Advantages Fantastic GFX, SFX, involving gameplay, good storyline
Disadvantages A few minor glitches but nothing major, too violent for younger ones
Jedi Academy is another instalment in the famous Jedi Knight series of games. Having played only demos of Jedi Knight and Mystery of the Sith previously and having liked both (particularly the latter), I approached the game with fairly high expectations. Did it meet up to those expectations?No. It surpassed them.
OverviewYou play the role of Javin, a new Jedi trainee, one who obviously has huge potential as you are the first person ever to have actually made your own lightsaber without any formal Jedi training. While in transit to the Jedi Academy your transport ship is shot down, and before you even reach the academy it becomes clear that a sinister plot is in operation: someone is draining Force energy from sites visited by Luke Skywalker (who is now a Jedi Master). As a student, you need to complete your training before you start any actual missions, but you will be in the thick of the action very quickly.
At the beginning you also meet Rosh, a young Jedi wannabe whose ambition seems likely to lead him, and possibly you, into trouble at some stage.First Impressions
Before you start the game proper you get the chance to customise the appearance of both your character and lightsaber. There are several possible races of both genders to choose from, along with the clothing style and colour. You can customise your lightsaber hilt and glow colour. This is a very quick process but immediately makes the game feel a bit more personal.You first objective is to reach the academy alive. You will receive both help and hindrance from Rosh, who helps you by shooting things but is liable to get killed if you do not keep an eye on where he is! For someone like me who has never actually had a lightsaber duel in one of these games (I am unsure as to whether this is a feature new to the series), the first duel you encounter early in the game will take a few goes to get right! Even when you are being defeated, however, the whole thing just looks so spectacular that you hardly mind.
InterfaceThere are several possible combinations of controls, and you can use a joystick or control pad if you like, but I found that by far the best method of control was a combination of the keyboard and mouse. The cursor keys for movement, the mouse for looking, various keys for whatever else you want to use. The main problem with using the mouse for the duels was that you seemed unable to access some of the most effective moves unless you used the keyboard commands. A word of warning if you do: the default keys use Alt for one of the best moves in the game, and unfortunately if you use that you are quite likely to hit the Windows key by mistake and exit the game, quite often finding that you have died before you manage to get back to the game!
Pressing Tab at any time will bring up the current objectives, which is handy for keeping track of what you have actually succeeded in doing. On some of the longer missions you need to place several bombs etc, and knowing how many you have already placed can be very handy! Escape brings up the options, including load / save game and control options. A word of warning about the Save feature: it may appear that you have unlimited slots to save in, but I found that with a certain number (I think it was 100), the game does not actually save anymore, but it does not tell you this. So it is worth deleting a bunch of old ones every so often just in case. Every control can be re-assigned if you are not happy with the current key, and force powers you have learned can be assigned to either one or two keys.About the Force Powers
Apart from the Star Wars tie-in and lightsaber duels, the use of Force Powers is what makes this game rise above the hundreds of other decent FPS games. These can be used in battle, to solve puzzles, to reach difficult places, etc. Each Force power has a rank of 1-3, 3 being the highest you can gain. Not only the strength of the power but also the range and effect are determined by the rank. (For instance, Force Heal, which is an absolute must to complete this game as far as I am concerned!, will only work at rank 1 if you are stationary, but you can use it while moving in rank 2 or 3, as well as working faster in those ranks.)You have a core of available Force Powers that progress as you go throughout the game and advance from Jedi Student to fully-fledged Jedi Knight. There are also 4 Light Force Powers and 4 Dark Force Powers. Depending on which you focus one you will be told you are doing well, keeping a good balance, or veering dangerously towards the dark side of the force at various stages of the game. The development of your Force Powers is significantly simpler than character progression in your average RPG, but it provides a satisfactory way of honing your characters strengths towards your playing style. Some of the classic Force Powers available include the Jedi Mind Trick ("This is not the droid you are looking for") and spouting electricity from your hands (like the Emperor). Just because you choose to stay on the Light side does not mean you cannot harness dome Dark powers at times!
Even on easy mode it will probably take you 15-20 hours playing to complete the game on one of the two endings. At a certain point near the end of the game you can choose which path to follow, the Light side or the Dark side. From that point on the game will follow the same locations and your targets will be largely the same, though the good guys will no longer by your friends and fight on your side if you give in to the Dark side! The ending is, of course, different depending on which course you take.
The game does perhaps feel a tad linear but I have never personally objected to that. I like knowing what my objective is and working towards completing it. There are plenty of secret areas to discover if that is your thing. Even I found a few and I am usually useless at that sort of thing! There are three basic difficulty levels, Easy, Medium and Hard. The puzzle element of the game was a tad disappointing in the early levels, just a case of pressing every pressable thing you could see, but in later levels there were some tough timing and placement puzzles added in for your frustration / enjoyment, depending on your point of view.The majority of the game is split into a mission system, with 5 missions available. You can take them in any order and can exit one to try a different one at any time, though if you do you will have to start the first mission at the beginning again. There was only one mission I found impossible to complete, but as you only need to complete 4 to progress to the next section this was not a problem. (Thumbs up to the designers!) If you complete four then you are given the option to attempt the final mission in the set before you go on to the next section. The level design is well thought out with plenty of variety. The AI of your opponents and allies is reasonably good, too. Another good thing is that you can control various vehicles on different levels, like the Scout Walker and that bike thingy (from Return of the Jedi). If you could have seen them all but done nothing with them it would have been very annoying!
AestheticsThe graphics are gorgeous. Everything looks absolutely authentic (which, considering the game is by LucasArts, it should do!) and the level of details is amazing in places. There is the occasional glitch with the character graphics but I did not notice any of the all too common problems with 3D environments, i.e. areas where you could get trapped without being able to move, parts of the scenery disappearing at certain angles, etc. Very impressive, and the lightsaber battles looked spectacular. I did sometimes find myself wishing they did not play around with the camera when you had just beaten a Sith, though. When you still had one or two more to take out and found yourself suddenly looking in the other direction after a slow-motion rotating shot of the Sith falling it could be very frustrating! The system specs are reasonably high (see specs at end of review), so if you have not got a high-end system you will probably need to switch to 16-bit colour to get a decent frame rate.
Practically every well known location from all five films is visited in this game, and some famous characters from the films such as Boba Fet and Wedge Antilles appear. The cut scenes are great to, with the planetscapes and starships looking almost as good as in the movies! Character animation is fluid and realistic too, very impressive, with perhaps the exception of Luke Skywalker himself. The old boy seems to glide over the surface of the ground rather than walk on it and frankly looks a little bit camp. . .The sound effects and voice acting are excellent, as you would expect from a LucasArts production. The sound effects are many and varied. From the ambient background sounds of machinery on some levels to explosions and the hum and swish of the lightsaber, everything sounds completely authentic and the quality of the samples is top notch. Speech is clear and there is absolutely no clipping, which is fantastic. (Clipping, or speech samples that are inappropriately cut short, is all too common even in commercial games.) Luke Skywalker sounds reasonably like he did in the film. Tormenting the C3P0 units is great fun, resulting in wailed of I've been hit! or we're doomed!. Some of the Force powers have sound effects linked to them that overshadow all other sounds when that power is being used. It is kind of hard to explain the effect but it makes the whole Force thing a bit more noticeable. (The visuals on things like "Force Sight" are also terrific.)
One of the other nice things about the is that the NPCs have conversations that you can overhear if you stay out of earshot. These are not likely to aid your quest much but it gives the game a greater sense of realism than if the only things they said were directed at you. For instance, two guards might be having a chat and you can listen in. Of course, reveal your location and the chitchat soon stops as they get on with trying to kill you!
Will You Still Be Playing it in 6 Months Time?It depends what sort of gameplayer you are. If you like to beat games on all difficulty levels, this will take you a long time to complete. If you do not play games solidly, just the odd hour here and there, it will also take you a very long time. If you are the sort who plays a game solidly until you beat it on the Easy level, you may well still come back to this now and again just to try new things or see if there is anything you have missed. All of which is a very long way of saying yes, probably! Whether you like Star Wars or not is of course a big factor as to how much you will enjoy this game.
StorylineTo anyone familiar with the Star Wars films, the storyline about the fight between the Jedi and the Sith will be instantly familiar. The plot also draws on elements from previous Jedi Knight games. It all seems a cut above the standard evil creatures about to take over the earth and only you can stop them sort of thing, even though at the end of the day that is what it is! Along with the graphics and voice acting it adds up to an experience that feels more like being part of a movie than playing a game.
RatingThis game is rated 12 (I do not know if the rating system is universal or if each country has its own rating system like for movies). There is admittedly a lot of violence in the game and you occasionally see limbs lopped off, so definitely not for younger ones. Like the film though it is sanitised, not actually gory - you do not see blood spurting all over the place. I guess the advantage of the lightsaber is that it instantly cauterises any wound it causes? Of course you are not obligated to kill everything you see in this game, it is just that if you do not, they tend to follow you and you end up with a whole roomful of critters intent on turning you into a corpse. . . You must of course decide for yourself, but I do not want anyone to buy this game under a false illusion that this is a pleasant little game they would be happy for their child to play it. There are much more violent games on the market and I also would not want you to thing that this is anything like the games they are trying to ban.
Is it Worth the Money?Most definitely. I got it for 10 pounds (at current exchange rates nearly $20) and am very happy about the value for money provided. Unlike most budget titles it also has a nicely produced, small but informative manual that works well for quick reference. (Though really you can pick up the game from just experimenting.) I have no hesitation in recommending it for any Star Wars fan.
MultiplayerI cannot comment on the multiplayer feature as I have not tried it and am unlikely to due to time commitments. However I can tell you that it has a team-based siege mode and two-on-one power duels, and you can fight in 23 multiplayer arenas.
Sound: - 94% - authentic sound FX, great voice acting, the classic music score by John Williams in the background. What more could you want?Playability: - 89% - it has a few points that could be better but overall it is immediately playable with plenty to learn as you go along.
Longevity: - 90% - it will take you a fair time to complete even on the Easy level.Replay Value: - 88% - depends if you are the sort who likes to find all the hidden areas as to just how much replay value there is, but you might go back to it every now and again even if you are not.
Value For Money: - 95% - if you are a Star Wars fan, they do not get much better than this.Overall Rating: - 93% - a great addition to the Jedi Knight series. If it had Yoda in it the rating would be even higher!
System Specs (Minimum)
Pentium III or Athlon 450MHz CPU.DirectX 9.0a (included with game) compatible computer. You may need to download the latest drivers for your particular hardware
128Mb RAM (256Mb recommended)32Mb OpenGL 1.4 compatible 3D card
16-bit DirectX 9.0a compatible sound cardQuad speed CD-ROM drive
1.3Gb free HDD space additional space for Windows swap file and save games.For Multiplayer Support
Pentium III or Athlon 450MHz CPU. (P3 700MHz or above recommended for multiplayer)LAN play: Supposts up to 16 players
Internet play: Supports 16 playes via 56Kbps or faster connectionDedicated server: DSL/Modem required for Internet hosting
3D card as above.Supported Chipsets (according to packaging)
ATI Radeon 7000 Series
ATI Radeon 8000 Series
ATI Radeon 9000 Series
ATI Rage 128 / 128 Pro
NVIDIA GeForce 256 family
NVIDIA GeForce 2 family
NVIDIA GeForce 3 family
NVIDIA GeForce 4 family
NVIDIA GeForce FX family
NVIDIA RIVA TNT2 family
(Ran perfectly in 800x600 at 32-bit colour, probably would have run in higher mode but looked great anyway)P4 2.4GHz
Battle for Endor
Freeware Star Wars Games to look out for:
Battle of Yavin(You can find reviews of them on my pages at Epinions - I've put the direct links for these on my personal homepage here.)
Amazon.co.uk information: 9 Used & New from £18.90I bought mine from MVC (the shop, not online) for £9.99. My advice would be to look for this next time you're in MVC, HMV, or Game. If you do want to buy online, you could try Play.com. They have the following details:
our price: £9.99 Deliveredavailability: In stock.
(This review first appeared on Epinions under my username there, CaptainD)
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Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy begins shortly after the conclusion of events in Star Wars: Jedi Outcast. Players create a Jedi apprentice...
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