Review by Rexy

"One barbecued gaming memory served up hot!"

In the beginning, Naughty Dog was nothing. Then, the game developing team found its big break in the form of the Crash Bandicoot series. Now, seven years on from when they were made big in the world, they have returned with a major blockbuster upon their hands in the form of Jak II. The game itself is a sequel to Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, released two years ago, and having found out what made the game a hit and what didn’t, the team have managed to spice up the series and create a sequel like none other. Whether it will impress you or not will lie within this very review. So, read on!

GRAPHICS/SOUND

As with most PlayStation2 titles, Jak II tends to break a lot of boundaries with its graphical power. Haven City, the main location throughout the whole game, is a very expansive place to go through, making the game feeling very expansive. Another point of its peak in power was shown in its technical capabilities of a shift from night to day and vice-versa every six minutes or so. Each of the characters in the game appears to be much more detailed than in the previous game, which really shows off the rendering techniques within the title. And on top of that, all the realistic light, weather and wind effects have been brought in to add more feel to the city. And when I say that I mean the rush of fur/hair brought in when riding a zoomer, the crumbling of ruins every ten seconds or so, the lights of the city turning on when night falls, and so on and so forth. The only problem I can find in it is a slight bit of slowdown in places, but aside from there the frame rate has worked well.

The music within the game has been changed drastically, in terms of composers and styles used here. A lot of techniques has been used within the game music, making it sound very different as soon as you get onto a vehicle, get out a gun, run into enemies or something like that. This has given the musical tone a greater soundtrack feel to it. The sounds used in the game have also been shown to be a major difference compared to the first game, trying to add more of a feel to the future. The distance physics and the balance around them has been put together well, making you feel like you’re actually there.

STORY

The main story for this begins in Sandover Village, Jak’s home in the first game. He, his ottzel friend Daxter, and other friends Samos the sage and his daughter Keira, discovered a Precursor Ring behind the mystery portal at the end of the first game. They attempted to open it up, but… all of a sudden, a monster showed up from the portal and tried to attack the team. With no choice, they went through the portal themselves. However, Jak and Daxter were separated from the others, and into Haven City, a mysterious place filled with pain. And it started as soon as Jak was taken by a bunch of Krimzon Guards, before being subjected to Dark Eco treatment from Baron Praxis, the villain in the game. Two years later, Daxter found him, and the pair made their escape. And it’s up to them to fight the Baron, with help from many characters across the game.

Within the first few hours or so, you’ll be looking at very complex parts of the storyline that it has left behind you. This has gone to show that the scriptwriters have managed to pull a good job on it. The voice actors have also managed to show a lot of great depth within certain characters themselves. Max Castella, Warren Burton and Anna Garduno return for their roles as Daxter, Samos and Keira respectively – and pulling an equally impressing job compared to the first game if not better – and other experienced voice actors including Phil LaMarr (voice of Samurai Jack, plays as Sig), Clancy Brown (voice of Neo Cortex in the Crash series, plays as Praxis) and Susan Eisenberg (voice of Wonder Woman in the Justice League series, plays as Ashelin) have also managed to top the bill to the brim with their roles. All in all, it feels like it was put together like a Hollywood movie.

GAMEPLAY

The whole game almost felt like it was very different to the first game, and it’s more than just the T for Teen rating on the front of the box that gave it away. The zoomer concept used previously was brought back for providing transportation across the city, and expanding across many different makes and models. Each of them has been adapted almost perfectly, getting the balance between speed and damage just right. The handling is very slick and well done, and its physics have also been dealt well when taking down a serious amount of damage.

They have also managed to maintain the eco-giving-power element of the first game. But instead of giving powers from blue, yellow and red eco, Jak receives his power from Dark Eco batches from the ground. Once he gains enough, he can transform into Dark Jak, where he can use stronger and more accurate attacks on his enemies. And like most powers in action based titles, it lasts for a limited time. Go figure. Despite this, this has become a very essential part of the game, making certain areas easier with this technique.

Most of the concepts for the newer elements of the Gameplay were “borrowed” from fellow game team Insomniac Games, responsible for Ratchet & Clank. This was easily shown upon the layout of Haven City, and some of Jak’s fighting styles among other things. At some point in the game, he receives a weapon called a “Morph Gun”, allowing him to easily take down creatures known as “Metal Heads”, as well as boosting up his defenses. The four different weapon modes brought in for it all have differences in range, speed of fire and damage, giving a lot of thoughts towards the player on what to use.

LIFESPAN

How long the game may last you will depend on three factors – your experience on other games beforehand, your likings for side missions, and how often you play on the PS2. The difficulty level has been much higher compared to the first game, leaving you to puzzle yourself more on some of the harder tasks. There are over 50 main missions in the game, plus plenty of opportunities for side quests within the game. The main game may last 15 hours, but there are also the side missions to think about. They can be tricky in areas, but rewarding nonetheless. There’s also a slight bit of replay factor, if you want to tackle the missions in a different order, following Ratchet & Clank’s route of making sure that the game doesn’t grow old. So this makes this game much longer than the first.

Overall, I’d strongly recommend this to not only fans of Jak I, but also to anyone willing to be mentally challenged. This is one of the finest titles that the PlayStation line-up has offered for 2003. Having been one of the most anticipated titles from E3, this has gone to show that almost any mainstream gamer – keyword, MAINSTREAM, i.e. gamers at 13+ - will be able to get to grips with it instantly. Stop reading and get it now, if you haven’t already. :)

OVERALL SCORE – 9/10
A brilliant game, despite its minor graphical issues. With the way it’s going, it’ll be remembered as an instant classic.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/06/03


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