With every venture in the Star Wars universe comes excitement and trepidation. Excitement because once again you get to lightsabre your way through more Storm troopers, trepidation because the fear that it might just not live up to your expectations may be true.
For the most part Jedi Academy will allay your fears. While the game follows on from the Jedi Knight series, disappointingly you won't be playing characters from the previous incarnation. This time around you play Jaden, a new recruit at the Jedi Academy learning the ways of the force.
Rather than following a linear storyline, levels can be chosen at will and while this does bring some variety and choice to the matter, you can't help feel that the storyline strength is lost as the game has to account for you not playing them in any particular order. That main aim, rather than the usual array of love and revenge is all about graduating and while this is important to some as you jet-set around the galaxy killing bad guys you can't help but feeling that life would be so much easier without that Jedi accreditation.
Gameplay is virtually identical to Jedi Knight II: Outcast and once again you have a plethora of Star Wars weapons at your disposal. Heavy blasters, wookie bowcasters and Imperial Heavy Repeaters with Concussion Launchers are all present along with the old favourite - the thermal detonator. New to the game however is a range of ligthsabres that you can eventually learn to use including Darth Maul’s two beamed beauty.
Also new to the gameplay is the ability to choose the force powers that you initially want to become strong in. This gives greater emphasis on you controlling your so- called destiny. Of course if a level requires you to have a certain level of force jump to clear a landing then you are awarded those points regardless but it does allow you to hone your weaker skills. New force moves include a sense option allowing you to see enemies and hidden secrets and some new dark powers including a force drain - sucking the life out of your opponent.
Graphics wise the game uses the same engine as Jedi Knight II and to some, this is starting to look dated in the way Dark Forces did once you started playing other first person shooters. That said, most Star Wars fans will relish the scenery and the characters that you meet or play along side. Further levels include the abandoned rebel base on Hoth and bumping into Chewie on Tatooine. The venerable engine also makes for reasonably spec friendly PC gaming.
For the Star Wars fan this game will prove too enticing not to get and you'll spend the next week living and breathing the universe once again- but the hardcore may trade it in after that week. To the non-believer this game is still a worthy first person shooter with a sci-fi theme.