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Jak II

In 2001 the generic, yet fun platformer Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was released. Now only two short years later, Jak is back and is darker, grittier, funner, and more epic then ever in Jak II.



At the end of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak and Daxter opened an ancient Precursor gate, which was filled with white emptiness. Jak II takes right after the original, like it never came to an end.  Jak, Daxter, Samos the Sage, and Keira are thrusted into the mysterious Precursor gate, into a world no one would dare venture to.


Once they are hurdled into the gate they, go along a pipeline like tunnel that takes them to the dark and depressing city of Haven City. The city is to say the least, a living hell, with shabby, and brokedown homes, shady citizens, an environment that is constantly dark and murky, and to top it all off it's led by the crooked tyrant, Baron Praxis.


Upon crash landing into the ghastly city, Jak and the gang are scattered about. Jak manages to re-group with Daxter quite quickly, but Samos and Keira are nowhere to be seen. 


Once the dynamic due brush theirselves off, they are greeted by the city's local security, the Krimzon Guard. These guys are tough, rough, and definitely not a great sight for sore eyes. Now of course you can't be thrusted into a middle of a city without the city's security knowing, so they are wisped away to Prison.


Daxter manages to escape rather quickly, but things aren't so posh for Jak. It seems Baron Praxis has a special eye for Jak, so he does what anyone would do to a somewhat threatening intruder, torture him. Jak endures two full years of Dark Eco (the substance that is responsible for Daxter's cute and cuddliness) treatment. Baron Praxis and his team of torturer's have constant Dark Eco experiments on poor Jak and it really screws him up.


After two long years of hell, Daxter manages to spring his bud from his cell, and he notices some changes immediately. Jak is almost an entirely new person. Not only physically, but also mentally. The Dark Eco has made some obvious changes to Jak's outer appearance. He's bigger, has longer hair, and he has a soul patch...yeah I'm still scratching my head about that one too, but that's beside the point. He is no longer a bright-eyed young man who is ready for adventure, he is now a pissed adult out for revenge.  Oh and I almost forgot, try not to make him mad. It seems that Jak was such a strong young man, that he somehow harnessed the Dark Eco that was putting him threw so much pain. Now if he gets really ticked off, he will turn into a pale monster of himself, who is capable of taking out enemies left and right. 


When he gets out of jail and into the city, it doesn’t take long to find a horrible species known as the Metalheads. These creepy creatures are mutated everyday animals, but know they are vile, aggressive, and they have a metal gem lodged in their forehead. It is said that a man in the city leads them, but it’s up to you to find that man…


It's a great story that is deep and epic. It's a ever growing snowball of characters and dialogue. The story is in fact so big that it's easy to get lost in if you don't listen carefully to every line of dialogue spoken. It's very easy to lose your footing.



The number of changes made to the games presentation is staggering. There are dozens of changes made to Jak II to make for a better experience, so many that it’s hard to believe that this game originated from a generic platformer. I could write pages and pages filling you in on all the changes, but I like my fingers carpo-tunnel-free, so I’ll just break it down in a smaller scale. Despite all the changes made to the gameplay, the two biggest additions are the weapons and a free-roaming city. 


The weapons are great additions that make the game funner, and without them it would be harder than it already is. No longer are you limited to the punch, and kick method of disposing enemies you know have four variations of weapons to make the killing oh so much better. It’s not so much four weapons as much as it’s four mods. You start off with your basic Scatter Gun, which can fire a wide blast radius that is capable of taking out many small enemies, but soon you will gain access to weapon mods. Before you know it you’ll be donning a Blaster Rifle (pretty much self-explanatory), Vulcan Fury (Automatic Rifle), and a Peace Maker (energy-projectile). You gain these mods as you go along after you finish certain missions. The weapons are a great new addition, but since three of the four variations use a laser sight to auto-aim the aiming is loose and out of control, so your best bet is to go around firing left and right until the room is cleared of baddies. A first-person aiming mode would of done wonders, but you know what can you do.


Since the game has a darker feel to it, and is in a large bustling city, Naughty Dog felt it fitting to add a free-roaming city, much like the GTA games. This open-ended style of gameplay brings in a worthy revival of one of the best parts of the original Jak and Daxter, vehicles. Jak isn’t a marathon runner, so vehicles are heaven when you need to get to a location of a mission, or just when you feel like riding in style. While the first game only featured Zoomers (also available in this installment) there are hover-cars that are tough and durable, yet slow and hard to turn, and the hover-cars used by the Krimzon Guard which have turrets attached to the top of them. The Krimzon Guard vehicles are taken with a price mind you, much like GTA if you disturb, shoot, or jack one of the Krimzon Guards, they can and will come after you guns blazing, so choose wisely.



It’s hard to imagine that a setting filled with depression and pain could look better than the sunny, and merry environments of the first J&D, but it is so much better that the first game looks ugly in comparison.


Everything looks incredible. Jak II has some of the best cut-scenes I have ever seen in a game, much ado to not only the great visuals, but the amazing scripted material. The characters animate freakishly well, the environments are beautifully rendered, and even though the city screams, “Don’t bother washing your hands!” it still looks better than the shiniest of cities. 


Daxter’s fur now waves in the wind, particle effects look very nice and are realistic, the physics engine is respectable (particularly the damage on the vehicles when you smack into a wall), and weapons look proper to the futuristic setting. Even though you’ll spend a fair amount of time in the dreary city of Haven City, that doesn’t mean there are a great variety of environments like the first game. Sewers, valleys, mountains, and shady catacombs will wow you with their beauty. Don’t let the darker setting turn you off though; there are some sunny environments straight out of the first Jak and Daxter, with the obvious graphical updates.



If there’s one place where once place where the game lacks, it’s in the sound. The sound design actually isn’t all that bad; actually it’s pretty good. It’s just that all of the other components of the game are so well done, that it makes the audio seem average. 


The biggest fault I found in the audio department was the background music, while it does have it’s dramatic and powerful moments, it often plays the same thing over and over, and will become annoying quite soon. It gets so repetitive to a point that when you finally discover a new level with new music, you’ll be excited to hear it.


The voice-acting is top notch. Daxter is still quirky, a wisecrack, and as funny as ever, and guess what fellow gamer? Jak can finally speak. His voice is deep, defiant, and delivers his point across very well. New characters to the series such as Torn, a refugee soldier who’s soul purpose is to rid the town of the creepy metalheads, has a gravely, war-torn voice that gives you clues to his past, and the overweight, disgusting Krew has a low, evil voice that just tells you he doesn’t take any crap. All in all the characters and story is so believable because of the excellent voice-acting all around. It really gives you a cinematic feel.


Lasting Appeal:

This is a gamer’s game, no doubt about it. If you are a beginner, you will have a great deal of trouble in this game. The game is very tough, so tough that you WILL slam your controller down, and you WILL yell countless profanities at your Television. It will test your skill, nerves, and strength of your walls, as you slam your head against it from the frustration. This is quite a lengthy game also. It’s easily a 15 hour story mode. After you beat the game you can find and collect Precursor Orbs (which are almost non-existent compared to the quantity from Precursor Legacy) which will later be used to buy secrets, goodies, and cheats.



I was so surprised when I first put this into my PS2.  The maturity level between the two is unbelievable.  While Daxter was seen moon walking, and dancing in Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, he can now be heard delivering lines like, “Wow, remind me never to piss you off!” If you can get past the shock value of the darker theme (which at times seems forced) you’ll quickly find a no-nonsense Action/Platformer, with a great story, wonderful characters, length, and difficulty. This is a definite for fans of the series, and anyone looking for a good game to keep your PS2 cozy.




-Blake Becker (GoinCommando)