Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

a game by Raven Software Corporation
Platform: PC
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It's Barely a year since we last flexed our force powers in Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast, but we're not far off getting another chance to worship hokey religions in Raven's newest saber-slinger, Jedi Academy.

And, we're pleased to report, it's a much more focussed affair that greets us this time around. As much as we enjoyed Jedi Outcast, it was something of a mixed bag of first-person shooting and third-person swordplay that didn't really take off until the saber-combat (eventually) kicked in. This time, the sabers are drawn from the off, with new saber moves, many more force powers and a fast and furious new combat system. The result is a more action-adventure weighted affair with more third-person action that's sure to have every aspiring Jedi in a sweat.

Charting your journey from wet-behind-the-ears Padawan to stick-in-the-mud Jedi Knight, the new game is set directly after Jedi Outcast, and casts you as student in Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy on Yavin 4. After a brief spell in training, you'll be sent out on a variety of missions to fight crime and defeat a troublesome new faction in the galaxy.

In a shock move, the game drops Kyle Katarn (the poncy bearded Jedi from previous outings) as star of the show, opting for a customisable character creation system instead. LucasArts' Lynn Taylor elaborates: "Kyle Katarn is now your mentor. So the first thing you'll do in the game is choose who you're going to be playing. You've got a choice of multiple species, such as Human, Zabrak, Twi'lek, and Rodian, as well as fully customisable appearance. A lot of people were downloading mods to customise their character in multiplayer, so we've put all that in the game."

Choose Your Weapon

You can also tailor your saber to your tastes with a choice of handle styles and blade colours, as well as choosing between a single blade, dual wielding or the Darth Maul-style double-ender. "A lot of people ask if the single saber is less powerful," cautions Lynn, "but it depends on your style. On the single, you can use force powers while fighting, as well as throwing it. On two swords, you can throw one and be fighting with the other one. With the double-saber, you can't throw it at all, but you can kick enemies."

This emphasis on choice also carries into the structure of the game itself. In an effort to provide a bit of that fabled 'nonlinear gameplay', each mission is made up of five separate levels. In each case you only have to complete four of them to progress, though you end up gaining more force powers if you complete all five.

Being a trainee Jedi also means plenty of mission variety. One of the levels we played at E3 required us to raid a criminal gang that had been capturing civilians and feeding them to Rancors. The primary aim was to free the civilians, but there was also the option to take on the Rancor itself - an impressive beast that gives testament to the enhancements made to the 3D engine (originally Quake 3).

Somewhat less impressive was a level set on Hoth, in which you ride Tauntauns through a familiar icy wasteland. While it's good to see the hairy brutes getting an outing in a game, it seems the jerky animation from the film has been reproduced a little too accurately. Other more promising modes of transport include an AT-ST (as in Jedi Outcast), an X-Wing and maybe even a land speeder. Classic characters such as Chewbacca are also set to appear.

Let Go...

However, the most promising enhancements appear to be in the area of combat. For starters, all the conventional weapons and force powers that existed only in multiplayer in Jedi Outcast are now in the single-player game, and some old favourites from earlier games are also set to reappear. Weapons now include the Concussion Rifle, Wookiee Bowcaster, Imperial Repeater and Han Solo's Heavy Blaster. Force Sight will make a return, as will, it seems, every other force power ever seen in the Jedi Knight series (though the final list is still under wraps).

Much more thought has also gone into the way force powers work. Not only can you combine your force powers like never before, you often have to use specific forces in combat to counter enemy attacks. If you get caught in a force grip, for example, the only way to counter is to use force push. To make it over a large gap, you may have to combine force jump with force speed. Similar examples abound.

Quicker, More Seductive...

While all this adds a measure of fun to the proceedings, Lynn is keen to stress that it's not a reinvention of the series. "It's not a radical departure from Outcast, it's very similar. If you know how to play Outcast you can pick this up really quickly."

Still, it definitely seems that the Jedi Knight series is giving up any pretensions of carrying on the first-person tradition of the classic Dark Forces, to focus instead on a more crowd-pleasing mixture of elements. This is all well and good, providing LucasArts has the wisdom to give us a proper, hardcore Star Wars shooter to sit alongside it. A true Dark Forces 3 with Source (Half-Life 2) tech? Now that would be something.

Star Wars Meets Team Fortress? Where Do I Sign?

While they never really took off online, the multiplayer modes for Jedi Outcast did contain some hugely enjoyable force-powered action. They were, however, pretty basic in scope, with vanilla deathmatch being the pick of the bunch and one-on-one saber duels the only real novelty. Jedi Academy, on the other hand, is a whole other story. Not only is there a new 2-on-1 handicap duelling mode for those that fancy themselves as Jedi masters, but there's also a brand new teamplay mode dubbed Siege. Based around multiple objectives and player classes in the vein of Wolfenstein or [Team Fortress], the new game will let you play as a demolitionist, medic, infantry, Rebel trooper, or, of course, a Jedi. The exact nature of the gameplay is yet to be revealed, but the mere idea of a Star Wars version of Enemy Territory is enough to convince us.

Download Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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