Following in the footsteps of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy has returned for another round of lightsaber infused combat, this time on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. But is the Force still strong with this Aspyr update of the Raven Software original from all the way back in 2003?
Long story short: yeah, it is. Jedi Academy, the final game in the Jedi Knight series, offers a surprisingly expansive single-player adventure that'll see you visit some truly iconic planets from Star Wars lore. It's certainly not without flaws and not all aspects have aged with the same grace, but we found this archaic adventure to be compelling in its own peculiar way, and the lightsaber combat still holds up pretty well.
In fact, quality lightsaber combat is probably the game's unique selling point, even after all these years. The controls are a little floaty, which isn't helped by a relative lack of reactivity from the enemies you slice and dice, but your movement is surprisingly nuanced and offers enough control for you to feel expressive when fighting. Sometimes the physics hold up, sometimes it lacks a bit of impact, but overall you'd have to say that the combat feels good. The swordplay in more recent games such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is better in our opinion, but there's at least an argument to be made for the more wafty and organic combat in Jedi Academy.
Decent melee combat is a feature across both solo and multiplayer, although we didn't spend too much time playing MP on PS4 while the game is inadvertently balanced towards PC players. Unintentional crossplay that has console players falling victim to their more nimble mouse-wielding opponents is a little offputting. That should be fixed soon and then it might be a more tempting proposition, but even now it's pretty fun to shake a 'saber at strangers over the Internet.
Most of our time was spent in the campaign, visiting planets such as Tatooine and Hoth. The objectives and structure of the levels certainly feel dated when compared to the more tightly-controlled narrative adventures that we get nowadays, but there's something charming about guiding your Jedi through their training. Playing as Jaden Korr (either as a male or female character), this time you're under the tutelage of Jedi Master Kyle Katarn (instead of controlling him directly) and Luke Skywalker is there too. Our Jaden was a female Twi'lek voiced by Jennifer Hale, but there are a number of Star Wars races to choose from and a handful of customisation options too (including a few linked to your lightsaber).
It's not long before you're in the thick of the action and exploring environments with your Force powers. When you're not using your various abilities to traverse the world, you're whacking stormtroopers with your lightsaber or getting into gun battles. Melee combat is third-person but switching to your blaster will pull you into first-person mode. Upon reflection, the gunplay isn't the strongest part of the package, but it does at least offer up a bit of gameplay variety.
While Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy can't help but show its age, it still holds up pretty well and looks charming despite some clunky textures. There's a progression system that lets you unlock new abilities as you go, and a selection of missions that will keep you entertained for hours. The big draw is the lightsaber battles, which shine across solo and multiplayer, and if melee combat is your thing then it's worth checking out, especially if you enjoy games set in A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
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