Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was a hugely successful platformer when it was released for the PS2 two years ago, so it's no surprise that SCEA and Naughty Dog have developed a sequel. Taking a completely different spin on the original game, Jak II promises to be a darker and more action packed follow-up. Join us as we examine a demo version of the game and examine the many improvements that have been implemented to make the sequel appeal to a broader audience.

While Jak & Daxter was a popular title, the game's tone was a bit too cartoony for many older players which hurt its appeal. Luckily, this minor issue seem to have been addressed effectively in the new game's storyline. As the game begins, our heroes have been flung into a dystopian future through a time portal. They come across a mysterious city that's seems to offer some shelter from the ravaged world. While the world is the same as in the first game, time has not been kind, and it has been over-run by pollution and an army of robots known as MetalHeads who are slowly destroying the ravaged land. Unfortunately, as soon as they arrive, Jak is captured and experimented on by the Metal Heads. After Daxter frees him, the rescued hero begins to feel strange in many ways and slowly discovers he has been changed in way he can't comprehend. His mission is to destroy the Metal Heads you encounter, which can lead you down the path to the evil Baron Praxis who holds the mystery of the Dark Eco experiments ravaging him. While Jak was the strong and silent type in the first game, he's now the main character and speaks extensively this time. Daxter's comic relief role has been scaled back a bit this time, but he still offers his traditional wisecracks at appropriate moments. Overall, the game has a much darker, and more adult feel than the original, though it hasn't completely changed in style and presentation.

While Jak seems similar on the surface, the experiments have changed him in many ways. He has many new abilities and can even change into "Dark Jak" for brief periods that makes his attacks much stronger than normal. He'll need these powers because the foes are quite lethal and they attack anyone who comes in contact with them. There are many types of enemies in the game, including wild animals and even non-player characters. Another massive change to the gameplay comes with the additional weapons system, which changes the feel of the game. Jak II's weapons are quite cool and they play a much larger role in the new game. Jak has quite an arsenal of guns in the new game, which makes blasting the Metal Heads and other baddies an easy task. There are four basic types of weapons, and players can also upgrade these as they progress. However, most of the traditional play mechanics have survived, and Jak still has to collect the Dark Eco, which are blue energy orbs throughout in order to keep his energy levels high. These can be found laying around or by blasting opponents. Another method he can use is to break crates which can contain ammo, health or other items. While he has the standard moves from the first game, Jak II introduces several new abilities that allow you a greater degree of interaction with the environment. Jak can commandeer vehicles that he comes across and use them to speed across the city much quicker. The other new method of transportation is a futuristic hoverboard, which allows him to glide over the surface of the world, and perform some cool special moves, such as cruising attacks, spinning jumps and more. He can also use this to grind over gaps. The controls in this mode are excellent as well, with that trademark Naughty Dog feel still very much in evidence. The only problem is that Jak can't use his weapons while he's on the board, but he can move out of the way much faster. This is an invigorating change that makes for a faster, more exciting experience that is definitely different from the original game.

One problem that players had with the original game were it's levels, which seemed a tad too linear. This problem has been addressed, and the city and it's surroundings are going to be approximately three times as large as the original game. This should allow players greater leeway in exploration, while also allowing multiple paths through certain levels as well. Jak II's mission structure has also been revamped, and there are now some cool co-operative areas where you go through a mission with another computer controlled character. The single-level demo of this mode is an excellent example of this new type of gameplay. In this level, Jak's mission was to follow a soldier around and fight off enemies while he charged up his super-gun to get at the big monsters. This serves to add another layer of strategy to the game while also allowing the plot and character development to integrate itself into the main gameplay. This technique was effective and seamless, interfering very little with the flow of the mission.

The graphics themselves look a lot smoother this time around with better character animations and increased detail evident throughout. The most immediately noticeable change is that the demo doesn't suffer nearly as much from the excessive jaggies that plagued the first game Jak II's engine has also gone in for an upgrade and this creates a more vivid world with incredibly detailed environments. The world itself seems much more alive thanks to the many citizens you see walking through the city streets. Jak II will also continue the cinematic feel of the original with extensive cut-scenes that put players right into the action. The levels seem noticeably darker and the music is somber, giving Jak II a more ominous feel. Overall, the production values seen in the demo are excellent, with plenty of attention to detail evident throughout that should make this epic-scaled action game one of the best-looking PS2 platformers to date.

Judging by all the changes apparent in the demo, it seems that Naughty Dog has improved their franchise dramatically. The game's graphics engine is more impressive this time around, and the new gameplay mechanics, different types of missions and more challenging enemies should make Jak II a much more exciting and satisfying adventure. Fans of the original game shouldn't worry since the essence of the original game is well intact. The controls and feel of the game are there and the new additions make the gameplay more exciting. This is promising to be one of the PS2's flagship titles of 2003, and gamers should definitely keep an eye out for its scheduled release this fall.

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