Almost everyone has heard of Star Wars, and if you haven’t you probably wouldn’t be reading this. There is a huge following behind the whole Star Wars Jedi thing, so of course if they made games based on this, you would expect them to be good. However “good” doesn’t describe this game; it’s great.
If you have played Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast (AKA JK2), you will notice a lot of similarities with Jedi Academy and Jedi Outcast. Quake3 was the engine of choice for both games, and although Jedi Academy is beefed up a bit more, it still has the exact same look and feel of JK2.
The graphics in this game are superb. Although nothing is ground breaking, the effects in the game are remarkable. The saber effects look like they were taken straight out of the movie; nothing can describe the feeling of being in a duel with a fellow Jedi with sabers. As the sparks fly, you can see the light trail your saber makes as it swings through the air. As you strike the opponents you can see the burn marks left behind, although they disappear after a few seconds.
The level design is very well done, as it was in JK2. There are various missions on various planets, so you get a great feel of different environments. The Quake3 engine performs wonderfully in all of these levels, whether it is indoor or outdoor. When you play some missions you can see the developers tried to take away some of the linear feeling and mix it up with a lot of corridors or various other paths to take. They did a splendid job as it goes from corridors to outdoors, and vents to shafts, giving you a lot of visuals to keep your eyes happy.
The one thing that Raven really improved on are the characters, and definitely their animations. The characters look outstanding in Jedi Academy. In 3rd person view you can really see how well the bodies move and how well the skins mesh together to create unique people. The one thing that limited JK2 was what kind of moves you could do, as you only carried one saber. With the option of three different saber styles you get a lot of outstanding moves and animations. When I first played with akimbo sabers, that’s right, two sabers, my jaw hit the floor. The vast amount of moves the character could perform was amazing, and I haven’t even figured all of them out. It is very difficult to explain everything the player can do. They really improved upon the acrobatics and mid-air moves. The power struggles are superior to anything I’ve ever seen: you can take out a Jedi in one swift stroke, if you win a power struggle.
The character models in the cut-scenes move their mouths in sync with the voices, or so they seem to do. The models up-close are a huge step from what was seen in JK2. During the cut-scenes you can see the detail that applied to the characters in order to really make them unique. There are quite a bit of cut-scenes as well, so this really brings the story together as the game progresses. Although to tell the truth some of the animations in the cut-scenes are a bit sketchy: things don’t match up, and it appears the models have Parkinson’s disease.
The weapons are almost an exact copy from JK2, with a little bit improved on the graphical side, but they basically still look the same. As far as I’ve played there aren’t a lot of new weapons, but you do get vehicles this time around. You can ride the hover bikes as well as a walker, and a few animals. They look like their movie counterparts, so true fans will enjoy the authenticity.
As in JK2 there is an incredible amount of interaction with the maps, there are hidden levers and blocks that need to be blown away to clear a path. Although they don’t always jump out, it is fairly easy to find the right route.
Overall I was very surprised by the quality of the graphics with such an older engine, compared to today’s standards. The game flows perfectly from one transition to the next and the cut-scenes look amazing. While most of the weapon models haven’t changed, the characters definitely have.
The voice acting in the game is superb, as one would expect. The voice actors show all forms of expression during the game, and in the cut-scenes it really feels like you are watching a movie. I’d put this game up there with Mafia, as far as the voice acting goes.
The sound effects in Jedi Academy are almost directly taken from JK2. Almost all of the weapons sound the same, although they all indeed sound great. All the weapons sound like their movie counterparts, and the saber sounds are incredible. Clashing sabers, seeing the sparks fly, really puts you in the game and gets your heart pounding.
The music, as well as the rest of the audio in this game, exceeded my expectations. It seems everything in this game is straight from the movies. The music makes the game flow perfectly; it has the slow parts and the fast parts. As the intensity in the game increases so does the music. During the cut-scenes the music plays along flawlessly, bringing the ultimate experience to the player.
Audio in this game overall is outstanding. This is some of the best work I've seen in a game; it bring you a variety of sounds, voices, and music to enhance your gaming pleasure. Any fan will definitely appreciate the time spent to make the game very authentic.
Jedi Academy plays very much like JK2. Same views, same weapons, just a different story. You start off as a soon-to-be Jedi in training, when your ship crashes and you must find your way back to the academy to train. As you play and do missions, you can raise your force powers, which makes you more powerful. The things that set this game apart from the others are the twists and other surprises along the way.
As you play you run into a lot of interesting characters. Unlike JK2, you fight Jedi very often throughout the game, even in the beginning. As you progress, so does the story. Things start to fall into place, and it opens your eyes to what a great story this game offers. Another great thing is that Raven left out a lot of the mind puzzles: sometimes in JK2 you could spend a long time in one area, just trying to figure out what to do, and this is no more a problem in Jedi Academy.
During the game you choose which missions you wish to play, and you can get a short briefing of what to expect. After you choose your mission you find out whether or not it’ll be easy: if not, Kyle will most likely join you. After completing a set of a few missions the story progresses, and you can continue to play the missions, which can be used to increase your force powers, or skip some and move on with the main story.
The AI in the game is so-so. At some points it’s very strong; at others you can see the flaws. Sometimes you can run up to an enemy and slash him and his buddy won’t take notice until you attack him. Other times you attack one, and he runs away, only to bring you to an ambush. The game has its strong and weak points for AI, but for the most time it is very well done.
If you have ever played JK2 at all, you will find this game very easy to get into. If you haven’t, it won’t be very hard to start out.
If I could sum up the multiplayer into one word, it would be: addicting. As I stated before, the game is much like JK2, but the added ability of 3 saber styles really brings the game to a higher level.
There is a multitude of game types, including CTF, Siege, Duel, Power Duel, and a few more. Each one offers a totally different gaming experience, so you will be happy for quite some time.
You also have a lot of options to enable or disable, such as force and weapons. So if you wanted to play with just sabers, as a lot of people do, you can click a button and it’s done. There are a lot of console options to tone up the game even more, such as force regenerate time, or which exact forces to disable. While this is more advanced, it’s quite nice to have that option there.
Siege is two team style, where one team has to defend objectives while the other one has to complete them. For me, this was the most confusing style; it just took me a while to learn what to do for each map.
Duel is a one on one competition, two people fight while everyone else spectates, the winner stays for the next duel. Power duel is exactly like duel, except that it is two on one, you select what you want to be before you join the game. You can pick to either be on a team, or solo. This is where skill and timing become very important.
There are of course FFA and Team FFA, but those and the rest of them are pretty much self explanatory. There is no co-op mode, which I know of, and while that might disappoint some people, the rest of the modes more than make up for it.
This is probably the most addicting multiplayer game I have ever played. Its unique way of fighting, and the option to duel people so no one else interferes, gives this game higher precedence over others. If you have never played JK2 online, then you are in for quite a surprise.
Jedi Academy is incredibly addicting; the new story and the somewhat simpler gameplay really draws the players in. The game plays very much like JK2, with a lot of changes. If you enjoyed JK2 at all, you will really like this one.
With the improved everything, from graphics to multiplayer, this is truly a great game. I will be playing this game for some time to come, especially multiplayer. Do you have what it takes to become a Jedi? Get this game, join a server, and prove yourself.