Anyone that has played Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is already up to speed as far as gameplay goes. Pretty standard FPS setup with a third person kick out whenever you use your lightsaber(s). And come on, be honest... anyone who plays this game better have their lightsaber out 99% of the time. So perhaps that makes this title a TPS (Third Person Saber game).
The one huge drawback of JKII:Jedi Outcast was even fixed. In Jedi Academy there are thankfully NO missions that you have to trudge through without a lightsaber or force powers. Granted, you are a Jedi in training, so you don't start out with a lot of force powers, but it beats using a blaster! Well, that and the fact that your not stuck playing as Kyle. You can select from 5 different races to play as and can customize the hilt and color of your blade in the beginning. About half way through the game, you even get to opt for dual lightsabers or the saberstaff (think Darth Maul).
All of the outstanding elements of the previous game are persent and accounted for in the newest installment to boot! The outstanding audio effects are perfect, but how could they not be? When you work with Lucasarts, you get full access to their sound archives, so all of the saber clashes, blaster fire, and ambient audio are all dead on StarWars.
Another pleasant continuation from the previous Jedi KnightII was the presence of a really strong storyline. And when you have a good game, with good gameplay and a strong story behind it, it certianly helps keep you coming back for more. JKII: Jedi Outcast and now Jedi Academy are the only two Shooters to hit the market in recent memory that I have been compelled to sit down and play till I win (much to Mrs. Andrax's dismay). There are a few twist and turns, nothing to suprising, but it's good just the same.
The mission system is setup well. You pick missions as you progress to help locate some strange cultists who are gathering up force energy from various locations across the galaxy. Each mission you take allows you to put an extra point in a force skill of your choosing (light or dark). If you stray much into the darker (or GOOD COMBAT powers as I like to call them) then expect a talking to from Luke or Kyle. My only real mission gripe is that I thought that there could have been some more of them. Like all Jedi though, you will have your brush with the dark side. Towards the end of the game you will be faced with a choice. Embrace your anger and hate and strike down your opponent, or show compassion, forgiveness and understanding and stay on the light side. Or you can be like me and save the game before you make the choice and play through both ways.
The NPC AI is pretty well done for both friendly and enemy characters. However, there are times when you can back away from enemy Jedi and they will stop following you and stand there waiting for you. This can give you a distinct advantage while you heal and recover to continue the battle. Wether this is design or flaw I cant say. But it does seem odd that they simply stop following at a certian point. They do make up for their slight pathing problems with lightsaber skills. On the Jedi Knight difficulty level, they will cut your arse down in a heartbeat if your not paying attention. Especially as you get close to the end of the game. Your fellow students (when you fight alongside them) are pretty good as well. There were only a few times that I watched them gang up on an enemy and end up cutting eachother down in the process of trying to get to the Dark Jedi.
Overall this is a must play for any StarWars fan. If you liked any of the Jedi Knight games you will surely find something you enjoy about this title. It is more of the same, but I still feel comfortable saying "Keep em coming". Raven has found a great niche with this line, hopefully they will continue to do the line proud and we can look forward to Jedi Knight III!