Jak II (2003)



It’s no secret that Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is one of my favorite video games of all time as it launched my love of gaming into the PS2 era, which for my money was still the greatest in gaming history. But Jak II changed just about everything it could about the core of the original’s gameplay and still be called a platformer with mixed, but mostly good results.

Anyone who has beaten Jak and Daxter 100% knows that the gang finds a blinding light in a large precursor door before the game fades to black. This light turns out to be a strange contraption that sends them traveling forward in time to a much darker place: the futuristic Haven City. Jak is taken captive, tortured for two years and is not only gifted (or burdened?) with the power of dark eco, he finds his voice and becomes a fully-voiced protagonist.

Though there are several key platformer elements held over from Jak and Daxter in Jak II, the game is just as much Grand Theft Auto as it is an old-school Naughty Dog game; it really broke new ground the for the developer to graduate from kid-friendly titles like Crash Bandicoot into the more mature, top-tier developer that Naughty Dog is today. Featuring a small arsenal of weaponry, Jak and Daxter blast their way through a multitude of levels, all of which are connected by a single sandbox city that functions in a similar (albeit duller) manner to Liberty City from GTA III. Though the city travel isn’t as exciting or groundbreaking as it was in the Rockstar game-changer, there are several key features that it improves. Racing through the city streets atop a hovering zoomer with a legion of the city’s crimson guard waging war against you never really gets old and the gunplay, while not on the level of Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series, blows Grand Theft Auto out of the water.

As with all mission-oriented sandbox titles, there is a level of frustration that pervades some of Jak II‘s later levels and some of the game’s larger story moments (particularly as the game reaches its climax) come and go so quickly it’s easy to forget that they happened at all. Both of these setbacks hold the game back from making my Hall of Fame list and from matching Jak and Daxter. Even so, there is a lot of fun to be had in Jak II, and it holds up better today than most of the original sandbox titles from that golden era of video gaming.

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