Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

August 01, 2005

Review: Jak II (PS2) - Jak and Daxter high on GTA

VGP Score


Notably, Jak and Daxter was platforming in the most literal sense. There weren't many enemies, (compared to other platformers) and the challenges weren't very difficult. Even though the game was simplisticly designed, it was too hard to put down...which is exactly why Jak II is such a disappointment.

I think this game takes a lot from other games that have made the grade, but when you take incomplete parts of each, you get very shoddy gameplay. The weapon-esque features of Ratchet and Clank, the Dark Eco Jak that almost spins off from Devil May Cry, and the Car-jacking antics of GTA, are all integrated into this game, but they are done so in a manner that feels sloppy.

The story starts off with Jak and Daxter being teleported through a vortex to Haven City, where Jak is mysteriously captured and tortured with Dark Eco by a man known as the Baron. Daxter comes to the rescue, and you are off to find the Baron, and complete missions for people along the way. All platformers should have simple stories, that unravel quite naturally. Jak II is just the opposite. You'll need to complete about 6 - 7 missions, just before you actually get to your first objective. The story unravels so slowly, and Naughty Dog obviously tried to introduce too many characters, most of which play absolutely no part in the story what so ever. Given the story is interesting - inevitably - it goes by too slowly, and is stretched out far too thin.

Theres no doubt that Jak II flaunts some of the best graphics ever seen on any platformer. Its actually on the same level as Ratchet and Clank . The polys are high, and the textures are smooth. Even though you can still see some jaggies here and there, the overall effect of the extra polygons doesn't go by unnoticed.

Soundtrack...What sound? The game consistently uses the same songs over and over again when riding through Haven city, and then changes to another song when being chased by the Krimzon Guard. Thats about it, there are a few instances where different orchestrated songs are intermittently inserted into the cut-scenes, but thats about it. The sound effects aren't much to gawk at either. The same sound effects are used when hitting every single enemy, regardless of them being metallic or organic, its all the same. It may seem small, but things like this take away from the immersion, and over all feel.

The controls are...so so. There isn't much to be proud of, or anything that hasn't been done before. You are given the ability to double and triple jump, which is kind of far fetched, but when dealing with Jak II, everything goes. Although, sometimes, the controls are so unresponsive that on occassion you'll need to use a double or triple jump to dodge certain enemy attacks, but the double jump is incredibly inconsistent. Sometimes you can press the jump button twice rapidly, and you'll do a small double jump, other times, if you push the jump button twice at the same speed, Jak does nothing, and falls to his doom. Very frusterating.

Where the game truly suffers is gameplay however. There are several things that are aggrevatingly flawed with Jak II...

1) Yes, you can steal any car you see - a la Grand Theft Auto - BUT, there aren't any secret missions for them, or any real purpose to using the cars. Nearly the entire game can be completed on foot, with no use of cars. There are very few, and I mean few missions where you actually need to use a vehicle. Not to mention, there are only about 5 different vehicles in the game, just different colour schemes are mixed and matched. Extremely lazy on Naughty Dog's part. Even though the car-jacking is fundamentally useful, it lacks function of urgency, which is what every aspect of a game should have.

2) There is a very shoddy auto-aim system. Sometimes the auto-aim works, and sometimes you're stuck running in circles to attack enemies. Either way, the weapon system is far from perfect. There are only 4 weapons to boot...a very poor effort by Naughty Dog. Not to mention, that the weapons don't range in damage dealt, with the exception of the Peacekeeper.

3) How many missions do I have to complete to make any head-way in this game?! You're required to complete so many arbitrary missions, you begin to wonder if the game is ever going to take off...which it never does to be quite honest. You'll become bored of this game, and so disgruntled with it before you even meet the Shadow...(no spoilers, so don't ask).

4) This game is HARD HARD HARD HARD HARD. Jak II is unbelievably diffcult. Within the first two missions, you'll be begging for mercy since you'll be getting your ass handed to you from every direction. A good example is trying to fight off the sentry tank in the ammunitions factory. Dodge his cannon, while at the same time jump and double jump your away across moving platforms, while dodging moving lasers that summon turrets which auto-aim and fire at you, and at the end of it all, you have destroy two generators and get the tank to destroy all the ammunition. That's a mouthful huh? Well get used to it, there isn't a single mission afterward that gets any easier. The few races you do have to complete, are 10 times harder. It's not even challenging...just cheap. I spit!

5)Whats the deal with the no checkpoints?! There's virtually no checkpoints! You can get through an entire mission and die seconds before you're going to complete it, so you're forced to start right from the beginning. Thats's BS if you worked your ass off just getting to where you died. Sorry, but a game without checkpoints (or at least next to none), is certainly flawed so long as the difficulty is ramped up so incredibly high for a platformer.

6) Granted that each vehicle type has its own physics and damaging qualities, they control worse than the mini plane from GTA3...(you GTA people know what I'm talking about). It takes some major adjustments, as you'll be hitting every vehicle that flies at you, and blow up your hovercraft in the process. Not to mention, afterward, you'll be chased and hunted by the Krimzon guard. You can get the hang of it, but it shouldn't be so frustrating to do so.

7) Dark Jak: This is possibly one of the best qualities in the gameplay, and the only thing saving the Gameplay from completely failing. It is rather fun to play as Dark Jak, but his time is short lived, and his powers are minimal. You can aquire different abilites by collecting metalhead gems, but you won't really want to later on. Dark Jak is a very intersting addition to Jak II, but almost plays like a Devil May Cry scenario...Fight enemies, transform, kill enemies, rinse and repeat. Even worse, the game never actually requires Dark Jak, so it plays out more like a gimmick than anything.

Even though this game seems fun to play...at times, it just isn't (pardon my frankness), and soon becomes a chore. You'll only find it fun if you can actually stomach all of these poor qualities in the gameplay. There certainly are a number of precursor orbs this time around, and collecting them can get you some cool unlockables. There is a list in the main menu, and each require an increasing amount of Precursor orbs to unlock. But thats about it. Other than that, you won't want to keep exploring the city as even that becomes a challenge. I recommend once you've completed it, if you complete it all, don't play it again, and return it, or trade it for a better platformer...a la Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. Overall, no real compelling reason to keep playing.

If there was ever a reason to buy Jak II, it just went down the drain. If anything, rent this game before you buy it...IF you buy it. This definately is not what Naughty Dog made Jak II out to be...very disappointing.


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