Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast was LucasArts’ first foray into a Dark Forces game with an engine other than one built in house. Leveraging Raven Software to produce a first person Star Wars game, Jedi Outcast was well received by various critics. LucasArts and Raven Software have now released a follow up to Jedi Knight 2 and this time around, you’re going to school.
Jedi Academy follows a young student named Jadan as he or she studies to become a Jedi knight at the Mark Hamill school for the Jedi. On the way to the academy, you become friends with a fellow student named Rosh. From there on, you’ll train and partake in missions on your way to becoming a full Jedi knight and uncovering a plot with an old enemy of Kyle Katarn.
This is the first FPS Star Wars game that doesn’t star Kyle Katarn but he’ll be training you and come along with you in a few of the missions. You start out fabricating a character of your choice choosing from race, sex, clothing, and designing your lightsaber. When you design a lightsaber, you’re given a choice of hilt and saber color. You won’t get to use the dual sabers or saberstaff until a little more than halfway through the game though. The amount of choices isn’t too bad and I’m sure someone will come out with a MOD to offer some wanted skins such as Darth Maul. Your force powers will be determined by you as you complete a mission of the game. It’s there that you can continue to mold your character with either light or dark powers.
Unlike previous games, you will be given a choice of missions to partake with the ability to increase your force powers after each mission. And you don’t have to do the missions in any particular order. The various missions range from the straight kill everyone on a level to retrieval of objects. Boba Fett makes an appearance in one of the missions to give you some trouble when trying to blow up some objectives. Wedge Antilles also shows up to lend you a hand with his X-Wing in taking down a station. In fact, a lot of characters from the movies make some cameo appearance in the game. Mission variety isn’t bad but some can be pretty frustrating. The Dune-like underground worm that will give you fits as you retrieve parts to fix your ship is one mission that, while different, was a hassle. Boba Fett being invincible no matter how many times you slice him up also annoyed me but without him being alive throughout the mission, there were no other opposition. I will say it was kind of fun to meet up with the Star Wars legend and he’ll use a variety of weapons such as rockets and a flamethrower to take you down. I do enjoy the ability to choose which mission I wanted to partake and what weapons I wanted to take along. It does seem choosing the weapons is rather moot though as you’ll most likely find all of them being used against you by someone so you can pick them up after you dispatch them. And most of the time you’ll probably be using your lightsaber to take out your foes. It’s kind of funny that with you being a Jedi, you’ll be killing so many people in these missions that you’ll probably rival the Death Star’s death count.
On some missions you’ll actually be able to pilot some vehicle or the Tauntaun on Hoth. I liked the added destruction of using some of the Empire’s own weapons against them and charging a Tauntaun headfirst into a group of Stormtroopers. The ability to pilot something was a nice addition by Raven.
The bane of first person shooting games, the jump puzzle, does make a showing in this game at various times. You’ll come to a few that are do or die situations and you’ll probably be spending some time reloading the level. Thankfully, reloading the game on the same level is pretty quick but I still despise jump puzzles in these types of games. And since you can force jump to ridiculous heights, you’ll be seeing some crazy leaps that will have you floating in the air for a good amount of time. Just make sure you land it as you’ll usually end up falling to your death if you don’t when you come to those situations.
The game uses the aging Quake III engine and it’s starting to show. It was hard for me to find any improvements made over Jedi Outcast. Other engines are surpassing the old iD engine and if LucasArts decides to continue the series, I hope they look at licensing a newer engine for the next game. The models don’t look too bad and do a good job at reproducing the characters in the movies. If you enjoyed the look of Jedi Outcast, you’ll enjoy the look of Jedi Academy. Those looking for new eye candy will have to wait. The characters still suffer from skating as you’ll see them move but the feet won’t be in tune with how fast they are moving.
Level designs and textures are nicely developed. Most of the levels are logically designed and offer a good variety of places to do battle. From the planet of Hoth to Courascant to the desert landscape of a Sith lord tomb, the levels are laid out well.
The animations of lightsaber wielding characters are nicely crafted. Whether using the single saber, dual saber, or saberstaff, you’ll be treated to various acrobatic movements as you jump around. Watching the characters show that Raven did a great job in producing smooth movements. Through a combination of button presses, you’ll perform some attacking motion. You can even do some wall leaps to either get away or attack from an acrobatic move. While a nice thought and at times offering some cool moves, there are more than a few levels where you’re in a tight spot or near a ledge and you’ll accidentally do one of these wall moves to your death. I can’t tell you how many times I’m trying to jump away from an enemy only to see my character act like he’s Jackie Chan and float away from a ledge to the void below.
Saber combat with the two new styles still seem too random to me. I was never a fan of the lightsaber fights in any of the previous games as I felt it wasn’t controlled enough and the same can be said for Jedi Academy. The visuals when sabers clash, while impressive, make it hard to see if you land hits on your opponent. Whether I try to strategically use my moves or just button mash, the outcome seems to favor just charging and swinging away without hesitation or thought. Combine a saberstaff with force speed and you’ll pretty much take out anyone, including the bosses, in the game.
Enemy AI has never been a strong suite of the previous game and the same little annoyances still appear in Jedi Academy. More than a few times I’ll take out an enemy trooper only to have his partner stand there and not do a thing. There’s also a few times where I would stare at an enemy from the distance in plain site and he wouldn’t do a thing. A new one that I saw in this game is when you come against some followers of the enemy who possess force powers. They’ll usually leap around you and stay away as some don’t possess a saber to counter yours. If you’re fighting them on a bridge, and you will do a lot of that, you’ll probably see a few leap to their death when you approach them. I’ve even seen a few where I just stood there and hear them taunt me only to see them leap right off and hear their cry of pain. You will see some enemies run away and the enemies with force powers will use them to turn away rockets, grenades, and other projectiles so they’re not completely dumb. When attacking you, their tactics will consist mostly of charging straight at you guns or lightsaber blazing.
A new multiplayer feature is a class based option similar to Return to Castle Wolfenstein or Team Fortress. This will ensure that not everyone’s holding lightsabers as you’ll need different types of players to accomplish the goal. And of course there’s the traditional deathmatch and team battles that are the staple of every multiplayer capable first person shooter.
Through it all though, I feel the game doesn’t improve enough on the previous one to warrant the full price. While there are plenty of new missions and levels, I think this game could’ve been introduced as an expansion pack. Jedi Academy will appease Star Wars fans and fans of Outcast though. If you’re not a fan of Outcast, then there’s probably nothing new here that will draw you into the series.
Fans of the previous game will probably like this installment but some same problems still plague the game and I think this game should've been released as an expansion pack.
Rating: 7.8 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.
I'm married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.