Jedi Academy (PC)
Nearly ten years ago, Lucasarts unleashed a little first person shooter to the world that, for the first time, allowed gamers to step into the shoes of Kyle Katarn. Kyle is to Star Wars video games as Luke Skywalker is to Star Wars movies. Dark Forces was the game that represented the fanatasies of Sci-Fi fanboys all over the world because it allowed them to intereact and become a part of the universe they so dreamed to be in. Myself included. The weapons were there, the bad guys, even some of the characters ripped right from the movie in the oh so familiar story line. Lucasarts made an excellent decision in staying away from following the rails of an established character and instead create a new story, one that we had no pre-knowledge of. Dark Forces eventually evolved into DF2: Jedi Knight, which added the missing force elements and lightsabre battles the fans wanted. Jedi Knight spawned Jedi Outcast, a new story with more varied enemies and weapons and better sound and graphics.
Merely one year passes and we are given Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. The story goes that after the destruction of the second Death Star and the Empire is scattered to the winds, the New Republic is bringing the universe back into a state of order without the deathgrip the Emperor once had on it. Luke Skywalker has trained Kyle as his master once trained him in the ways of the force. Luke and Kyle as Master and Knight look to bring the ways of the Force back and begin teaching new students. You take the roll of the student, learning the ways of the Old Republic and becoming juggernauts of a new era.
All that aside, this is a GREAT game. I’ve only played a 2 level demo myself, but I recommend downloaded the 184 meg file and trying this out for yourselves. Visit Lucasarts Online for more. Obvious improvements in the game engine (Quake 3) allow for better lighting and particle effects than previous games, not to mention better gameplay.
Before starting the game, you are given the task of creating a padawan, choosing their species, custom faces and clothing, and then it’s off to lightsabre creation. You can choose single sabre, two sabres or the much talked about but little seen double bladed sword. Hilt and blade colors are all customizable as well. The demo sets certain limits (species, male/female, etc.) but gives you a feel of what the full game allows.
The lightsabre isn’t the only means to eliminate enemies with, but it’s easily the weapon of choice. There’s just something special about hacking and slashing away at baddies, taking off limbs and singeing burn marks onto their flesh or clothing. Each style of sabre has it’s own acrobatic combat moves and some trigger a Matrix-style bullet time effect as you deal death to an opponent.
On the graphics front, the lighting dynamics in this demo are especially impressive. For example. Choosing the single traditional lightsabre with a blue hue will produce blue glow on surrounding objects. Choosing 2 blades with red and blue blades however gives off an eerie purple glow, but may change depending on how close or far that object is from that particular blade. White sparks light up the screen and bounce of the ground when lightsabres come in contact with each other and laser bolts are shadowed by their blood-red glow on objects around them, as you would expect.
Music as always is on par with the John Williams score we’ve all come to love. Sound effects are familiar as well. A faint bass rumble is felt whenver you use a Force power and the oddly comforting hum of your blade is present. Blasters, ships and alien dialogues are the normal fair one would expect in a Star Wars game. My only complaint was a lack of depth. As I made my way through the demo, it was all too common to hear an enemy taunting me or talking to another enemy (witty banter can be heard several times). This is a good thing, it gives the player a sense of immersion, but I found that no matter how far away I was from that character it would sound as if he was standing next to me. I used a sniper-style rifle to zoom in and shoot at (not hit) a character probably a good quarter of a mile away, but when he reacted “Die Jedi!” it sounded as if he was in my ear.
Sound issues aside, I really enjoyed this. The demo is certainly enough to make me wanna go out and drop 50 bucks. If I can pull myself away from Galaxies that is.