Jak 2: Renegade was a ballsy move for Naughty Dog. They took the childlike aesthetic of the first game and added a far darker tone to everything. Jak speaks and is angry, he is imbued with dark power, subjected to torture, uses guns and is stranded in a prison like city run by a corrupt, tyrannical Baron and Daxter isn't included in the game’s name. Essentially its, stylistically speaking, the polar opposite of the multi-million selling original.
The story of Jak 2 is simple but very effective, the dark themes of corruption and rebellion, as well as Jak’s new angry nature, are juxtaposed brilliantly with Daxter’s light hearted-ness and constant humour. This actually makes the game funnier than the first one. The story is simple, you go through a portal and are stranded in a twisted city, you then get kidnapped and imbued with Dark Eco and, after being rescued by Daxter two years later, seek revenge on Baron Praxis.
As the game progresses you’ll run, jump, hover, punch, kick and gun your way through the city meeting colourful and sinister characters alike, working for the rebels and uncovering the sinister side of Baron Praxis and his regime. All of your typical platforming mechanics are here, including those from the first game, but you also have guns, a hover board, hover bikes and hover cars. Exploration is key as there are many Precursor Orbs (now hard to find) for you to seek out to purchase things with. Generally its the same platformer as the first one but with guns and vehicles thrown in to match the darker tone of the game. At times its like GTA, with high speed chases and large gunfights as you blast civilians and soldiers alike into pieces.
Fortunately the mission design is intelligent and varied. Your first mission involves a combat filled prison escape, the next mission invokes scaling a ruined tower to find a flag and then a few missions later you have to run from a tank (with the camera done as if looking through the tanks' sights) before using it to destroy a missile the Baron has. Then, just when you think you've found the groove that the missions will stick to, you're handed a Scatter Gun - essentially a shotgun - and the whole dynamic of the combat, and therefore the gameplay, changes completely as you can fight hordes of enemies far easier than before. Essentially Naughty Dog masterfully pace the game so that new elements are introduced in a way that keeps things fresh and exciting without becoming overwhelming in terms of new things to get to grips with.
Another big plus is that the city is pretty damn big, with a nice mix of industrial, urban, slum-like and ruined areas. You can go inside and outside its walls, venturing from the city to the wasteland. The design of the place is great and the variation is brilliant. Also the city really seems alive, there are always countless civilians on the ground, vehicles buzzing around and guards causing trouble. This is all very impressive stuff for a game from this era.
Graphically the game is a real treat, the draw distance and framerate are tip top, the city is suitably oppressive, the denizens and soldiers of the city, as well as their vehicles, are all distinct and the wasteland looks brilliant and adds some nice changes in terms of the colour palette. The guns all look cool and their firepower is ably demonstrated, animations are smooth and fluid, facial expression is used to perfection and really Naughty Dog just prove once again how proficient they are at making the mosts of a system’s graphical capabilities.
Sound wise the game also matches up to the top notch standards you expect from Naughty Dog. The script and voice acting is superb (Daxter is hilarious!), the guards sound threatening, the characters you meet and work for are all a great mix of guys and gals and the soundtrack and sound effects are second to none. The alert theme is stuck in my head even now.
“Is this game perfect then?” I hear you ask excitedly. I’m going to make a first for the blog and say yes, yes it is. I cannot fault this game, nostalgia considered or ignored this is as good as platforming/action-adventure games can be and it makes me sad that we still haven't had Jak 4. Get to it Naughty Dog. Get to it.