Jak 2

December 17, 2003

Sequels to games make me nervous, really nervous; especially when I list the original game as one of my favorites. What makes matters like this worse is hearing things like “nothing like the original” and “this game has a ‘Grand Theft Auto 3’ style to it.” Those are just a few of the “bad” things I had heard about Jak II. Despite what the idiots that propagate the rumor mill say, I was still all for giving Jak II a try. I am glad I did. Sure it has a darker theme, yes the game play is different; but change isn’t always bad. Well, unless your name is Jak and you were experimented on with bad eco for two years.

I gotta agree that the GTA3 style game play that was added made me nervous. I wasn’t a big fan of GTA3, but I found out after playing Jak 2 that it wasn’t the game play that I didn’t like but the characters and the story. Jak & Daxter had a great story and I really enjoyed the game but I got a little tired of running around collecting stuff. Jak 2 combined the open levels and mission based style of GTA3 with the true to heart platform levels that J&D was full of. Someone at Naughty Dog was listening as they made the “collection” aspects far and few between. Even after all that I heard about Jak 2 before I got a chance to play it, I was blown away with what they had done to the game. My first impression was 2 thumbs up and boy do I love it when I am right.

Which rarely happens for Cone, so this was a good thing. I digress. The running from one end of the expansive main city level to the other did become a tad tedious at times, especially when you accidentally kill a guard and are being hunted when all you want to do is get to your next mission point. But I can look past all that running around to what is a really important feature to the game – the detail of the levels. The city itself that you spend the majority of your time running about in is so real feeling. There is even a “bad” side of town. Each time you have to leave the city walls to venture out among the Metal Heads you are exploring levels you can tell someone put a lot into. That is my favorite aspect of the game. Well, that, and when Jak goes all berserker on metal heads when he turns into Evil Jak. That’s right, I said Evil Jak.

To truly understand just how expansive the main city hub is, you would have to play the game. It can literally take several minutes to get from one side to the other. I know many people didn’t like that aspect of the game, but I have to give Naughty Dog some credit for building a world as expansive as that without using loading screens. How they did it is anybody’s guess. Not only were the levels expansive, but they were graphically beautiful. “Highly detailed” and “stunning” are phrases that come to mind and while I had to force myself to finish J&D, I am still putting off the completion of Jak 2 as I just don’t want it to end. So the game looked fantastic, but how did it play? Just like you would expect, only you get guns this time.

Yes, the guns. This was one thing that was a change from original to sequel that made an impact on the game play in a good way. All basic movements, jumping and dive rolling, and fighting moves were the same making it easy to pick up the controls right away; if you have played Jak and Daxter before. Also added to Jak II was the use of the hover board. It not only helps you to get around town, but you can play like Tony Hawk and race like, well, some fast race guy. With the addition of guns and the hover board, I would swear that Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games, the creators of Ratchet and Clank, were one in the same. One thing that I loved about Ratchet and Clank was the diverse mediums of game play they had in the game, from puzzles to racing. Jak II added those elements making the game less about collecting Precursor Orbs and more about mastering a variety of skills.

Platform fans don’t fret, there are still plenty of J&D style levels for you to play in this one. I will admit that I did have to do a double take to make sure Insomniac and Naughty Dog didn’t create Jak 2 as some sort of joint venture. Jak 2 seemed to draw the elements that were missing from J&D from R&C. They were seamlessly integrated into Jak 2 and it was a perfect fit in my eyes. Before I played it, I heard that Jak actually had a speaking part in Jak 2. One of my favorite parts of the original was the interaction between Jak & Daxter and I felt like that was fueled by Jak’s silence. Since Jak didn’t do a whole lot of talking in the original, there was this kind of akward time of getting used to him talking in this one. I was worried that his voice might ruin some of the chemistry between them. I was wrong. Jak’s voice was perfect and it fit the dark tone of the sequel like a glove. The voice acting was excellent and the use of Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption and recently Carnivale) as the Baron was excellent. I can’t think of one voice in the game that didn’t seem to fit the character perfectly. Due to the fact that the style of gameplay changed significantly between J&D and Jak 2 there were some significant changes to the difficulty factor of the game. Many of the missions are very short and don’t take much time to complete, but boy can they be hard. While I know how frustrated I got, I feel it would be more humorous to let Dots explain things from her perspective of watching me play these levels.

I can’t really say what the experience was, as I was hiding behind the sofa trying not to be seen. Okay, it wasn’t all that bad. But I have honestly rarely seen my husband get so mad at a game. I swore he was going to break the controller or the PS2 or the TV or all three. Cone is by no means a violent man, but there were sometimes when one of our cats would cross his path and I thought he was going to hurl him across the living room, all because he had failed his mission literally 20 times. Now, this isn’t to say that all missions were that hard, cause they weren’t. Overall, I would say that with all the additions made the game feel more complete than the original. So on that note, I will conclude my little portion of this review; Jak II is different from its predecessor in many ways, but those differences are what in my mind make the sequel surpass it by leaps and bounds.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jak 2 is way better than J&D. Many sequels crash and burn and Naughty Dog made sure they didn’t follow suit. I have to concede the point that since Jak 2 is so much different than J&D it may not appeal to the same audience as the first one. The move away from a pure platformer to a platform hybrid may alienate some of the hardcore platform junkies while at the same time appealing to a more broad audience with the GTA3 style action. Jak 2 is a winner in my book and I can’t stress enough that this is one of the most solid titles in the PS2 library right now. If you own a PS2 you absolutely owe it to yourself to give Jak 2 a try.

P.S. Tell the Baron hi for me.

Score: 5/5

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