As seen on Gamer’s Hell before
What, you haven’t read our exclusive preview
of Jak II a few weeks ago? Maybe you even have no idea who Jak and Daxter are at all? Well let’s make use of the rewind button...
In the original Jak & Daxter: The Precursor’s Legacy the player followed the adventures of (surprise) Jak and Daxter, two adolescent do-no-goods. They live in a world that is influenced by the power of ecco, a substance that can grant enormous power but can be very dangerous as well hence, among the different coloured version of ecco (Magic: TG anyone?) there is also the hideous dark ecco that can corrupt every being exposed to it. The story starts when Daxter, Jak’s lazy and know-it-all side kick falls into a pool of dark ecco and is transformed into some kind of weasel. What started as a mission to turn Daxter back into his human form is soon an adventure to save the world from the power lust of two former scientists corrupted by their long time exposure to dark ecco. After saving the world, getting the girl (sort of) and being a young hero Jak & Daxter didn’t just end and the credits began to roll, but a portal crafted by the mysterious Precursors, the very same ancient race that brought ecco to his world as well, is explored. This machine can open gateways through time and space itself, and guess what happens when our heroes activate it – Jak II is about to start...
Jak II is by no means less fun or crazy than the first part, but the general setting is much darker and mature compared to the prequel. Jax and Daxter are seperated from Samus, their long time mentor and Keira, Jak’s maybe-some-time girlfriend while being “in transit” through the portal. They “land” in an unpleasant, dilapidated city on an unknown world, and only seconds after their arrival troops of the local Baron arrest Jak and he is taken to the deepest dungeon of the city. Daxter manages to escape, but his pal Jak is in for a rough treatment. For two YEARS Jak is held in prison and tortured with dark ecco before Daxter can finally free him, and they both escape back into the city. But his terrible time in prison has changed Jak. The dark ecco uncovered the darkest corners of his soul and he now has a dark burden to carry that he sometimes simply can’t control.
When they meet up with members of the resistance that oppose the local Baron – the very person that tortured Jak during the last years – Jak is quick to join them, not because he thinks that there doings are righteous and noble, but because he is out for only one thing: revenge...
Naughty Dog = Lots and lots of eye candy
Naughty Dog yet again shows that the PS2 after all this time is still able to produce some really great graphics. The city – where you will spend most of your in-game time – consists of different districts, each featuring its own unique style considering buildings and general environment. This time there are several more characters as well – you might remember that the world of the first game was only sparsely populated – and besides many appearances of already well-known characters, many new ones are introduced, and more importantly the whole city is populated with hundreds and hundreds of NPCs. They don’t serve any real purpose but “filling up” the streets and no one will even mind if you run them over or even worse kill them, but they bring the city to life.
A very notable difference if we compare the world of Jak II to the first game, is the way different setting. In the first game we explored many different landscapes including beaches, plains, snow covered mountain tops and the crater bottoms of dormant but still active volcanoes. In Jak II most of the action happens in the above mentioned city. “Free Haven” suffers under the tyranny of the local Baron Praxis, yet there is nowhere else to go because outside the fortified walls, supported by energy fields powered by dark ecco, certain death awaits in form of the mysterious metal heads, an ancient and mysterious enemy that reduces the city controlled territory every year.
The different levels – situated outside, below or even above the main city – are accessed at different points in the city. To reduce the travel time from point A to point B in the city, Jak can hijack one of the numerous antigrav vehicles found throughout the city. While this sounds interesting at first, it soon turns out to be the most frustrating part of the game. First of all the vehicles are by no means fast nor accurate futuristic racers, but more or less very un-futuristic boats. You will need a decent amount of time to get used to the controls and to be able to find your way through the city - the included mini map is no big help either.
The second big new feature on the other hand is well thought out. Jak can now wield various weapons: a futuristic version of a shotgun called scatter gun, a high precision blaster, a powerful laser gatling and finally the ultimate but low ammo weapon, the peace maker. The weapons are not only useful but later in the game even essential when you have to fight against hordes of enemies.
Finally the last new feature that sticks out, like already outlined in the introduction, is Jak’s torture demanded a high price of his character. After destroying his enemies he now can collect portions of dark ecco, “charging” up his dark powers. If he is fully “charged” Jak can unleash his fury, and he will transform into his “evil twin” Dark Jak, and wreak havoc for a short time. In this form he can also perform various special attacks that become unlockable throughout the game.
Like in the prequel there are yet again many, many different objectives in the various levels, and of course various mini games as well. To advance Jak and Daxter not only need to win the local racing championship, but perform using their (acquired later in the game) hover board as well. Even Daxter has his own levels, fleeing from a giant spider in a hidden crypt and once he even takes over the race controls.
Finally hidden throughout the city are various bonus missions in which you – besides finding them in the levels – can earn Precursor orbs. This time they are not needed to advance (Jak II features almost no collecting at all), but to unlock secrets. For 5 Orbs you can e.g. disable Jak’s goatee and the more you get (there are over 280) the better.
Once the hover board is accquired you may use it anywhere and everywhere, giving you a serious speed boost if no vehicle is at hand and making hard to reach places accessible.
When excellence meets ugliness
I really had a hard time rating this game. When I started writing this review I was really disappointed, because various missions using the hover vehicles showed to be VERY frustrating. Hunted by the police for example, you have to reach a certain part of the city in a limited time, which wouldn’t be a big problem if the local police force wouldn’t be a bunch of suicide racers. Several times the last thing you will see is a police bike crashing into you, causing both vehicles to explode and you to restart the level. There is more than one tedious and frustrating level in this game, and most of the time one of the above means of transport are involved. I felt more like giving the game a bronze award in the beginning, because after all I never neglected that the rest of the game is great. Why did I change my mind? I kept playing, and surprisingly the game really began to improve. The frustrating levels got less and less, the more beautiful and fun levels got bigger and better, and an interesting story line began to evolve. The game let me down in the beginning, but repaid me a thousand times for that later on in the game. A rating should express the overall experience and summing everything up Jak II: Renegade is a VERY enjoyable game. The only problem some players will have with it is that not everything is enjoyable, but in contrary some parts, or more exactly specific and sadly non-optional levels are boring, frustrating and you will possibly even hate them. Yet the rest of the game is so good that you perhaps can forgive the developers their sloppiness in some parts of the game. I did.
Playing and cheating
Yet again Piggyback was so kind to provide the official game guide to us. If you read our reviews of earlier Piggyback guides, you will certainly be aware that they produce some of the best game guides one could ask for, and the guide they've made for Jak II is no exception.
While most of the levels can be solved my normal means and you won’t have to look anything up, I still suggest taking a glimpse into the guide before leaving a level. As you can’t go back to most of the levels (unless you've unlocked this feature using many, many orbs) you will have a hard time of collecting enough precursor orbs to unlock the more interesting secrets. The guide not only states the number of Orbs to find in every level, but also features a detailed description of how to find every single one of them.
Also interesting is the Secrets section. Besides a closer look at the Precursor Alphabet and the different mini games, you will also find hints and tips for the secret missions. These short racing and sort-of hide&seek levels allow you to earn up to 72 additional orbs. Taking that you didn’t find every single of the orbs hidden in the levels (unless you used the guide) you will be in desperate need for them, since the ultimate “Hero mode” can only be unlocked using a total of 200 (!!) orbs.
Colorful, informative and fun to read. Piggyback did it again and although you perhaps don’t *need* the guide to finish the game, don’t underestimate the added value. As always you can download 12 free preview pages from the guide over at http://www.authorisedcollection.com – the full guide has over 160 of them.
Summing it up
Naughty Dog’s latest game is a very enjoyable title, yet no masterpiece – for this it has too many flaws in various aspects of the game. Still it is a very pleasant title, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Jak III. Why I think there will be a third game in the series? Well yet again, the end didn’t answer all open questions...