Review by Otaku Punk
One of PS2s best is reborn..
Innovation in its purest form has become rare in our modern gaming environment. In many games, the inclusion of truly original features is simply something to put on the box as a sales pitch, not a genuinely defining feature of the game. No more so is this true than in sequels, which brings me nicely to the clear focus of my review, Jak 2: Renegade (sequel to Jak and Daxter, if the name fooled you). The game certainly does have its fair share of defining features, especially compared to the standard platforming of the original, which although making it an innovator within its own genre, in the wider scale there’s really nothing new here.
One of the games greatest assets is its story. After seeing the ending to Jak and Daxter, I was genuinely amused at the thought of how they ever planned to continue on from its ambiguous conclusion but I must commend naughty dog, as this game both picks up and continues the story very well. In short, after travelling through the giant precursor portal found in the first game, Jak and Daxter find themselves in a the sprawling haven city separated from Keira and Samos. As soon as they arrive, Jak is arrested by the Krimson Guard. Daxter escapes and pledges to rescue Jak in no time. 2 years later, we see Jak still imprisoned and the victim of malicious dark eco experiments by the oh so evil baron Praxis, ruler of Haven city and his oh so irritating lackey Errol, leader of the Krimson guard. Eventually rescuing Jak, Daxter finds that he’s not the only one to be transformed by dark eco as Jak has been imbued with dark powers and the ability to transform into dark jak (who ironically, is white). Pledging to kill Praxis, the pair set out to make contacts, gain fire power and jump, punch and shoot their way to the top. The premise sounds pretty familiar but for a computer game its gripping.
In truth, its the story which makes the whole experience worth while. Playing through some of the most difficult and awkward sections of the game always pays off as the story, told through entertaining and enlightening cut scenes flies along at a perfect pace. The characters are also excellent. Jak himself is your average angry dude but anything is an improvement over the mute from the original. Daxter, who’s only job in the original was to point out the obvious has now been given a more important role. Instead of spouting off absolute rubbish during gameplay like in the original, he now generally keeps his mouth shut when your playing but makes up for it during the cut scenes where he delivers some seriously entertaining stuff. Perhaps this is to do with the more mature nature of the game, which allows Daxter to be the risqué character he was so obviously dieing to be in the first. For sheer entertainment value id rank the cut scenes above GTA vice city but they’re not quite as consistently funny as Ratchet and Clank.
As a whole the game delivered enough cliff hangers, surprises and overlookable paradoxes to keep me playing to the end.
In truth, this games not going to take your breath away. the animations great, the city is perfect and as a whole it retains its dark cartoony feel throughout. But they’re nothing special. They do their job and they do their job very well. So the graphics are very good, not great. Haven city is really detailed with excellent weather effects and no pop up, which is especially good for such a large free roaming environment. But in certain sections the quality drops. In one of my favourite points in the game, Jak must cross a huge electrical cable from the city wall to the Barons massive Palace in the centre. Although the gameplay area itself is fine, look down and your treated to a rather lame version of Haven city where the buildings are detail less grey structures widely spaced out. Maybe im a perfectionist and maybe I end up comparing every games graphics to those of resident evil game cube but either way, the game never really lets itself go, graphically.
The music is forgettable but does a good job of keeping up the atmosphere and never gets annoying.
This is undoubtedly the games most interesting, and controversial point. The gameplay is good, varied and actually quite consistent considering how many different elements it involves. Players of the original will be instantly familiar with its near identical control system and as new elements like driving and shooting are slowly introduced there’s never too much to take on board at once. In general the controls are intuitive and well thought out. I rarely got confused when transitioning from running to driving for example, although it does take a small amount of practice.
The platforming sections are quite similar to the original, with the obvious difference that in this game Jak exercises his right to bear fire arms. Although there are only four weapons ranging from a rifle to the almighty Peacemaker, the inclusion of guns does definitely add something to the game. Enemies are more ruthless and in larger numbers than in Jak 1, so you’ll need all the fire power you can get. The aiming works well, and although a first person shooting/ aiming view would have been nice, its not necessary. You can play with out the weapons, for some of the combat sections at least as Jak retains his arsenal of physical moves which allows the option of playing it old school, for those with the skill…or lack of ammo. Another new addition is dark Jak which to be honest, although cool, doesn’t add to the game. You’ll rarely use him as its so difficult to collect enough dark eco and when you do have enough, chances are you wont need to use him. Still a pretty cool feature and does tie in well with story.
The driving is perhaps a low point of the game. Most of the vehicles handle far too loosely, making last minute turns impossible. They’re also rather slow, but since they handle so badly, I wouldn’t advise flying them over 50 anyways. The main reason I see it as a low point is that the game is too reliant on it. You cannot get around the city without a vehicle, and since they’re no fun to drive its quite a chore. The good point is the map, which is even superior to that of GTA. I never got lost once in the city, despite how similar it all looks. The hover board, which u unlock after completing about a third of the game is a refreshing change to the usual speeder vehicles but is too slow to be used as a permanent means of transport. It can also be used in the platforming sections and even has its own Tony hawks style park to pull tricks in if your feeling bored.
The game also features a few mini games which although distracting, soon become incredibly irritating. There are 3 races to complete in the game, and you cant progress until you’ve completed them. Playing them, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were in no way integral to the plot and should really have been set aside as side missions instead of being stuck into the main mission structure to make the game longer. In one of these races you play as Daxter, which although mildly important to the story doesn’t effect the gameplay what so ever. In one other section (A rather hilarious throwback to one of naughty dogs earlier works which is now being desecrated by universal) you also play as Daxter but its only for about a minute and the section feels quite dodgy, as if it was an after thought. There is so much potential in having two characters, but its not explored here. Another mini game is the whack-a-metal head game, in which you find yourself playing an arcade game in the hopes that by getting a high score you’ll find some ancient artefact. This is also vital, and you cant continue until it is completed.
The games difficulty fluctuates. Some missions are incredibly easy while others are impossibly hard but the difficulty generally evolves as you progress so its not a major problem. However, what does make the game difficult is the continue points. They don’t feel well enough thought out ,like they’ve been randomly scattered through levels as opposed to having a continue before a difficult section and one after. Also, some of the jumps are quite hit or miss and involve some trial and error but when you keep being sent back to the beginning of a level when ever you fall, the amount of experimentation you can do is limited.
To a dedicated gamer, this will take a week to complete and a few months to unlock everything. So that’s 18 hours to complete and another 18 to finish with 125%. The unlockable stuff is worth while and varied, with gun courses, cheats and galleries all on the menu. It doesn’t have the replay ability of GTA or Ratchet and Clank, the games I feel influence it most, which isn’t that major as they had excellent life spans. Probably just as replayable as the original.
This game retains the core of the original Jak and Daxter, but augments it with lots of new ideas which for the most part work. The problem is that these new ideas aren’t that new at all. The driving’s been borrowed from GTA, the shooting from Ratchet and Clank and the boarding from Tony hawks. Not that im criticising the developers for trying to make a diverse game but Jak II just cant deliver the same experiences as well as in the game they originated. By taking great concepts, simplifying them and delivering them together in one package, Jak II lacks the depth in one particular field that each of these has. Over all, it’s a worthy sequel, similar enough to please fans but different enough to be accessible to newcomers and even tempt those who didn’t enjoy the original.
Better than Jak and Daxter, the Precursor Legacy
Worse than Ratchet and clank
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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