The memories of my time playing this did not take long to come flooding back. Set to be re-released on current gen consoles on 24th September this year, I thought it would be a good idea to dig this game up and reinstall it on my laptop to play through it again and consider buying it for my PS4. It wasn’t a good idea, it was fantastic idea, the best I had that day. I jumped straight into the single player campaign and started chopping off limbs with an ear-to-ear grin that would frighten most. This game was the third to be brought out in the Jedi Knight series and takes place years after the second, known as Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast, and was an absolute hit with its unique take on lightsaber combat. But, has it held up well enough after all these years? Well, if truth be told it is still better than most games that have been released in recent years and is still one of the best Star Wars games ever made, at least in my opinion. The game is separated into a single player mode and a multiplayer mode, and lets you play with a good variety of weapons and abilities. You can choose to use a lightsaber (who wouldn’t), blasters, grenades and force powers, as you combat enemy AI in both modes, and other players online.(Even Neo could make that jump)
I started back where I always start, the single player mode. This takes you through a story from the Expanded Universe and features characters that also appear in books that are, unfortunately, non-canon (thanks Disney, you dicks). Your character is Jaden Korr, a customizable recruit for the, as the name suggests, Jedi Academy based on Yavin 4. Taking place years after Return of the Jedi this story follows Jaden as he is introduced to the academy amongst other plain faced NPCs by none other than Luke Skywalker himself. You are assigned a master to help train you in the ways of the newly revived and reformed Jedi, and to teach you how to use a lightsaber without cutting yourself up into confetti. Your teacher just so happens to be the hero of the previous games, Kyle Katarn, and he will feature prominently in this story too.(Who remembers FMV?)
The gameplay takes place over some plot-based missions and some selected missions that are presented to you on a computer-like user interface. You will select which mission sounds interesting and follow the objectives. Throughout your missions you come across a plot being carried out by a Dark Jedi group called the Disciples of Ragnos and will eventually discover their plans to revive the long dead Sith Lord Marka Ragnos. They plan to use an ancient Sith artefact to siphon strong residual force energy in areas greatly affected by the force. You will travel to other planets within the galaxy for each mission and progressively face off against harder enemies, including remnants of the Empire. As you make your way through the campaign your core abilities will develop as you become more proficient.
These abilities include non-aligned force powers such as Force Push and Force Pull, and your lightsaber skills such as Attack, Defend and Throw. You start the game with the lightsaber and you get to choose your handle and blade colour, but you are not restricted to just using the laser sword, you can opt to use guns exclusively, force abilities or any combination of the three. I prefer to stick with the lightsaber and a few force powers, seeing as I’m at Stormtrooper level when it comes to shooting.(Can’t do this with a Blaster!)
There is a healthy mix of opponents in each level and you will often come across Dark Jedi that will engage you in deadly duels and taunt you as they fight. The truly wonderful area of this game is the combat. When wielding a lightsaber you will have 5 overall “styles”. With a single saber you have the fast style, medium style and strong style. Fast uses quick and short animations, which works well when fighting ranged enemies because the saber is closer to the body making it easier to deflect shots, and not leaving you very open when attacking, but it does little damage. Strong uses large and broad swings, but delivers crushing force and great damage, good to break the guard of an enemy or kill people standing close together. Medium style is a balance of the two and is good to fall back on when nothing else works. Each style is attainable throughout the story but if you don’t want to use the three single saber styles there is also the option of using the saber staff, made famous by Darth Maul, or dual wielding a saber in each hand. When using the staff, you can use the single blade in medium style or both sides, with dual sabers you can use one with the fast style or use both together.
Fighting against Dark Jedi is just a treat. You can attack in seven directions and chain swing together, switching styles to mix things up, watch as the blades clash and make that crisp sound. Sparks fly and lights flash as you use your force enhanced agility to run along walls, jump off walls, backflip and somersault around the environment and duel the ancient enemy of the Jedi to the death. Dismemberment does happen and you can cut off the hands, arms, legs and heads of your enemies. Igniting your lightsaber and walking into a door will see it burn and leave a mark, even when you are fighting down a tight corridor there will be evidence of a tense battle scorched along everywhere, making it look oh so good.(Double the saber, double the fun)
I couldn’t praise the combat enough, and it is an elating feeling when you block an attack, break the enemy’s guard and then cut him down in one well-placed hit. Accuracy is key, because it still operates similarly to the third person shooter mechanics, so whatever you look at with the player reticule is what you are attacking, making it possible to target specific body parts, or you can swing like a mad man as I often did just to overwhelm anyone brave enough to face me. The gunplay isn’t as interesting, and is no different to other shooters, but you don’t have to use your guns as you can draw your blade or put it away as often as you like. There are light and dark force powers that can be enhanced after completing a story driven mission, allowing you to select which abilities you prefer to invest in, but without expecting you to align yourself with either the good or evil sides. I would always try to improve my Force Healing, a light side ability because it always serves the player better when in a tight spot and a health pack is nowhere to be found. My second choice was force choke, picking up the enemy and being able to move him through the air like a kite before throwing him off a cliff and listening to him scream…yeah, I sound a little deranged, but I know everyone else would do it too.(CLASH…aaaaaaaaaaah!)
The story is ok at best. It feels like a short season of a show on Netflix and you don’t really feel too much like the main character until at least half-way through. The campaign is rather short, and the missions aren’t huge, but they still take you through interesting environments with well-designed levels covered by the classic Star Wars music we all know and love. It captures the feeling of a short SW story more so than the newest trilogy of movies and would have made a great canon story if Disney didn’t eradicate the Expanded Universe to make way for their own…movies (so far, I’m not impressed).(“I want it all….Hoo Hoo!”)
There are two different endings to the story that can be achieved by making a certain choice during a pivotal moment in the story. It is a hard choice because if you follow through with your temptations you feel justified in a way, but it will cement your fate and determine your future opponents. I have tried both endings and I don’t have a favourite, but I usually try to be good, even though I prefer the Sith to the Jedi anyway (they have Darth Maul). The last mission is by far the best in the game and I have purposefully saved a game at the beginning just to go through it as many times as I wish. It involves a lot of Jedi/Sith clashing and a final climactic battle with one of the most famous Dark Lords of the Sith in Star Wars history.
The multiplayer was where most of the fun would happen. As far as I am aware the multiplayer servers are no longer active, so the online community is dead, but the game can be played offline against AI controlled bots. There are the typical multiplayer modes such as Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Duel and Free-For-All but they can be customized to an extent by choosing the bots that will be participating (based on in-game characters) the level of Force Mastery, the difficulty and the map. Playing against other players is a feeling that can’t be replicated elsewhere. The online community was a site to behold, with organised events, tournaments and even just casual duelling.
Most servers were FFA (Free-For-All) but had rules enforced my administrators in order to allow fair play and to prevent bullying and unacceptable language being used. I played the multiplayer mode for hundreds of hours altogether, even against bots. It cuts out the areas of the main story that has me travelling between fights and outs me right into the action. If there were more modes and allowed more players to join when playing against the AI then it could have been so much better, but to play with large numbers you would need to join a server that contained so many different people playing for their own reasons, whether they are roleplaying, wanting to duel or just to watch others. It had a strong community, so it saddens me to know that it is gone, but there is a “new hope” for a “return of the Jedi” and Sith. The release of this game on 24th September will include the multiplayer mode, allowing myself and others to experience the rebirth of the community once again. I would encourage anyone to purchase this game, anyone that enjoys lightsaber combat or even if you just like watching flashing lights.
It’s my understanding that the graphics and animations won’t be given an upgrade, which is a shame considering how old the graphics are. Jedi Academy is 16 years old so it can be forgiven for looking the way it does, but back then it looked amazing. It was available on the original Xbox, so the graphics looked too advanced for the PS1 but not quite the standard of a PS2. The lightsabers look like they have had a lot of effort put into their visuals. When they light up and you can see the glow of your chosen colour you will just sit there and make the humming noise we all made as kids when we pretended our wooden sticks were an imitation of the glowing death sticks from the big screen.(I still love this guy!)
The flashing lights, the sounds of the clashes and visual damage look very good, even by the standards of today. I was hoping for an actual Remaster, but I can settle for it just being on my PS4, with a revived multiplayer. I currently have the game on Steam, and I have made use of full conversion mods to make everything look nicer and to expand the content by adding new features and mechanics not available on the base game. I am still happy to buy this game again, and I look forward to playing the multiplayer with seasoned veterans and newbies. Even if the multiplayer doesn’t interest anyone the story mode is still worth playing, and with the many options in weapons, abilities and levels you can replay the game in a different way and develop a completely different character, finding what you like better.
Honestly, I feel a little biased towards this game. It has excellent reviews and has stood quite well against the test of time, enough that it has earned a re-release this month. The combat is something quite unique, but it also delivers well. There is plenty to do whether online or offline, so it is worth having in your library, because it will suck you back in with a lot of “force”. All puns aside this is an excellent little piece and remains very popular by those that have played it from the beginning and even those that discovered it a little later. If you have any deep-seated interest towards Star Wars, or you just enjoy lightsaber battles, then you will have endless hours of fun with this. I know I have, and I look forward to having many more.