Review by horror_spooky
"After a crash, there's an explosion"
Naughty Dog is one of the most legendary game developers of all time. They were one of the main reasons that the original PlayStation succeeded as much as it did. Just in case you don't already know, Naughty Dog created the Crash Bandicoot series which has provided some of the most memorable games of all time. When the PlayStation 2 was born, Naughty Dog ditched their previous Crash Bandicoot franchise in favor of a new game starring the mute Jak and the hilarious Daxter on a quest that felt like a combination between Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot. A cliffhanger ending in the original Jak and Daxter set the stage for this sequel that is much, much better than the original game and set a new standard for PlayStation 2 platformers that would follow.
If you have played the original game and are wondering if this sequel is anything like the original, well, I'm here to tell you now that it isn't. While the first game was a traditional 3D platformer collect-a-thon, this sequel is much edgier, much darker, and borrows gameplay elements heavily from the Grand Theft Auto games.
In fact, the only similarities between this sequel and the original are really the characters and plot. Instead of a focus on spinning your arms at your enemies you now have huge guns that you blow them to hell with. While these guns aren't all that cool, there is a variety of ammo at your disposal, and it is always cool watching the previously level-headed Jak shoot a monster with a futuristic shotgun. I never saw that coming. Did you?
What makes the game so much like Grand Theft Auto, though, is that instead of collecting those orbs like you did in the previous game to progress through the game, you now have to complete missions. You go to these missions in a similar way of Grand Theft Auto: steal a vehicle, go to the icon on the map, and then you start the mission.
Now, wait a minute. You can still vehicles this time around, too?! Yeah, you definitely can, but these vehicles are the most annoying vehicles I have ever dealt with in a video game ever. It'll take hours before you learn how to use them properly and they blow up way too easy. Also, cops will come after you and they can become a pain in the ass as well, especially when you are trying to flee from them in your crappy little hover-thing you stole from some fat rabbit-eared fellow.
Unlike Grand Theft Auto, there are virtually no side-quests available in Jak II, which is kind of a disappointment and the city you are allowed to explore, Haven City, isn't very exciting and you can't really do much. So, in order to make the gameplay more interesting, the developers added yet another element to the gameplay, a feature that they more or less borrowed from Devil May Cry. This gameplay mechanic is similar to the devil trigger in the Devil May Cry games, in which Jak can turn into an evil and more powerful being that can demolish enemies. In order to power this ability, you must collect dark eco, which you get by killing enemies.
This form of Jak can gain new abilities as the game goes on, but most of the time you will rely on sheer firepower to mow down your enemies as opposed to this ability. Sure, it was a cool idea, but it just wasn't implemented well enough to actually be a very important part of the gameplay.
Since all of the missions are actually pretty varied and extremely challenging, plus there are some very new gameplay mechanics in place, you wouldn't think Naughty Dog would add yet another new feature to the series. Well, they did. Racing is an important part in the game, though the tracks aren't very imaginative and feel a little too straight-forward sometimes. Still, I can't really complain because at least they're in there and they definitely do their job of breaking up the action for a little while to provide a distraction from the main game.
Where Jak II really shines is its story. I know it's weird for a platformer to have a really great story, but this game does just that. If you are familiar with its predecessor, you probably didn't find the story all that great, but Jak II has such a great narrative that it even makes the first one good by explaining so, so much. Instead of the light-heartedness found in the original, Jak II has a larger focus on darker themes and, surprise, Jak actually talks this time around. The game is still pretty funny though, and Daxter is still comic relief, but he still plays a major role throughout the story that provides plenty of twists, turns, and jaw-dropping surprises. I can't really give a synopsis of the game without ruining a little bit of the first one, so if you haven't played the first game yet, skip the rest of this paragraph? Alright, so you okay now? Anyway, the vehicle that Jak and the gang discovered in the first game is discovered to be a time machine, and sends Jak and friends to a different time. There, Jak is captured and injected with dark eco (a strange substance that is the most evil energy in the world) for years before Daxter eventually frees him from his imprisonment. Now, Jak wants revenge and wants to find his friends, but there is much more to the story than that. I wish I could see the looks on your faces when you complete this compelling story because it provides twists just as surprising as the one found in BioShock. I'm not kidding.
For a PlayStation 2 game, Jak II provides surprisingly great visuals and it definitely proves that the PlayStation 2 could hold its own against the higher graphical powers of the GameCube or the Xbox. Character models are top-notch except for the enemies who look a little bland. The enemies' blandness is similar to the blandness of the environments; there's just too much gray. I know the developers were going for a gloomy setting, but they overdid it. On a brighter note, there is virtually no lagging and no glitches, so a gamer who loves a smooth experience will be happy here.
You wouldn't expect voice-acting to be that great, especially for a game that is in the same genre as Mario. Jak II does have some great voice-acting though as well as some hilarious lines that should be put into some sort of hall of fame. The sound effects are spot-on, but the background music isn't anything to die for unfortunately.
Before I go on any further, I must say that this game is one of the hardest games you will ever play. For a generation of games that didn't have very many challenging titles, Jak II proves that some video games can still test your skills to the highest degree and cause a few controllers to be broken. The final boss is one of the hardest final bosses I have ever faced (next to the guy at the end of Dawn of Sorrow my god!) in any game ever. Jak II is much longer than the original and can last upwards of 20 to 30 hours. Since there aren't that very many side-quests that the place that's supposed to be a sandbox isn't very imaginative or lively, there isn't much to do once you complete the game and you won't feel very compelled to go through it again. There isn't a multiplayer mode available which also dampens the replayability, but the game is still definitely worth it.
I remember when this game first came out, which means that I am getting pretty old as a gamer. Some people find this game so difficult that it's just frustrating, but once you hone your skills you will be able to become very good at this title. Rarely providing a repetitive mission and always entertaining, Jak II is one of the main reasons to own a PlayStation 2. It's a shame that there isn't very much replayability and that the audio wasn't as great as it could have been, but solid gameplay and an engrossing story more than make up for those faults. If you haven't checked this game out yet, what are you waiting for?
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/20/08
Game Release: Jak II (US, 10/14/03)
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