It’s a good time to be Star Wars fan. Despite a few rocky releases, it’s as popular as ever and after the fantastic Stars Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (see Stu’s thoughts here), there’s a new hope for gamers. Whilst we wait for the next big release for the franchise, classic titles are hitting modern consoles. The latest port sees Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy hit the Nintendo Switch and PS4.
Brought back to us by Aspyr, the online multiplayer classic comes to Nintendo Switch with modernized controls. Take on the role of a new student eager to learn the ways of the Force from Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. You can pick it up here, but first, read on to find out if you should.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is a hybrid 3rd person/FPS action game, and is actually the 3rd game in Raven Software’s Jedi Knight series. Don’t worry if you haven’t played any of the titles before though. Jedi Academy puts you in the role of a brand new character, Jaden Korr.
The game see’s you running through multiple liner levels, blasting at most things in your way. Whereas the previous titles pushed the FPS side, not giving you your lightsabre until later in the game, Jedi Academy really does everything to give you that power straight away. However, it’s elbowed in so forcefully, it trivialises the importance of actually having one. But at the end of the day, running through waves of Stormtroopers and slicing them apart is always cool, even when it’s a bit janky.
Originally released in 2003, Jedi Academy was highly anticipated as it had the most promising sabre combat at that time. However, time has not treated this game well. Combat feels outdated and poor. When using the sabre, you’re swinging it around like a mad man, and there a distinct lack of impact or weight when striking anything. It’s disappointing because the game does set up what should be amazing duels. But, when you get into it, it just looks like two people hitting each other with toy sabres they picked up at Toys ‘Я’ Us.
Poor combat also carries over to the gunplay. Aiming often feels off, and whether it’s a laser or an explosion, enemies barely react. Added to bad AI (who’s usual approach to combat is stand in spot and coach every now and again), it just lacks the depth or challenge you want.
The story here is serviceable. It’s standard Star Wars stuff – Good vs Evil. Tempted by the Dark Side etc. It moves along fine, and holds everything together. However, the constant nods to the franchise grow rather tiresome at points. Every other line feels like someone just saying ‘Hey, remember Star Wars’.
One thing that Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy boasts is it’s multiplayer mode. It’s nice to see that this wasn’t forgotten about and does feature a good range of game modes – from 1 on 1 duels, to Deathmatch and Capture the Flag options.
Of the few matches I played, they ran well. I didn’t feel there was any noticeable lag, and when I was in a game the connection was steady. However, I did find trouble getting into a match to begin with. Of all the options available, the duels mode was the only one I could jump straight into a match on. Other modes I often found no games, or having to wait a while for players to join.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy was developed using the Quake III Engine. It’s a classic engine responsible for creating some legendary titles, but Jedi Academy doesn’t really do it any justice.
Objects and environments are basic, character models are poorly animated, repeated often and don’t blend well into the world. But you know what, it still looks and feels like a Star Wars game, and to be quite frank, that’s all you need. Throughout the campaign, you’ll visit iconic locations, and interact with creatures, vehicles, and technology straight from the universe. Despite it’s flaws, you will feel like you’re right there.
The UI also feels like it could easily be found on some piece of tech from the films. But whilst it might look initially attractive, it’s an archaic system that will leave you scratching your head as to why this wasn’t updated. You see consoles commands when you save and load. It all leans towards this feeling like a basic as possible port. Yes, some work has gone into adding motion control support, but overall, if it were as simple as Right Click>Save As, Aspyr would’ve gone with it.
Much like the graphics, audio in Jedi Academy is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it features all the Star Wars classic themes and uses the orchestrated sounds to make it sound as genuine as possible. On the other, tracks aren’t always best placed to fit what is happening in the story, and can feel like they’re only used because, you know, Star Wars.
Fortunately, the weapons all sound authentic, and most importantly of all, the sound when you swing your light sabre is spot on.
The dialogue in Jedi Academy leaves a lot to be desired, unfortunately. Lines were clearly recorded separately and poorly stitched together leaving long gaps between dialogue. It just comes across as an afterthought, and really does nothing to help sell the storyline.
When porting Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Aspyr really has kept as close to the source material as possible. There are no additional modes added here, so you are left with the game as it was originally released. This means you’ll get a 10 hour single-player story, along with a suite of multiplayer options.
Just don’t expect this to hold your attention for that long. I didn’t find the story engaging enough that I would want to experience it again, and the multiplayer wasn’t strong enough to keep a tight force grip on me. There’s no replay value in either modes, and thanks to the poor AI, your experience will be the same every playthrough.
I’ve talked a lot about what I didn’t like with Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. It’s lacklustre gameplay and graphics would normally have me putting the controller away, but at the end of the day, it’s Star Wars. It looks and feels like Star Wars, and for all the years I spent as a kid pretend I could force open automatic doors, Jedi Academy scratches that itch.
If you’re not a fan of the franchise, this really isn’t the place to start. But if you have fond memories of this game, or just want to spend a few hours pretending you’re a Jedi, it’ll put a smile on your face for a short while.
After searching my feelings about Jedi Academy, I know awarding it a Thumb Culture Bronze award to be true.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
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