As a first and third-person shooter set in the Star Wars expanded universe, Jedi Academy puts the player into combat wielding a variety of firearms from that universe, as well as lightsabers and Force powers. The player can choose perspective for every weapon except for the lightsaber, which must be wielded in a third person view. The shooter aspects of the game are standard, including a variety of projectile and energy weapons and explosives. Players have a health meter and a shield meter, which are replenished separately.
In both single-player and multiplayer, the player character is a Force-user, who has access to a variety of Force powers in addition to their lightsaber(s). Powers include Push, Pull, Jump, Heal, Lightning, and other abilities from the Star Wars universe. Force powers are categorized into core, Light (defensive) and Dark (offensive), and each Force power has three ranks, with the power increasing in effectiveness with each rank. In both single-player and multiplayer, players choose how to rank up their powers, adding a layer of customization. During gameplay, the player has a "Force meter" which is depleted when powers are used, and recharges when no powers are in use.
Jedi Academy places a heavy emphasis on lightsaber combat. The player can create a custom lightsaber by selecting a hilt and one of five blade colors. Later in the game, the player can choose to wield a single saber, one saber in each hand, or a "saber staff" similar to the double ended lightsaber Darth Maul used in The Phantom Menace which also adds a kicking ability unavailable with any other lightsaber. The different sabers each have unique styles and special moves. When using a single saber, the player can choose between three stances which affect the speed and power of attacks; if using dual sabers, the player can switch off the second saber and use the "Fast"-style single-saber stance, or if using a saber staff, the player can switch the staff into a single-bladed saber that uses the "Medium"-style saber stance.