Review by Auron255
"Naughty Dog doesn't know Jak..."
Notably, Jak and Dakster 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. Well, given the story is interesting, it goes by too slowly, and is stretched out far too much.
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 (quite possibly the definition of next generation platformers). The polys are very high, and the textures are smooth. Even though you can still see some jaggyness here and there, the overall effect of the extra polygons doesn't go by unnoticed.
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 Brigade. 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 gauk 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 realism, and over all feel. You can tell that audio development isn't Naughty Dog's strong point.
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. On occassion you'll need to use a double or triple jump to dodge certain enemy attacks, but the double jump is so inconsistent. Sometimes you can press it 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. The fire button is R1, which is good enough, but should have been on the face buttons. Not perfect, but it will suffice.
Here is where the game truly suffers. There are several things that are flawed with the gameplay.
1) Yes, you can steal any car you see. BUT, there aren't any secret missions, 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 used. Very lazy on Naughty Dog's part. Even the though the car-jacking is fundamentally useful, it lacks function, 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, since you can't get a good shot off. Either way, the weapon system is far from perfect. There are ONLY 4 weapons...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 have to complete so many arbitrary missions, you begin to think if this game is ever going to take off...which it never does. 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 is HARD HARD HARD HARD HARD. This game is unbelievably diffcult. Within the first two missions, you'll be begging for mercy since you'll be getting your ass handed to you. A good example is trying to fight off the sentry tank in the ammunitions factory. You must dodge his cannon, while at the same time jump and double jump your away across moving platforms, while dodging moving Lasers, that summon guns to 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 eh? 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.
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, and you must start right from the beginning. Thats's BS if you tried you buns off, just getting to where you died. Sorry, but a game without checkpoints, is certainly flawed as 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 getting used to, as you'll be hitting every vehicle that flies at you, and blow up your hovercraft in the meantime. 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 though this game seems fun to play...it really isn't, and soon becomes a chore. You'll only find it fun if you can actually stomach all of these poor qualities in the game play.
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 requrie 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. It was the worst 60 bucks I ever spent in platforming history. Living here in Canada, games are not cheap, and buying this game is a very big disappointment. Once I was finished with it, I returned it the next day. I could only stomach up until about 65% - 70% completed, then it just got way too crazy, and the enemies became too malicious. 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 below average.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 10/17/03, Updated 01/18/05
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