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Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy Review - PC

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It's been a tough couple of years for the mighty Star Wars franchise. Critics and fans worldwide savaged the Phantom Menace, and while Attack of the Clones got the films back on track- it seems the damage had been done. The mighty Star Wars saga has been brought back to the pack- forced into the trenches to fight against the might of the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Matrix franchises.
But it's a good time to be a Star Wars fan right now- some major positive vibes are spreading about Episode 3 and over the next few months, 3 kick ass games are being released. While Knights of the Old Republic and Rebel Strike has everyone drooling with anticipation, Jedi Academy, the next game in the Jedi Knight series, has it's own hardcore following. Lets see if the forces is strong with this one.


Gameplay

Jedi Academy begins some 10 years after the fall of the Empire seen in Return of the Jedi. A ship carrying a young padawan, Jaden is shot down on route to the Jedi Academy found on Yavin IV. It's soon discovered that the attack was merely a diversion and that there are, once again, sinister motives at work.

Jedi Academy provides us with a new character to control. Kyle Katarn, the hero of the previous adventures, takes a back seat as a Jedi Master who is assigned to teach the ways of the force to Jaden. You have limited choices when it comes to Jaden's appearance, selecting what race, sex, head, outfit and lightsaber you'll use. While this makes for a nice change- the selections are very restrictive. Your appearance also has no bearing on how you're treated in the game- so it's a bit of a gimmick really. All races also speak English- practical I know, but hardly authentic.
Those who gave any of the previous games a play will instantly feel at home in Jedi Academy. After making it to the Academy after being shot down, you'll briefly play your way through a tutorial stage that is a perfect recap for veterans and ideal guide for new gamers. JA is essentially a 1st person/ 3rd person hybrid. The game primarily uses the 3rd person view but opts for the 3rd person when a rifle/pistol is selected.
After the tutorial you then have the choice of 5 missions. This is a new direction for the game, but once again, it's merely cosmetic in it's attempt to move away from a linear experience. Sure, you can choose which mission to complete but in the end you'll have to finish 4 out of the 5 to progress anyway.
By creating these branching missions, Raven has managed to inject diversity into the levels not seen previously. Missions start of quite tame, from simple rescue missions and part recon but soon become quite involving. You'll find yourself visiting familiar places seen throughout the movies- Star Wars fans will be in for ... (continued next page)