Review by xerc
"The defenition of the perfect sequel"
Hmm let's see now. A sequel eh? In movie language that's usually another word for disappointment. In the gaming world though, things can only get better the second time around. Jak 2 is it? That's funny, I don't remember there being a Jak one, says your loud yet very stupid mate Carl. It's at this point that you slap Carl around the head and tell him straight, ''That's because it was called Jak and Daxter you [insert insult here]!''.
Jak and Daxter was the first truly decent platformer to arrive on our beloved black beauty of a console. Then came Ratchet and Clank, and as a result school yard scraps boiled into over-drive over which was the better game. Ratchet and Clank was so superb that developers Insomniac decided that a sequel was a good idea, hence Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando/Locked and Loaded hit the shelves a year later. So what changes were made? Well there were alternate names depending on whether you live in Europe or America, but that's all really. Just the same game in different locations and with Ratchet wearing a new costume. That's not to say it's not a good game, it's just that while Insomniac were dozing off and dunking biscuits into coffee, Naughty Dog were slaving away trying to create the most revolutionary and brilliant platformer to date. The result? Jak 2: Renegade.
Games developers being the folks they are, tend to put years into the making of a game and then stick to that formula for two or three sequels, but never can I recall a game being so radically changed in such an excellent way as in Jak 2.
Jak's back for a sequel and before you ask, yes Daxter's here as well despite having his name removed from the title. Probably in a bid to try and find the game's new target audience. Yes let us rejoice at the fact that Jak and Daxter have shed their kiddy image and become a much more adult duo. This time around it's darker, more mature and as a result way better than it's predecessor. There're new enemies now too, as it turns out that Jak & Daxter's Lurkers were just misunderstood dumb animals and the real bad guys are Metal heads. Metal heads are a much nastier foe than lurkers and you'll be made to track down their leader in order to kill them off.
Jak may have changed its image, but the core gameplay remains faithful to the original. The control system is much the same as before with X being used to jump, Square to punch, and circle to do a spinning kick. There are one or two changes, but they're easy enough to get to grips with. The game now takes place within the giant city haven of um.... Haven City. There's a whole new vibe to the game now which I can't really describe. The city is absolutely huge once you unlock all of the areas and you can spend literally up to an hour just making your way around the city what with all the distractions littered around the place. That sounds like an awful lot of wondering though doesn't it? Never fear my friend for you see cars are now on hand to speed up your journey. How? Why you hijack them of course. Simply press triangle underneath a car and Jak will leap up into the driver seat and kick the cars owner to the floor. Underneath you say? That can't be very comfortable can it? Not a problem my platform loving pal, because instead of regular fuel guzzling ground huggers these are hover cars, not dissimilar to the A-grav zoomer from Jak and Daxter. Other new things available to Jak include a hover board, deadly dark powers, and guns. Yes guns have made it in here as well. Four of them in fact and they'll all be of great use to you in your quest to....um...oh right the plot. I almost forgot. It goes something like this....
After the events of Jak and Daxter, Jak, Daxter, Keira and Samos are checking out the precursor thingamajig seen at the very end of the first game. Anyway buttons get pressed and all of a sudden the four are flying though some kind of purple tube. We then get a brief glance at Haven city before Jak is knocked out and captured. Daxter escapes and swears to Jak that he'll rescue him before he knows it. Two years later Daxter finally arrives to save Jak who as it turns out, has been submitted to some horrible Dark Eco experiments by the city's ruler, Baron Praxis. We then hear Jak speak for the very first time as he says ''I'm gonna kill Praxis!''. Thus he and Daxter embark on a quest to find out more about this strange new world and to ultimately get revenge on Baron Praxis and to destroy the leader of the Metal Heads. Typically that's not all that happens as there are many complications to the plot as you go, but I won't ruin it for you by saying what happens.
The cut scenes are superb. They're often straight to the point and are always excellently animated with a decent dose of humour thrown added for good measure. In fact the humour is another great thing about this game. It's always there, but it doesn't ever get silly and ruin the serious feel of the game. New characters are excellent and unlike in J&D they all pop up more than once. Jak is practically a new character himself what with his new look and everything. Where he maintains his basic appearance from J&D, he now has new hair, new clothes, a green goatee, and best of all, that all important missing voice box has been found. He looks a lot older despite there only being a two year gap between the games and ultimately he just looks a lot cooler than before. Giving him a voice takes Jak and Daxter from a slightly annoying if occasionally funny pair to a classic comedy duo who do adventuring in their spare time. Daxter is a lot funnier this time too which helps. Last time he was mildly funny, but mostly annoying, but this time he's the best character on show. He swears, he drinks, he womanizes and he keeps the wise-cracks coming in a way that no other games character can. You'll also get to play as him briefly on three occasions, once in a WipEout style hover car race, once in a whack-a-mole style mini game, and best of all in a Crash bandicoot style chase towards the screen. Great stuff...
Graphically Jak2 is the best game I've ever seen on PS2. It may not look real what with the strange proportions and weird location, but it's a thing of cartoon beauty and almost always looks nothing short of stunning. It's all smooth and the animation is beyond brilliant, but the moments that really get you are when you're up in a high place such as the Precursor Mountains or the bridge to Praxis' palace where you get a stunning view of the entire city. And since said city is so big and complex, it really does exceed anything I've ever seen in a game. It really does look that good.
Jak and Daxter challenged those who wanted to collect everything, but for the people who just wanted to race though it solving what puzzles they chose, the game was relatively simple. Jak 2 however is the perfect difficulty for a game. The learning curve is excellent and it offers a decent challenge without stretching you too far. It frustrates enough for the rewards to that little bit sweeter, but never at the extent of fun. Jak 2 is a revolutionary title in the world of platforming and has lifted the genre so high that there's almost no way I can see it getting better.
Graphics-10: The most stunningly beautiful visuals ever to grace PS2
Sound-9: No stand out music, but the voice acting is right up there with the likes of the even the mighty MGS.
Gameplay-9: Challenging, varied and great fun
Lifespan-8: Just about the perfect lenght first time through. Long enough to make you feel you've definitely got your money's worth, but not too long to make you ever lose interest. The only problem is a lack of replay value.
Jak 2 is an utterly astounding and unforgettable game that raises the bar to unimaginable heights for the platformer/adventure genre. It just misses out on a ten out of ten.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/04/04, Updated 09/10/04
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