I rented Jak II on a whim, and was not expecting much. I wasn’t a big fan of the first Jak and Daxter game, but as I had heard decent things about Jak II and because I was really bored, I decided I would give it a shot. I’m glad I did, because despite its flaws, Jak II is a very good game.
To start off, Jak II is much darker in tone than its predecessor, and in my opinion, this change was successful. The story takes place mostly in Haven City, a dark, grimy, hellhole of a city ruled over by the evil Baron Praxis. Upon arrival in the city, Jak is captured, and over the next two years he is tortured and twisted by the amounts of Dark Eco he is exposed to by the Baron. As a result, Jak can transform into a powerful dark form of himself, which is useful for wreaking havoc on the many guards that roam through Haven City. He’s also bitter and full of anger at the Baron, and once he’s free, he sets out on a mission to bring him down.
Upon the way, he meets up with a group of rebels whose ultimate goal is the same as Jak’s: to bring down the Baron. From there, the game is a series of missions ranging from races to action and platform levels. The gameplay is a nice mix, and is pretty challenging, but not frustratingly so (for the most part). The controls are tight, and all the vehicles you control drive realistically. There are a lot of options as far as travel goes: not only does Jak have a jetboard after a certain point in the game, but he can hijack any of the vehicles in the city. Of course, if a guard sees you, you’re in trouble, but that’s part of the added fun. However, the traveling back and forth will soon grow boring.
Therein lies one of the main problems I have with the game. The storyline is very compelling and keeps you moving from mission to mission, and the map feature is intelligent and very helpful in navigating the massive, maze-like city. Unfortunately, there is just way too much time spent in transit. At first the novelty of stealing vehicles and running from guards keeps you from getting bored, but this soon runs out and the travel between missions ends up being a serious problem. There are too many—and too long—breaks in the action, and it can be just boring.
On the other hand, when you are actually doing something other than traveling, the game is a lot of fun. There’s plenty of shooting to be done, some racing (which I found difficult) and some levels that are more platforming-based. The mix is good and the storyline moves at a brisk enough pace to keep you going.
Naughty Dog has done a really nice job with giving the characters personalities. While most of these personalities are pretty cliché, they still make you either love or hate the character, and give them real life. The voice acting and animations are excellent, and a lot of the dialogue is really quite funny. Of course, there’s Daxter, annoying as always, with an endless supply of one-liners. He did sort of get on my nerves, but maybe that’s just me.
Expect this game to take 10-15 hours to complete, maybe more if you want to get everything. There’s a fair amount of secrets and side missions that don’t have to be completed to finish the game. Unfortunately, a lot of these optional missions consist of you being shown a precursor orb in some location, and then being asked to find the location. THIS IS REALLY STUPID. I tried it a few times, but quickly just gave up because it was more frustrating than fun.
In conclusion, Jak II is a flawed but still very good game. It’s quite pretty, has a nice mix of gameplay styles to keep you interested, and an excellent storyline to keep you involved. And, as it is the middle title in the trilogy, there’s always Jak III when you finish. Despite its problems, this game is definitely worth at least a rental.