Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy Xbox
Developed by Raven Software/Vicarious Visions
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
The FPS series that began life as Dark Forces has always been extremely popular. The sequel to Dark Forces, Jedi Knight is still one of my favourite games of all time and is one of the few games I've constantly gone back to again and again. Jedi Outcast was also a good game and perhaps it's only failing was that it made you wait around five levels before it allowed you to use a lightsaber and force powers. Those who hadn't the patience to progress beyond these levels complained of the game being rather flat. Of course those who did stick with it found that the game was another solid addition to the series. So here we have the fourth title in the series, Jedi Academy and once again it's time to pick up your lightsaber and use those force powers.
Jedi Academy gives you a rest from controlling Kyle Katarn and sees you controlling Jaden Kor. Jaden Kor can be what ever you want him or her to be. You get to choose whether you want to be a Kel Dor male, Rodian male, Twi'lek female, Zabrak female or Human male or female character. Whatever race or sex you choose though it doesn't make a difference to the story. You can also change their face and clothing too. Next you'll get to pick your lightsaber hilt style and colour (it's also worth a mention that later in the game you get the chance to use dual lightsabres and a double-bladed lightsaber) and finally you'll decide on what difficulty you want to play on. There are four difficulty levels ranging from Padawan to Jedi Master. Once you're done the game will begin and it will show your character on the way to the Jedi academy. The transport craft that is carrying you doesn't make it though, as it's shot down and you have to make your own way for the remainder of the journey.
Right from the word go you'll get to use the lightsaber, which means the game has a far more entertaining start than Jedi Outcast. You'll also have early access to force powers and your first task on reaching the academy is to undergo a small training session that allows you to become accustomed to using the force powers. After the tutorial you'll have 5 missions available to you and you can do them in any order that you wish. In total there are around 20 missions and these will take around 15+ hours to complete. There are no real complaints with the missions as they offer plenty of variety and have been well thought out. The only real fly in the ointment is the quite docile AI which can make things all too easy at times. As you progress you'll earn additional force powers, the number of which have been significantly increased, and fighting styles to broaden your repertoire.
Gameplay wise it's practically identical to Jedi Outcast. When using one of the many weapons other than your lightsaber you'll be in first person mode and when you switch to the lightsaber it switches to third person mode. The third person mode is actually a lot easier when you need to do jumps which can be tricky whilst you have a first person view. Lightsabers and weapons are used with the triggers whilst the analogue sticks control your movements. The force powers are chosen by moving the directional pad up and down and it's great to see that you can bind any three you want to the 'X', black and white buttons to give you quick access to them. Left handed gamers will also be pleased to know that there is a southpaw control scheme that reverses the roles of the analogue sticks which is great.
Once you've completed the single player game you'll turn your attention to the multiplayer game. Here you can play in split-screen mode, have system link games (up to 10 players), play on Xbox Live or have games with the AI bots. The modes on offer include Free for all, Duel, Team free for all, Capture the flag. These are modes that have returned from Jedi Outcast but there are also two new modes, Siege and Power Duel. Siege is a team game where you pick a class (assault, heavy weapons, demolitions, scout, tech or jedi) and have to perform certain tasks. One team attacks and has to complete a certain amount of objectives whilst another team defends and has to try and stop the attacking team from completing their task. After a while the roles are reversed. Power Duel is a two against one battle between Jedi with the one being the stronger Jedi.
Once again we see the Quake III graphics engine being put to use. The graphics look OK but they are not the standard you would expect from the Xbox. Still the graphics are not bad, although the angular nature of the buildings and trees etc. in the game is disappointing, they get the job done. Surprisingly though, for a game that is not the most detailed when it comes to graphics, there are times when the framerate takes a dip or two which is disappointing. It doesn't spoil the game but it is shame nevertheless. Clipping issues are also quite common which again is disappointing but doesn't really spoil anything accept the aesthetic appeal of the game.
Thankfully subtitles can be enabled so you'll be able to enjoy the game without any problems. Not every bit of speech in the game is subtitled though but what's missing is the none essential comments and nothing that is of importance. All cutscenes are subtitled which is great. You'll be notified when your objectives have been updated and you can recall these at any time by pressing the back button on your controller.
I don't know if Jedi Academy was supposed to be Jedi Knight III but it seems more like an expansion pack as it's largely similar to Jedi Outcast. That's not a bad thing though and although it's a shorter game it's certainly filled with more entertaining missions, especially at the start of the game. The multiplayer options are good and the ability to play online is also welcome. It's also welcome that you can play through the missions in any order you want rather than having to simply follow the linear path. Fans of Jedi Outcast should definitely enjoy Jedi Academy.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
Jedi Academy is a solid addition to the Jedi Knight series. The single player game is not that long but it's action filled and lets you get your hands on a lightsaber straight away which is what really matters to Star Wars fans.
Subtitles can be enabled and they enable deaf gamers to enjoy the game.