Review by Typhoon Soldier 7
"I can kill helpless civilians? SIGN ME UP!"
Ah, Jak II. The sequel to the kiddy-tastic Jak and Daxter. Many words have been written about it; lots of people worship at its shrine, and a few people find it to be crap; not as good as the first one is what they say. Well, those people can think what they want; I think this game is a masterpiece. So, read on and find out why.
Naughty Dog (the developers of Jak II, J&D, and the old Crash games) have always been great at producing beautiful games, but this one not only takes the cake, it STEALS it. Not once while I played this game did I think, "Man, that texture looks like ass", or "UGLY!". The ground textures are well done, and all the characters are nice as well. The game also has a silky-smooth framerate for the most part; there are occasional stutters, but it's understandable; the game is amazing to look at. The only real beef that I have is that civvies on/in their Zoomers don't have mouths. Kinda weird, but not a big deal. OK, back to positives. The levels are incredibly detailed (Dead Town, a mostly destroyed city section, has windows that were shattered, dusty pathways, and crumbling pathways that crash to the muck below). All of the important characters are great looking, but Daxter really takes it home; you can actually see individual strands of fur on him. Sadly, Jak's wannabe mullet looks like a block of Play-Doh on occasion, but you'll get used to it. And lastly, quite a few people bemoaned Jak's new soul patch when early screens of him were released. I have to say, it's extremely easy to get used to. I was one of those haters early on, but I got used to it in about 5 minutes, and to honest, Jak looks like a girly-man without it. So, all around, sweet graphics.
Now, for those who've played Jak and Daxter, you probably remember that the story was sadly lacking. This is not the case in Jak II. From the opening cutscene to the final boss's speech, you WILL be interested and you WILL care. The story starts out with Jak, Daxter, Samos the Sage and his daughter Keira going through the Rift Gate they found at the end of Jak 1 and showing up in a dirty, nasty metropolis called Haven City. Jak is promptly imprisoned by the Krimzon Guard, the city's oppressive police force. Jak gets tortured and experimented on by Baron Praxis, the city's dictator, and Erol, the leader of the KG, for 2 years straight. Daxter busts him out, only to find that Jak's electro-shock torture with Dark Eco (that nasty crap that turned Daxter into an Ottsel) has mutated him so he can turn into a badass demon-like form, called Dark Jak. When they get out of prison, they swear revenge on the Baron. The story rapidly progresses, and it's helped along by the excellent characters. Torn, a leading member of the Underground, a group fighting the Baron, is just as much of a jerk as you would guess from a former KG. Sig is a Wastelander working for Krew, and is possibly the most badass person ever. Overall, the story is magnificent.
The most debated thing about this game is the gameplay. Now, let me get this out of the way now: The game is not as difficult as it's cracked up to be. Yes, it's hard. It's no Contra, though. Personally, I love the difficulty, and this is why I have such a problem with all the crap this game gets. A certain magazine reviewed Jak 1 and claimed it was too easy (and kiddy, but that's not the point). Then they review this game and talk ceaselessly about how it's way too hard. Well, what do you people want? Then this magazine turns around and gives Ratchet and Clank: GC a perfect score, neglecting to mention how easy it is. What gives? Are they just prejudiced? Who knows. Anyway, it's not as hard as ever yone says it is. Granted, there are some frustratingly difficult missions (destroying the supply tanker on Hero Mode is the most painful thing ever), but the truely difficult missions are few and far between.
OK, now that that's out of the way, on to the better stuff. The core gameplay has all the bells and whistles from Jak 1, but now there's more stuff to do. The biggest addition is the guns Jak totes around and slaughters Metal Heads with. All of them are fairly satisfying, and they all are useful for various situations. Unleashing Dark Jak usually makes me emit a "DDDDDDDIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!", for good reasons: he can unleash massive amounts of death and destruction upon your enemies. Many missions have you racing on Zoomers, shooting down Hover Guards from a turret, and lots of other stuff. Sadly, the aforementioned turret provides the most infuriating part of the game: Having to kill 40 Hover Guards who gang up on you and take an assload of hits to kill off. Still, this mission is defeatable, and you'll have serious fun doing pretty much every other mission in the game. However, it must be said that the Titan Suit, a big ol' mech that Jak can stomp around in, was seriously messed up: it was basically used for breaking through walls. If Naughty Dog had taken a page out of War of the Monster's book and let you destroy stuff in it, it would have been much better. And, yes, there are plenty of harsh missions, but you'll eventually bust straight through all the problem spots and have yourself some serious fun.
This game's sound is both great and average; the voice acting is unbelievably good, but the music isn't anything worth cheering about, sadly. Many of the characters really stand out; Clancy Brown as Baron Praxis is my personal favorite, and Mike Irwin (that is his name, right?) shines as Jak. Ashelin is pretty good sounding, too (and the eye candy helps :D). The sound effects are all reasonably good too. Listening to the Scatter Gun fire with the surround sound pumping in the background is awesome, and other stuff is good too. But, I have to say again, the music doesn't live up to the good stuff from Jak 1. A nice touch, however: When you pull out a gun, the music gets heavier; When you hop on a Zoomer, it speeds up. When the KG are after your ass, you get a loud, pumping score with sirens blaring in the background. But, the actual music is nothing special, folks.
It's a platformer, so the replay must suck, right? No. After you earn the Unlimited Ammo and Health cheats, you can go crazy, shooting KGs and civvies left and right without a care in the world. I personally have spent a good 10 hours doing this.
Buy me or kick me to the curb?
Duh, buy me. The game is crazy fun. Now, I'ma go release some rage and kill some civvies with a machine gun. BRING IT ON!
Overall Score: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/04/04
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