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Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy Review
by Joshua Griffin

Jedi Academy is without a doubt the best LucasArts title for 2003. And yes, I've played Knights of the Old Republic and Galaxies so I'm not making am uninformed statement. Developer Raven Software and LucasArts have put out the pinnacle in the classic Jedi Knight series - this one is not to be missed if you've got a PC.

Jedi Academy story is one of the highlights of the presentation of the release - it is a riveting story of the evolution of a young Padawan to a Jedi Knight. By the end of the game you'll have battled the internal demons of the dark side, constructed lightsabers and chosen fighting styles to fit you every whim. While the central story is being developed off-screen, you'll be given the chance to play some unique side missions that entertain the theme of the plot while still being fun and full of variety. This is a great game you can play through at least twice in the single player mode - once on the good side and once for evil.

Fortunately my computer can run the game at the highest detail level and still crank out 50fps. It got a bit choppy after a quick save but that's to be expected. There was little slowdown, even considering the later levels with multiple lightsaber duels happening all at once. The lightsaber and force visuals are fantastic, and you're character is highly detailed to fit the complex environment. I love the use of huge enemy characters that you only see for one level, and there's a decent amount of enemies, though they occasionally get repetitive. The dark side Jedi have different styles of fighting as well, so even the same looking character may have two sabers, a double-bladed saber or a single lasersword.

All in all the levels are very massive and expansive, though quite linear. I view that as good design though, like the Jedi should be able to sense what is next and head in the right direction. Quite rarely was I ever disoriented or lost - and if you are just use the Force power to see though walls to see where people are waiting for you to advance. There's scores of planets to visit, tons of different lighting effects and the environment work like dust, snow and rain are absolutely compelling. One level aboard a transport train screaming through Corusant is an absolutely stunning visual achievement. The first time you see the rain sizzle on the saber or you realize the Taun-Tauns can be mounted will be spectacular.

Force powers are inventive, a fantastic emphasis on those traits you've developed and your adeptness with the lightsaber. You could very easily finish the game using just the lightsabers and the Force, many of the weapons (which you've seen before in previous Jedi Knight games) are second fiddle to say the least to the saber. Rely heavily on the Jedi speed power, you can run circles around the enemy - slicing their limbs off before they realize what happened.

As expected, the sound effects are straight out of the Lucasfilm archive and perfectly match the films to the game. There's been a few new additions to the title as well though, including Dark Jedi taunts and some new sound effects. The music didn't sound like anything originally composed, though John Williams has written plenty of music to complement the game adequately. The voice acting is also solid, with a few highlights like the scene where you're given a chance to turn to the Dark Side of the Force and Kyle's quips about Luke's composure. Good stuff, though some of the female acting seemed a bit stilted at times, too. Still though, the best history of sound and voice continues the long tradition in Academy.

The Downside
There are a few minor downsides to the game, including an emphasis on the "cultic" activities of the Sith and the resurrection of an old Sith warrior who looked much like a demon from Doom 3. I think perhaps better execution of the game's ending sequence would have given me more satisfaction in the ending of the game. Maybe you'll understand when you get there yourself - the end just felt off - like perhaps they could have gone for something other than the whole Satanic sidebar. Just felt out of place - maybe too much Quake and Doom influences there.

I would like to have seen Luke fight in this one, maybe just for fun in a cut scene. And much of the real plot develops off screen in the game - like Kyle and Luke were doing the real work while the Jedi children were out playing. Would love to have seen the main story and the missions interact just a bit more. And I would have ended it one level earlier - just a tad on the repetitive side by the end.

And finally, the "quick save" feature should be a Jedi power, not a luxury for the "killed-one-Dark-Jedi-push-F12" crowd. It would have added an element to the game of resurrection of the character or some kind of time-altering powers. Would have been fun, rather than use the traditional model from the licensed engine.

Despite a few quibbles and tweaks I would have like to have seen, this is the definitive Jedi Knight game. Enough story to satisfy me but not bog me down in RPG mode. Lots of action, lots to discover and pretty straight forward gameplay. Absolutely loved it, gave it a solid weekend run and came away almost completely satisfied. Get this title if you have a PC, and we'll put the Xbox version through its paces the minute LEC sends the review copy. May the Force be with you!

A TFN must-buy: 99 out of 100

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