At today's LucasArts press event, the company was showing off a playable version of Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy for the PC. As stated in our previous coverage of the game, Jedi Academy puts you in the role of a student at a school for Jedi run by none other than Luke Skywalker himself. Unlike in previous Jedi Knight games, you will not be playing as the gruff mercenary Kyle Katarn, though he will play a major role in the game's storyline. Luke will be in charge of giving you your mission assignments, and the game's story will be nonlinear, giving you multiple choices as to which missions to take on. Some missions can even be skipped over, though at the cost of missing out on stat points that boost your character's Jedi abilities. As you progress, you'll also eventually be given the option of continuing on as a proper Jedi hero, or switching to the dark side of the Force.
Jedi Academy's gameplay stays true to the action adventure style found in the previous Jedi Knight titles, though with some hefty upgrades. For instance, you'll have more options to play around with when it comes to combat. The lightsaber combat has been expanded, allowing you to wield a pair of standard sabers, as well as use the now famous dual saber. You'll have plenty of moves to choose from when using the assorted sabers. Aside from the basic moves, you'll also be able to use the saber like a boomerang, taking out enemies from afar, and we even saw a move that invloved two lightsabers being swung around in a circular pattern, essentially creating a shield. You'll have access to other weapons aside from lightsabers, including blasters, blaster rifles, Wookiee bowcasters, an Imperial repeater, and an electromagnetic pulse gun. There will also be plenty of Force moves available to your character, including a couple of new ones such as Force range and Force sight.
Another major facet of Jedi Academy is your ability to customize your own character. As mentioned in our previous coverage, there will be more than 2,000 different combinations of physical attributes you can assign to your character. The categories we saw today included multiple options for heads, torsos, legs, and clothing, as well as a variety of races. In addition to being able to customize your character, you'll be able to design your own lightsabers, using varying types of colors, designs, and gauges, ranging from light to heavy. Lighter sabers will be more useful in quicker, short-range combat, where as heavy-gauge sabers will act like broadswords and do much more damage.
From what we saw of the game today, Jedi Academy's visuals appear to be in top form. The character models are especially well designed, with tons of detail in each model and lots of cool-looking animations. All the environments were very impressive looking, including the levels found on Hoth and Tattooine. One mission was especially stunning, as we found ourselves on a moving transport ship and had to jump and slice our way past a number of guards while the ship traveled at harrowing speeds. The visual effects associated with this created an incredible sense of speed and truly gave us pause as we sized up our ability to jump around on this speeding vessel.
Aside from the single-player campaign, Jedi Academy will feature several multiplayer modes, including the standard deathmatch, as well as a new siege mode, which will effectively let you team up with other players and tackle some mission-based objectives. Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is currently scheduled for a mid-September release on the PC and a November release on the Xbox. We'll have further coverage of the game in the weeks to come.