[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/jak3/cover.jpg[/floatleft]If you have been a reader of Snackbar Games for any amount of time, then you probably know that I am an absolute fiend for platforming games. You probably also know that I hold the [i]Jak & Daxter[/i] and [i]Ratchet & Clank[/i] series very dear to my heart. The release of [i]Jak 3[/i] marks the end of an era of topnotch platforming games on the PS2. Naughty Dog’s Jason Rubin is departing to pursue other ventures, and both companies (Naughty Dog and Insomniac) have decided to end their respective franchises on a high note. I can’t blame them, but it almost brings a tear to my eye. Does [i]Jak 3[/i] wrap up a fantastic series the way it should? Let’s find out.
Naughty Dog took everyone by surprise with [i]Jak 2[/i] and its GTA-style city hub and mission system. No doubt they ticked off some platforming diehards with the shift from a pure platformer to a mission-based GTA clone with platforming intertwined, but I adapted and pushed forward with it. At the same time, they drew in new fans and redefined the franchise. Looking back, I wish there was a larger number of platforming levels, but the nice variety of missions and levels made the game so much better.
You will probably be slightly confused as you begin [i]Jak 3[/i]. Despite your heroics in [i]Jak 2[/i], the absence of a leader in Haven City has led to a power struggle that has the city in ruins. Unfortunately for you, you have been made the scapegoat due to your exposure to dark eco; thus, you have been banished to the wasteland outside Haven City. That is where the final chapter of this fantastic series begins.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/jak3/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatright][i]Jak 3[/i] is back with the same great style of gameplay as seen in [i]Jak 2[/i]. Once again, your mini map will be marked with icons denoting the next available mission. In addition to mandatory missions that progress the story, the map is also littered with additional side missions as seen in [i]Jak 2[/i]. The wasteland is also chalked full of these indicators and make additional use of Jak’s vast array of vehicles. Jak’s arsenal of weapons has grown to 12, and the awesome dark eco powers are back. Additional weapons are accessed by an additional push of the d-pad and are essentially powerful add-ons to the guns with which you are already familiar. Also new to the game is the presence of light eco powers such as a heal move. This will come in very handy during tough missions. Light eco powers are largely defensive moves while the dark eco powers are destructive and offensive in nature. Fans of the hoverboard will be glad to know that it has returned as well.
The hunt for precursor stones has once again made a return. Instead of feeling like the stones were not worth collecting, this time around you have the option of spending the stones on a bevy of cool secrets. No longer does the appearance or lack of a goatee make a good secret-Naughty Dog went the extra mile and added weapon upgrades to the mix. Your already massive collection of weaponry can receive a boost in power or even in increase in ammo. Suddenly, collecting those little red stones seems worth all the effort.
While your weapons store certainly has grown, you still have your melee attacks from the previous game. Utilizing these in conjunction with the weapons will make quick work of anyone that crosses your path.
In addition to the platforming and GTA-style missions, you will encounter a whole slew of vehicle-based missions in [i]Jak 3[/i]. The wasteland is a vast place, and the assortment of vehicles is highly impressive. Each vehicle is highly specialized and will come in handy during one of the many wasteland-based missions. I personally love cruising around the dunes and performing high-flying acrobatics while taking out the many roaming bands of wasteland miscreants.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/jak3/ss01_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Graphically, [i]Jak 3[/i] is identical to [i]Jak 2[/i]. Along with the absence of loading screens that we are now used to is the same vertical sync issue that I mentioned in the [i]Jak 2[/i] review. While not a common annoyance, it did catch my eye a few times during my time with the game. The bottom line is that Naughty Dog has done some impressive things with the aging PS2 hardware, and impressive graphics coupled with no loading is a feat not often seen on the PS2.
I have really enjoyed every moment of the [i]Jak & Daxter[/i] franchise, and while I have previously been known to go on benders with these games I find myself playing very slowly. It is almost as if I am trying to prolong the inevitable end of something I love so dearly. The completion of the game and story will be a bittersweet moment that will only be surpassed by the completion of Ratchet & Clank’s final game. To answer my own question, [i]Jak 3[/i] certainly does wrap this series up properly. It is an excellent final chapter to one of my fondest gaming memories. Fans of the series will have no reason for not already owning this one, and newcomers should wet their appetite with this and then jump back to the original purely for the story. To me, this one is a no-brainer.