The first thing players will notice about Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
is the absence of Kyle Katarn in the game's lead role. As it turns out the one-time hero and protector of the Valley of the Jedi has gone into semi-retirement and is now teaching at Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy. You are Jaden Kor, a promising student on your way to the Academy. After a rocky welcome to Yavin, you are sent on a series of missions in order to unravel a sinister plot. Is it just me, or are the plots to the Jedi Knight
games, or most recent Star Wars games, becoming a little more ridiculous? First there was the mythical valley that was a gathering place for the Force, then there were the Reborn Dark Jedi and now Jedi Academy
gives us a staff that can not only suck the Force out of things, but also imbue the Force into others. Ungh. Although I'm probably being really rough for commenting on this, it would be nice to stretch out into the Expanded Universe just a little more. You know - maybe give fans what we've been wanting for the past 2 years, like.I dunno, the Vong?
Anyway, this is not meant to but a negative spin on the game, since it is still entertaining, ridiculous story and all. One of the more unique aspects of the game is that Jaden is whoever you want Jaden to be. You are given the option to set the gender, race, attire and look of the main character. You are also given the choice of which Force powers you wish to master and what style of lightsaber hilt and color you want. As you go through the ranks of the Jedi you'll also be presented with the opportunity to master new saber fighting styles and will eventually have the option of fighting with either dual lightsabers or a Darth Maul style double-bladed lightsaber. At first this may seem similar to Knights of the Old Republic, however the character creation isn't taken to that extreme since the story is the same regardless of what your Jedi looks like. As far as I could tell, there doesn't seem to be much of a tracking of whether your character goes towards the Dark or Light Side and rather the story decides that you're a Light Jedi.
The mission layout of the game is quite different from the previous series in the game as well. Although the game does follow an overarching story, you can choose which missions you want to accomplish. At each Jedi level (Padawan, Knight.) you are given five assignments. You can choose to do these in any order you want or you can choose to skip some. This, of course, isn't a good idea because you'll not only miss out on the game, but also the chance to upgrade your Force powers. I was pleased with the missions that were presented, especially since they try to get away from the more traditional 'run around and kill stuff in a maze' convention. For example, one mission has you trying to repair your downed ship on a planet inhabited by Tremors-like creatures. Whenever you walk on the ground, the vibrations will alert them to your presence and you'll die. This means you have to figure out how to collect the parts you need without stepping on the ground, which is done my jumping from rock to rock or by using the Force to move plates of metal around. Jedi Academy also features the customary 'stripped of all your weapons and forced to make it out alive' mission. During missions you'll also run into some familiar locales and faces, such as Chewbacca, and get the chance to ride a swoop bike and Taun Taun.
Even though Jedi Outcast was an amazing game, the real reason for it's popularity was the multiplayer element. This element is carried on in Jedi Academy via Xbox Live. Multiplayer options include a Duel Mode and my personal favorite - Siege. This is a mode for all of you guys who, like myself, have been engrossed with Return to Castle Wolfenstein's team-based multiplayer game. In Siege, players break up into teams. One team is charged with completing an objective, while the other tries to stop them. In order to accomplish this task, each member of the team chooses a different job. Assault Troops are your general fighting class; Heavy Weapons Troops specialize in big time damage; Scouts are experts at sniping and espionage; Techs can re-arm troops with ammo or provide healing; and Jedi are, well.Jedi. Each job plays an important role in this game. Even though the idea is to just go with an all Jedi team, you're not likely to get very far.