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Xbox Review - 'Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy'

by Jordan Van Nest on Feb. 5, 2004 @ 12:58 a.m. PST

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy allows players to immerse themselves in the classic Star Wars universe as they take on the role of a student eager to learn the ways of the Force from Master Luke Skywalker. Players will interact with famous classic Star Wars locations and characters while facing the ultimate choice: fight for good and freedom in the light side or follow the path of power and evil to the dark side.

Genre: Action
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: November 18, 2003

Buy 'STAR WARS JEDI KNIGHT: Jedi Academy': Xbox | PC

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… It has been 3 years since the historic battle of Endor. While the Empire has been left scattered thinly throughout the galaxy, the threats of new and unexpected enemies of the New Republic are still very real. In order to protect against these threats, Master Luke Skywalker has decided to create a prestigious Jedi Academy, in an attempt to recreate the peace and protection brought forth by the Jedi Knights of old. However, only a selected few will get the chance to train under the masterful eye of Luke Skywalker. Little does Luke know that trouble is brewing over the horizon…trouble that threatens the safety of the galaxy.

Adding to the popular series "Jedi Knight", Jedi Academy attempts to pick off where the previous game in the series left off. The storyline begins with the classic star-wars scrolling text, detailing the background and setting you up for your adventure. As the storyline goes, it's 3 years after the battle of Endor, and Luke Skywalker has decided to set up a Jedi Academy on the planet of Yavin 4. Your adventure starts when you are selected to be one of the few allowed to train under Luke's watchful eye. Once you finally arrive at the academy, you will be thrust into the middle of a conspiracy, and will be charged with helping to solve it. An added bonus to veterans of the Jedi Knight series is that the jedi master Kyle Katarn returns in this game as well. This time however, he takes on the role of your mentor. If you have already played the previous game in the series, you will definitely feel a sense of belonging and will find yourself thinking back to previous experiences you had when you actually were able to control Kyle. Like its predecessor, the storyline is once again very solid. I enjoyed the little plot twists and thought that everything was definitely well planned and well thought out. It seemed to have contained enough information to maybe make a Star Wars novel even. Overall, a rich storyline.

I had mixed feelings about Jedi Academy. As I first began playing this game, I felt its huge amount of potential. I liked the fact that all of the controls and most all of the interface of this game are the same as in the previous game of the series. This is really an added bonus to veterans and fans of the series. This also means that old moves and tactics that worked in the old game will continue to work in the new game, giving some players an added advantage. Once again, I thought the controls were very nicely done. That said however, back to the idea of potential. When I first started playing this game, I was excited with its potential. I knew that Lucas Arts had tried some new things with this game, new to the series even. Some of these unique features really sounded cool, so I was naturally very eager to find out what all the buzz was about. Basically the biggest new feature in this game is the ability to customize your character. What the developers were really trying to accomplish with this new game was to give the player a feeling of independence, in the fact that they could be anyone and do anything they wanted. Whether they succeeded or not is another story.

I thought the idea was a good one as the game advertises the ability to "totally customize your character". This includes everything from what they look like to what skills they have. Now, just thinking about this, it sounds like a good idea right? I mean who doesn't want to create their own funky looking character, give him special force powers, and choose which side he fights for? It's all about the freedom of choice, and LucasArts was really trying to take advantage of that. Unfortunately for them, there were many problems with this idea. On paper, it looks perfect. However, once it is actually created in a game, many problems arise. First off, the game fails to create a feeling of freedom. Basically the only things I was allowed to choose were meaningless things which did not affect gameplay, and which certainly did not affect the storyline. For instance, you are allowed to pick what your character looks like. While this is a good addition, and appreciated by most gamers, does this really add to the experience of the game? Perhaps a little. But how about the ability to choose which force skills you learn. While it is a good idea as well, it is just not enough to make a player feel free. And what about being able to choose what side you fight on? Well, you don't really get to do that. All you get to do is decide which force powers you learn (light side or dark) but the storyline is still the same no matter what. And in the end, the player is left feeling cheated and controlled. Nothing makes me more mad than when I am told I am going to have control of something, and then find out that I actually do not have any control at all. What I really wish this game would have had is branching storylines. I really wanted the ability to choose where and what I was going to do, but these were already decided for me. LucasArts tried to combat this by giving you a choice as to what mission you undertake next, but in the end, you must complete all of the missions anyways, and the order in which they are completed makes no difference to the storyline. Therefore, the player feels like they have been tricked again, and have absolutely no control over the storyline. This is definitely a problem.

Another problem with this game is the repetitiveness. While the game tries to add variety by using various cut-scenes and plot twists, each mission comes down to one thing- running around killing things. And that's it. Even in missions where you are told that you'll "need to use negotiating skills", you still do only one thing. Yes that's right. You run around and kill things. No negotiating. I would have really liked to see some situations in this game where you don't have to be armed. Maybe a few city missions where you have to mingle with the local crowd would have been nice. Instead, this game delivers the same thing over and over. And as everyone knows, repetitive games get old fast.

I'd like to talk about one of the things that really bugged me in this game. Besides the illusion of choice and the repetitiveness, jumping in this game really frusterated me. There are many points in this game where you are required to jump from one platform to the next, until you reach an end point. I found these to be extremely frustrating, and in some cases, next to impossible. I just thought that there was a major problem with the jumping in this game, and I know it hurts this game's realism in the end.

Graphically, this game was not bad. However, it also didn't really seem to improve. The graphics all looked very much like the previous game in the series, with not much changes. There was one change however, and this was in the use of cut scenes. Jedi Academy experimented with using various cut scenes at different parts of missions. I thought that this was very helpful and added to the already existing storyline. However, the fact that the overall graphics were not any better was disappointing.

I had mixed feelings about the sound in this game. Some of the characters voices are quite good, while some of the characters voices are just…well...terrible. Some pull you into the game more, and some just make you cringe. The soundtrack on a Star Wars game is of course never very difficult. Borrowing tracks from the movies and the previous games, I think that Jedi Academy manages to replicate the Star Wars Universe fairly nicely. I also thought that most of the sound effects were well done. Especially the lightsaber effects.

In the end, the sequel in the highly popular "Jedi Knight" series is a slight disappointment. While it continues on the storyline, and brings back some familiar characters, it just fails to improve on an existing idea. All of the new ideas which were created specifically for this game just don't really cut it. They don't really make this game stand out, and will definitely contribute in making this a quickly forgotten game. If you're a fan of the series, I would suggest renting this game just so you can continue on the story. If you've never played the Jedi Knight series however, I would suggest just skipping this one. In the end, this game just isn't worth taking the trip to a galaxy far far away.

Score : 7.0/10

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