Jak II Review
Two years ago, Naughty Dog set the gaming world on fire. The debut of their marvelous Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy set a landmark in game design. Allowing the gamer to explore one vast world that is seamlessly connected without a single loading screen was unheard of. The 'see it, go there' premise was skeptical sounding at first, but ultimately delivered. The bar was raised, how could Naughty Dog be able to top such an achievement? By creating a world that is not only five times the size of the first game's, but one that is alive and more interactive than you could possibly imagine.
Jak II starts off with the cast of the original warping through a rift gate. The crew ends up in an unsanitary place called Haven City - Jak is captured, meanwhile Daxter escapes. For two-years Jak is experimented on with harmful amounts of dark eco, while Daxter tries to find a way to rescue him. Finally, Daxter makes his way in and locates Jak, where he discovers Jak isn't who he once was. The injections of dark eco added a second persona to Jak's character, but with the motive being vengeance, Jak's darker side may come in handy.
Jak II is a triumphant achievement; arguably the most triumphant platform game to date. In Jak II you inhabit a world that is multitudes larger than the one in the original. There are vehicles to jack, people to run over and missions to...hey, sound a little familiar? Though, this isn't Jak Theft Auto; as Jak II never gets high on its open-world, GTA-esque atmosphere. Jak II, while mission based, is still a platform game in every way imaginable. There are no hubs; you will have to travel to the location of the specified stage and begin playing it when you step foot in it. Just like the original, there are no loading times; everything is absolutely seamless. When not platforming, the game plays more like Grand Theft Auto than anything else. So that means you have to look for missions, and the best way to find them is to follow the cursors placed on your map. Anybody who's played any of the Grand Theft Auto games will be instantly familiarized with Jak II's newest features. Also, the controls have been kept intact and even improved a little. The camera is superb, which just isn't something that can be said about most games.
This time around, Naughty Dog got rid of the tedious collecting, as the game has a more distinct action approach. Jak is rather pissed, and he's got much better things to do than collecting dozens of shiny orbs. So in Jak II, the only thing you should really watch out for are rare Precursor Orbs and Metal-Head skull gems, as the more you collect them, the more you are rewarded with extras. Collecting dark eco matter (which is dropped after enemies are defeated) is only necessary if you wish to unleash Dark Jak, who is temporarily invulnerable to all attacks and is massively powerful. While on the topic of features, aside from the vehicles, and Jak's new found ability to turn into a freakishly powerful character, Naughty Dog has also included a Jet-Board for Jak to utilize and a large robotic like mechanism that Jak climbs inside of called the Titan Suit. In addition to that, there are a variety of weapons such as the Scatter Gun, Blaster Weapon, Vulcan Fury and Peace Maker. Jak II isn't your standard 'cotton candy and puppies' platforming affair, not by a long shot. Jak II is a deep, gritty, very challenging, cleverly designed, immeasurably involving and, not to mention, awesome platform game. There's tons and tons to love about Jak II.
On the technical side of things, Jak II evolves on the original in many, many ways. For one, you'd expect that since the sequel is rendering so much more simultaneously some sacrifices would have to be made, right? Absolutely wrong. Don't ask how they do it, they just do, but Naughty Dog has managed to make Jak II look better than the original in every way imaginable. From character detail, to texture detail, to animation - Jak II is easily one of the best looking games across any console. The framerate is also flawless; never a frame below 60 and the game is progressive scan compatible. That said, the only complaint that can be drawn is a weird synching error that creates some screen tearing. It's nothing too bad, and when in progressive scan it seems to go away, but it's there. Lastly, Jak II sounds awesome. Naughty Dog has incorporated Dolby Digital Pro Logic 2 support, so you know the drill: if you've got the system, use it. The voice acting is also, without a doubt, the best any platform game has ever seen. Jak speaks this time around, and Daxter is funnier than he's ever been.
In the end, Jak II is everything you've probably ever wanted in a game. It fuses free-roaming/mission based gameplay, with action that is akin to Jak and Daxter's cousins Ratchet and Clank, and throws in a dash of stealth for good measure. Jak II is an absolute must have that'll last you 15-20 hours, and that's only just a quick run-through the game. Make sure you pick it up as soon as you can, or have it placed on your holiday list.
10/28/2003 Arnold Katayev