Jak II (Hands-On Impressions)
By: Matt C. on May 24, 2003
After spending more than an hour with the Jak II demo that was given away by Sony Computer Entertainment America at E3 2003, it is easy to see why Naughty Dog is considered one of the best game developers in the industry. The original Jak and Daxter is definetely one of the best action platformers around, yet, the California-based company has still managed to improve upon the previous game in almost every way.
As with its predecessor, Jak II makes excellent use of the aging PlayStation 2 hardware. From the get go, I was very impressed by the high level of detail in the environments and the seemingly endless draw distance. Yes, I know the original game had these qualities, but it appears that it has been stepped up a bit in the sequel. Not a substantial improvement, however, you can certainly notice a difference.
Both Jak and his furry friend, Daxter, still sport lifelike animations that does a nice job of convincing the player that these characters are living and breathing creatures oozing with personality. Surprisingly, instead of remaining as a large eared mute, Jak actually talks this time around. The person who does Jak's voice matches his character well. Daxter still does most of the talking (and complaining) though, but its nice to hear Jak join in on conversations instead of just standing around like a dummy.
The demo doesn't explain the storyline all that much, but from what I can gather up, Jak II takes place several hundred years into the future. Everything has a futuristic look to it, with structures made up of mostly metal and such, but the environments still appear to be a little on the primitive side. It reminds me of Tatooine from the original Star Wars, especially with the hovercrafts and the various creatures roaming around the streets and going about their business.
In the first mission on the demo, you must help a man bag 5 Metalheads at a pumping station by following him around and covering his back as he charges up his powerful gun called the Peacemaker. He has a life bar too, so you can't leave him unprotected. Jak basically controls the same as in the previous games, with the square button to punch, the circle button to spin, X button to jump, L1 to duck, and the right analog stick to move the camera around. For this mission, Jak is equipped with a short ranged weapon called the Scatter Gun, which is basically a futuristic shotgun. Simply tap R1 to shoot.
If you collect enough gems from fallen enemies, you can unleash Jak's new Dark Eco powers by pressing the L2 button. Apparently, evil experiments were preformed on Jak, and after Daxter helped him escape, Jak retained the Dark Eco powers. Anyway, for a limited time, Jak will take on a new physical appearance and you'll be able to dish out a lot more damage to surrounding enemies. Yes, much like The Hulk.
The second mission takes place in the strip mines, which is an industrial type area with plenty of stone walls and massive metal drills, conveyor belts, and dangerous machines at work. Here, the objective is to destroy some Metalhead eggs because allowing them to hatch wouldn't be a very good idea. This level gives you a lot more freedom since you don't have to follow anyone, but there are a lot more obstacles and enemies roaming around. Jak also carries around a Jetboard in this mission, which you can hop on and off of by hitting the R2 button.
As you make your way up to a crate that you need to use to destroy the Metalhead eggs, you'll notice that there are pipes that you must grind across. Simply press the square button to grind and use the analog stick to move in the correct direction along the pipe. Using the Jetboard is difficult at first since it is similar to moving on ice, but it is still quite fun.
With solid controls, beautiful visuals, and additive gameplay; Jak II should turn out to be another successful game for Naughty Dog and SCEA this fall. I couldn't even find any flaws with the game thus far, so I am sure the final product will be nothing short of stunning. More info later.