Review by Jaxijin

"Who could've know J&D would mix perfectly with GTA?"

Whenever a game is popular, it get's a sequel. Its purpose is to provide more of the great gameplay its predecesor started. But most of the time the developers simply add minor changes that while still remaining solid, it just doesn't feel fresh. Or they implement huge changes that end up ruining the game. Jak II is the latter, except it does not end up sucking.

Jak & Daxter was a platform that seemed like it was designed in the vein of popular platformers like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, which had a LOT of collecting to do. The quest was long and was worth it, but despite all the praise and positive comments, Jak & Daxter had no originality at all. But despite this, it was still an extremely solid adventure.

Now when Sony unveilved Naughty Dog's Jak II in an issue of Game Informer for the first time, people ended up thinking it'd be nothing but a cheap way to not only destroy Jak & Daxter's reputation(gamewise), but cash in on the fever that Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City had created. As well they promised a darker and edgier storyline as well as humour, as opposed to the original's colourful world and gameplay.

Here's a basic formula for Jak II: take the platforming bits, solid controls(and somewhat nasty camera controls), mix it with Wipeout-inspired racing, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater hoverboard bits, and the overworld from any GTA with gunplay and voila, tasty Jak II. The game takes place directly after the original, where Jak, Daxter, Keira, and the old village leader (I can't remember his name) go through a portal and end up getting seperated and stuck in an enormous city, Haven City, that is populated and brimming with people. Jak is immediately arrested as he arrives, and Daxter runs away. Daxter proclaims ''I'll save you before you know it!'', before the words ''Two Years Later'' appear. Jak finally springs Jak from prison, who'd been tortured, and experimented on using dark eco by the cities' tyranical ruler, Baron Praxis. Now Jak is mad, wants revenge, and can actually talk(he was mute in the original). So the ''demolition duo'' meet Torn, a worker for the underground who're trying to defeat the Baron and lots of adventures happen along the way. That's the plot in a nutshell.

Gameplay is basically J&D meet's GTA. You explore a huge city, with the ability to jack vehicles along the way to get around faster (and boy with a city 20 times bigger then J&D's world, you'll need it). You use a circular mini-map similar to GTA's to navigate, and go to people to trigger many missions. These range from classic hop 'n' bob bits, Jak & Daxter style, to escorting people, destroying switches protected by gun turrets, racing from point A to point B, Crazy Taxi-esque delivery missions, racing, etc. Overall, Jak II's mission variety is remarkable.

To spice up things more, Naughty Dog threw in gun's to aid Jak. You obtain 4 different weapons, and you can receive upgrade's as rewards. These are very fast and responsive, fired by pressing R1. If there was one complaint about the gunplay is that there's no lock-on system or ability to strafe while shooting (unlike Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando). Some weapons, like the Scatter Gun, this is no problem, but some use a laser to target enemies, and the auto-targeting doesn't work well always and you'll have to resort to shoot, run in circles, shoot, repeat, to gun down tough targets.

Another gripe in Jak II is that the vehicles in the city don't handle very well, and resort in hitting the brakes then turning. Also, the lack of checkpoints in some areas are simply frustrating and unforgiving, given the length of some of these areas. You may have heard by many reviewers, like IGN and GameSPOT, then JII is frustrating-beyond-belief hard. In my honorable opinion, it's not as hard as they claim. In one review, they critiqued one mission, get from point A to B in 3 minutes, being brutally hard. I beat it on my first try. Or maybe I'm just an amazing gamer, who knows, but if not, you may want to rent this first. As well, just like Jak & Daxter, I really found the camera frustrating. There's no way to simply put the camera behind you with a button-tap, and in games like Ratchet & Clank, pushing the right stick up or down moves the camera over you. Here, it zoom's in and out. There are situation's where this seem's like a bad thing to've done, but atleast you can get cool close-up's on Jak and Daxter.

Basically, I just summarized everything bad about Jak II. The rest is all good. The graphics are mind-blowingly good, with detailed characters, environments, cut-scenes, vehicles, etc. They are easily the best on PlayStation2 (sorry Ratchet, Jak look's prettier then you!),well until Gran Turismo 4 comes out.Daxter's witty humour remains perfectly intact, but with some more mature jokes. Speaking of this, the voice acting is very wel done, with only occasional corny lines. The game is even funnier then Jak & Daxter. But the music is a different story. It's pretty good, catchy, but just never feels very vibrant like J&D's. Only a minor thing, but it's still good and hardly hampers this game.

Jak II is definitely a game every PS2 owner should have in his/her library. Despite all of my praise, if you're still not convince that J&D ''Grand Theft Auto-ized'' doesn't work for you, you're better off renting it first. Well, off to play s'more Jak II!

-SCORECHART:
-DIFFUCULTY:8/10(1 easy;10 hard)
-BEST FEATURE: Fun missions
-WORST FEATURE: Lack of checkpoints in some missions.
-VISUALS:10/10 -ORIGINALITY:7/10
-SOUND:8/10 -REPLAY:6/10
-CONTROLS:8/10 -OVERALL:9/10
-THE VERDICY: You should RENT IT first. If you hate GTA but love platformers, this game may not be for you.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/27/03


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