Jak 3 (2004)

jak-3

9.25

Naughty Dog’s swan song for its second major IP (unless you count the phoned-in Jak X: Combat Racing) added to the formula set by its predecessor with epic, but mixed results.

There are a lot of things that Jak 3 improved upon Jak II. The gun count jumps up from 4 to 12 (though the new ones essentially build off of the four base weapons) which changes combat drastically for the better. The new wasteland setting that Jak gets banished to at the start of the narrative has a lot of Mad Max-esque character complete with a set of badass dune buggy vehicles armed to the teeth with deadly weaponry. The story itself provides a lot more movement and scale as Jak and Daxter move between the wasteland city of Spargas and the now largely decimated Haven City. And Jak’s new light abilities (which include regeneration, time warping and even brief moments of flight) are much more game-changing than his dark form introduced in Jak II (which still appears in Jak 3 with a more limited moveset, but a much improved eco management system). All of these are marked improvements from Jak II, however with each advancement comes a setback.

There’s no doubt that Jak 3 is by far the most varied Jak game to date, and while this does present some great vehicle segments and large-scale battles, it also presents a heavy degree of frustration at times due to some half-baked mechanics that could’ve used some fine-tuning. While the story presents many more twists and turns, there are also a lot of plot holes that don’t quite add up between Jak II and 3. The ending sequence of Jak 3 in particular is much improved over II, but there’s a dead section in the middle of the game where it seems like the characters are running in place rather than progressing toward an ultimate goal, something I never felt like I encountered in Jak II.

As a final act to Jak’s Naughty Dog legacy, Jak 3 is far from underwhelming. But it also failed to improve upon its predecessor without backlash thus leaving Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy as my favorite in the series. But at its core, Jak 3 is still a largely satisfying adventure filled with great gunplay, harrowing platforming, and that memorable cast of characters that Naughty Dog excelled in creating before moving on to Nathan Drake and company.

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