenge and it isn’t even the hardest setting available. Still, even in the game’s normal setting, you’ll find a slew of challenges that pose enough of a threat. For one thing, there are Sith whom have Force powers that can drain your very life or can choke you before you can even strike. There are also plenty of times where you have to defend a companion such as Chewbacca or your friend Rosh.
Star Wars fans will love the fact that the game tosses several familiar faces from the original trilogy and often times gamers will get to interact with them. The game also allows you to choose everything from your gender, race, clothing style and lightsaber hilt and color. And, like Knight of the Old Republic, you are able to fight using two lightsabers--an ability that not only looks cool but also offers a helping hand when going up against two Sith opponents at the same time.
Star Wars fans will absolutely be enthralled by the fact that this game offers so many multiplayer options to keep up to ten players, using a System Link and multiple Xbox consoles (you can play a single friend using a single Xbox), very happily busy. Yet the biggest draw--and the one that has me playing this one very often--is the fact that the multiplayer modes can also be played online using the Xbox Live service. That’s right, you read it correctly. You can duel against other Xbox gamers out there using any of the seven multiplayer modes and even talk trash using your Xbox Communicator. Here’s your chance to see if you’re truly good with the lightsaber.
The Force is somewhat strong with this one but Jedi Academy lacks a few things that could have made this really good game an amazing one instead. The game does, however, possess all the things we love about the Star Wars franchise and interacting with this universe as a Jedi apprentice makes this a unique experience. I recommend this game for its great story, wonderfully intense battles and a killer multiplayer mode that takes the action online. If you’re a true fan of everything Star Wars, go ahead and buy this one.
The Force is somewhat strong with this one but Jedi Academy lacks a few things that could have made this really good game an amazing one instead.
Reviewer: Nick Valentino
Review Date: 11/28/2003