Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-16
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Star Wars games. There are probably hundreds of them, and less than ten that are any good. Sadly, I would have to say that this isn't one of them.

When you start a new game, you get to create a character, choosing from six; a Male Kel Dor, Rodian, Human, or a Female Twi'lek, Zabrak or Human. You can choose from a variety of different heads, torsos and legs, and a colour for the edging. (Or in the Twi'lek's case, skin) After choosing the looks for your character, you get to customise your lightsaber. You can choose the colour and the hilt, but you very rarely get close enough to see the design on the hilt, so it's quite pointless. After this process, you get into the game, and find out that you are going to the academy because you have somehow managed to build a lightsaber without being trained in the force. The story to the game isn't that well developed really, and isn't on par with some of the better Star Wars games (e.g. KotoR).

Gameplay is average at best, but it has a lot of problems. There are around thirteen different weapons in the game, but you will find yourself just sticking to the lightsaber 99% of the time, as it kills most enemies in a couple of hits. The only time I found myself using any of the guns was to hit an enemy that was too far away to use my lightsaber on (but you can throw it some distance too). There are sixteen different force powers, eight of which are core powers, meaning that you cannot choose them, and they increase as you progress through the game. These are ones such as force jump, push etc. There are then four light side powers, and four dark side powers. The light side ones consist of healing, and deflecting/absorbing attacks, whereas the dark side ones are offensive. Whilst the force powers are fun, they make the game too easy. If you are in trouble, just go to a room without any enemies, and use your force heal, wait for your force points to regenerate, and use it again if you need to. Whilst they make the game too easy, it's great fun using the higher levels of force drain, or force choke on enemies

   

The game itself tries to be nonlinear, as you get one or two required missions, and then a group of training/Jedi missions, followed by more required missions. With the training/Jedi missions you are given a choice of five, and can do them in any order. Once you have done four of them you can then choose to do the required missions, or do the final one and then the required ones to further the storyline. You will find yourself doing all the missions anyway, as you get another force point to assign for each mission you complete.

The levels themselves, however, are very linear, and poorly designed. Most of the levels in the game are extremely straightforward, and you basically follow a path through them. You will travel to a wide variety of planets, each looking quite different, and they try to mix things up a bit by giving you different missions, and a couple of levels have mounts, one level has some kind of speeder bike in it, with you going along the bottom of a valley.

I don't think there was any time in the game where I felt challenged, as the enemy AI is pathetic. Nine times out of ten they will just stand there shooting, waiting for you to kill them. If there is an enemy using a turret gun, they will not leave it - e.g. if you go behind someone using a gun, they will try and slowly turn it around to shoot you, and if you attack them they won't let go and run. I don't think there was a level that was testing in any way, there are a couple where you have to defuse bombs, but there doesn't appear to be any time limit, so you can leisurely stroll through the level to find and defuse them.

   

The lightsaber combat is far too easy, which is the main reason it was just about the only weapon I used throughout the whole game. When you have it equipped you will deflect shots automatically, and will kill most enemies in one or two hits. It is also quite strange that, when you throw your lightsaber, it will kill an enemy if it hits them going forwards, but when returning to you, you will see sparks etc, but it will not hurt the enemy at all.

I was excited when I saw 'dismemberment' in the options, but all it appears to do is allow you to cut off arms from living creatures, or cut droids in half, which seems a bit of a cop-out.

Graphically Jedi Academy is very mixed. It looks quite nice at times, with some really nice texturing in places, yet at others it looks terrible, and really shows the age of the engine it is using. The animation is very poor as well. It would seem that enemies only have one, or maybe two different death animations, which is disappointing. If you use a high level of force drain on a group of enemies, for example, they will all struggle and fall in the exact same way as each other. Occasionally when killing an enemy near the edge of a ledge they decide to take a leap off it, screaming to their death, which is more comical than anything else. For some weird reason there doesn't appear to be any animation for the grenades. If you are trying to use a thermal detonator, you will just see your hand staying still, hear it arming and it appears in front of you out of nowhere.

   

Sound effects are average as well. Most of the weapons sound good, especially the lightsabers (and they had better be, you hear them so much) but the other sound effects are rather poor. Voice acting is surprisingly good, but not to the level of games such as Knights of the old Republic or Eternal Darkness, and the lip-synching is terrible for the most part. There also seems to be a bug in the surround where the voices are occasionally incredibly quiet, or come from the wrong speaker.

Multiplayer looks like it could be good, especially with an objective/class based game mode (such as those found in Wolfenstein: ET) and is pretty much lag free, but I could not find a single game that wasn't full of idiots (believe me I tried) that made it far from being fun to play.

Overall I would say that if you're looking for a fun shooter, look elsewhere. It felt like a chore for me to get through all 25 levels. Jedi Academy is a very average game, and unless you really need a Star Wars fix I would stay away from it.


Good Points

- Nice voice acting.
- Multiplayer is promising.
- Force powers are fun.

Bad Points

- It's a very short game.
- And incredibly easy.
- Poor level design.
- Feels like a cash-in.


by:Andrew Fee