Review by NeoTS

"Jak Takes Center Stage"

Jak hasn't deserved what has happened to him, and for that matter, neither does Daxter. Once innocent heroes that just happen to save the world, they have been forced to adapt. They may seem different, despite Daxter's incessant wisecracks, they may seem desperate and angry. It may leave you wondering what happened to the duo that you fell in love with. It may take all game, but sooner or later, you'll realize they haven't changed at all. That's Jak. He's Daxter, and this time, he's with him. Jak 2 is the sequel to the platforming hit Jak & Daxter. But Jak 2 is no mere platformer. It's a shooter and a racer as well, with elements from other genre's thrown in for good measure. The result is a masterpiece, no matter what genre you classify it as.

We left our heroes: the star of the show Jak, his wisecracking sidekick Daxter, the cranky old sage known as Samos, and his daughter Keira; staring into some sort of a gate. This gate just happens to be a portal to the future, and it sucks them all in. They're all separated, but at least Jak and Daxter land in some sort of a broken down city. Unfortunately they are captured by guards. Jak is taken away, while Daxter vows to rescue him. Under the watch of the vile Baron Praxxis, Jak undergoes two years of dark eco treatments. That is to say, it's pumped directly into his body. When Daxter finally finds him, Jak is full of hate, and swears to kill the Baron. Well buddy, you've got to escape from prison first.

The prison break is pure platforming, with moving ledges and long jumps. Once you're free from prison is when the fun really begins. Jak finds himself in the dystopia of Haven City, which is crawling with the Krimzon Guard, the corrupt police force of the Baron. The slums are alive and bustling with average citizens going about their business, some of them in hovercars. These hovercars are yours for the taking if you so choose. There are several different types of these crafts, some quick and speedy shaped like rockets, and some slow and heavy shaped like a bus. Just be sure not to crash that speedy one, or it'll explode really quick. Also be careful not to hurt the citizens, or you'll incur the wrath of the Krimzon Guard. This force will do just about anything to stop your movement, from calling in reinforcements to calling in huge gunships. Its situations like these where you better be handy with those hovercars. But from all the time you spend in them, you should be. to acquire missions, Jak must come to icons on his map, which are located all over the city. The easiest way to do this is by hovercar. The city is vast, with many different sections, and traversing it by foot would be long and boring. The game is much more challenging than its predecessor, so there may come a time when the player will get stuck in a mission. Luckily there are many side-missions to be completed to kill time and relieve frustration. These missions can be found all over the city, in the icon of a yellow dot. These missions range from a race through the city to finding a set of orbs in a given time. These missions do a great job of familiarizing the player with the city, along with the hovercrafts, which feel clunky at first.

But you'll be doing much more than flying about a city. There are many areas outside of the city that will put your gaming skills to the test. Luckily, Jak is quite mobile, and up to the challenge. He has retained all his moves from the previous game, including the classic spin attack and a leaping roll. Combine that spin attack with a punching attack, and you've got a ferocious one-two combo that can dispatch whole groups of enemies. Now, add in a simple factor: guns. That's right, our hero clad in blue now has access to some heavy weaponry. Jak can easily combine his melee and ranged attacks into a spectacular show of force. There are some points in the game when the screen is literally filled with enemies, and the player can be right in the midst of it, duking it out. Situations like this may seem difficult at first, but once players can grasp the rock-solid control setup, they'll find this to be one of the finest action experiences on the PS2. But despite his fists and his guns (4 kinds, including a shotgun and heavy machine gun), Jakmay still find himself in a bit of trouble from time to time. Daxter's no help, so what's a dark eco-saturated elf-like being going to do? Maybe he should try unleashing that dark eco? Yeah, that might work. Due to the dark eco experiments done on him, Jak can trigger a transformation, and turn himself into Dark Jak. This being is designed for combat, and virtually unstoppable. He's quick, he's powerful, and enemies will be lucky to touch him when he's in this form. This is before he gains his Dark Powers. Some of these powers allow Jak to decimate an entire room of enemies in a single blow. Sound cool? I assure you that it is.

But this is not an action game. There's much else to be done here. There are some very tough and very fun platforming challenges to be had, like vaulting from pole to pole and outrunning various creatures. One segment has Daxter being pursued by a giant spider in a Crash Bandicoot-esque environment. Yes, you can play as Daxter, now wipe that stupid grin off your face and keep reading. From time to time you'll have to compete in stadium races. These are fast, challenging and... well, they're fast. No matter how frustrated you may get with these races, you'll keep coming back for more until you've got it. you can also earn a top score, which will more than likely take a bit of practice. The last addition I'd like to mention is the jetboard, received about midway through the game. this puppy floats over the ground, and allows you to sail right over adverse climates like pools of dark eco. You can also perform a number of tricks, though tricks are useless in the main game. Quite a game, huh? It features a myriad of genres that caters to just about every kind of gamer out there. It does all this without losing its sense of identity. There are even a few mini-games thrown in the mix to test your reaction skills. Jak 2 has go everything a gamer could ask for.

That includes gorgeous graphics which have to be seen to be believed. Arguably the finest looking game on the PS2, Jak 2 boasts much smoother animation than the already beautiful original. Even a simple design like Daxter has been overhauled, and he looks and moves much more realistically. Jak's design is very cool, with his blue tunic and green goatee. But the stars of this game are the environments, as it shifts seamlessly from day to night, and night to day. Shore-side pumping stations, crumbling villages and a mountain paradise head Haven City's must-see list, while dank sewers, strip mines and an impenetrable fortress are kept from the public eye. You'll have to go through all of these, usually more than once. Forest Haven is perhaps the most beautiful environment in the game, featuring lush green vegetation, crystal clear streams with waterfalls and fireflies dancing in the shade. One of my favorite sights in Jak 2 is piloting through the slums, and seeing the Barons fortress suspended high above. I'll get him good. The guns, while simple in design, fire some cool looking ammunition. The scattergun (shotgun) emits a sonic boom of sorts, kind of like that gun in Minority Report. Simply put, everything about the graphics engine, down to every last detail is perfect.

Jak is no longer a mute, and it turns out his voice is pretty cool. He conveys all sorts of emotions very well, as do all the other voice actors. Daxter is loud and obnoxious as ever, but charming in that loud and obnoxious way. Samos is still cranky, and Keira still has that squeak in her voice that just makes them both seem so lovable. The rest of the cast, from the bitter underground leader Torn, to the slimeball Krew sound great. Come to think of it, all the voice acting is done with an enthusiasm not found in many games. The guns sound equally good, from the steady fire of the blaster to the hammering of the machine gun. There isn't much music, but what's there really sets the mood. The theme in Haven City is sad and depressing, but if you mess with the Krimzon Guard, it becomes fast and exciting. Listen closely, and you can hear a classic tune from the original game every once in a while.

Jak 2 is one of the best games available on the PS2, and one of the years best games among the three consoles. If you liked the first game, then you'll love this one. The characters and story are just too much to pull away from. I found it sad that these two characters had been placed in such a world, and wanted to save them if I could. As it turns out, they didn't need any saving. By the end of the game, you may heave learned a little lesson. I'm not going to tell you what that lesson is, you need to discover it for yourself. This is one game that every PS2 owner should have.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/06/03, Updated 11/16/03

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