Review: Jak 3 (PS2)
With Jak 3 being the conclusion of this masterful series of action platformers, Naughty Dog has pulled out all the stops, making this title one of the best action titles you can find on the PS2. From the graphics to the gameplay to the production values, there is absolutely nothing here that someone can’t find to like.
Jak 3 finds Jak and Daxter being dumped in the desert, blamed for the problems in Haven City. With some secret aid from a friend our fearless heroes are taken in and given the opportunity to prove themselves in combat, thus becoming part of an subversive desert civilization. The story lends itself to the sandbox-style gameplay you’ll find in Jak 3. Often you will have various missions available to you that can be done any time. However, as you finish these missions you will be funneled toward a plot point that will help to further you in the game. Whether that’s arena combat or a trip through a tunnel on a hyperfast sled, dodging obstacles and enemies, Naughty Dog has done a great job of not only advancing the plot but making sense of such AND making it fun.
Jak 3’s gameplay, as mentioned above, has the Grand Theft Auto, sandbox-style of gameplay down pat. During the course of the game you’ll run into platforming segments, pure combat segments, goal-oriented missions (one mission finds you driving a dune buggy into an oncoming sand storm to save some stranded residents and bring them back to the walled desert city before the storm kills them, all within a certain time limit, mind you), racing missions and a plethora of other variants. Early on in the game it becomes evident that Jak 3 has a little to offer to every gamer. I found myself hurrying to complete tasks just because I was excited to see what was next. It’s a rare offering that can tempt a gamer in this way and an offering worthy of notice. One small caveat was the camera work during combat. I often found the camera lagging in trying to keep up with Jak’s point of view, causing some unnecessary collision with enemies. If the camera would stick to Jak’s POV during fights it would make some engagements more manageable. This is a small niggle as a majority of the time the camera does a well enough job giving you the scope you need.
Jak 3 is a platformer at heart but it includes plenty of combat and some puzzle work as well. Let’s take these one at a time:
Platforming – Jak 3’s controls are so silky smooth that, if you fall in molten lava or from a high cliff, it’s your fault. You really feel like you’re in control of Jak the whole time and that he’s not ‘getting away’ from you.
Combat – Jak 3 offers up four weapons, each with three different fire modes (each uncovered gradually as you progress through the game) and the variations are enough to offer gamers plenty of options during conflagrations. Do you use the accurate Blaster to pick off your enemies one at a time or the Wave Concussor to send out a shockwave all around you, disabling your enemies en masse. There’s enough variety here to leave that totally up to you AND to effective in your choice. You’ll also have access in the game to various special powers in relation to Jak’s dark and light sides. Some abilities are offensive, some defensive but, all in all, this just gives the gamers more feathers in their cap.
Puzzles – Even though Jak 3 is light on the puzzles, the puzzles that are present are varied and surprisingly refreshing. Some puzzles are jumping puzzles while others find Jak swinging, gymnast style, from one horizontal bar to another, sometimes even avoiding swinging blades or other such dangers. I found the puzzles to be a nice break from the all-out carnage found at certain points of the game and took the puzzle breakpoints as great ways to bring even more diversity to Jak 3.You also don’t need to worry about being dropped into situations where you are unprepared. Jak 3 does a great job of prepping the gamer with certain skillsets before forcing the gamer to rely on those skillsets in dire situations. Before they send you on full-fledged driving missions you’ll get to try your hand at a rather easy racing mission. Sure, the racing is fairly simple but that’s not the point… the point is to get you acclamated to the controls of the vehicles. However, Naughty Dog could have taken the easy route and given you a simple oval track to get used to your buggy. On the contrary, the same production values are evident in this detailed and fun track as it is later in the game during key moments of Jak 3. Even more proof that Naughty Dog is at the top of their game.
The game’s visuals aren’t a huge upgrade from Jak 2 but, nonetheless, the game is still ravishing. From desert mountains to lush islands to grand cityscapes, Jak 3 really pushes the envelope of what the PS2 can accomplish visually. Weapon effects are bright and attractive and one of my favorite features of the Jak series is the player and NPC models. Motion capture helps to bring each character alive with believable but ever-so-slight cartoonish movements. I’ve long believed that the Jak universe would make a great online RPG because the game series has such a lush history and the excellent mix or organic and technological visuals just helps to solidify the Jak games as a top notch game venue.
The game’s sound could be considered the weakest point of the game, what with some reused sounds from the previous title, but even this category is very strong, making Jak 3’s ‘weak’ point somewhat circumspect. The voice acting is as good as it gets in gaming, hands down. Weapon sound and ambient noises, again, really help to immerse the gamer in the Jak universe.
All in all, Jak 3 is a worthy successor to Jak 2 and a fitting end to the Jak series of games. Does Jak 3 revolutionize platform/action games? No. Does it do a good job as a platform/action game? That’s an understatement. From beginning to end Jak 3 epitomizes not only near perfection in the platform acton genre but it also opens a doorway to the next generation of platform/action games.
FINAL SCORE: 90/100