Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: October 2003
Pre-order 'JAK II: Renegade': PlayStation 2
Jak II, the sequel to the highest selling partner based platformer ever seems to be well on its way to outdoing its predecessor in every way with its imminent release just on the horizon. We got a chance to sit down with the newest preview build of the game, which includes two levels from the final build. To say the demo disc left us wanting more would be a bit of an understatement. Jak II is at once a visually striking and decidedly more mature experience than that of the first game, and this time around Jak comes prepared with a host of powerful and deadly guns. Nothing says sequel quite like a shotgun blast to the chest, that’s what I always say.
The two levels we played through are the Strip Mine and the Pumping Station. The Strip Mine stage is a hoverboard course that leads to the top of a mammoth generator featuring a slew of different obstacles that have you jumping over gaps, hovering over dark eco pools, and blasting enemies. By pressing R2 Jak will whip out his hoverboard and you’ll be able to carve your way around the stage with the precision of a professional skateboarder. Peppered throughout the area are all sorts of opportunities to show off. You can grind lots of straight edges and there are Tony Hawk-style ramps on which you can jump off and perform an impressive number of tricks. Of course the trick system isn’t a main focus, but the fact that you can perform so many different mid-air tricks tends to make for a very entertaining time.
Piloting your hoverboard through the various obstacles of the level proved to be as challenging as it was fun, maneuvering around mechanized spinning blades and jumping gaps at just the right moment. At any point you can put the hoverboard away to dispose of the Halo-looking monsters that will attack you throughout the stage. The combat aspect of the gameplay was just as fun, though. Three different types of baddies were included; a smallish insect like creature that can be disposed of with a single blast of the included weapons (a powerful close-range shotgun and a standard long-range energy rifle), the Covenant monsters take three shots to kill, and a pesky flying monster attacks you from a distance and takes two shots to kill with the rifle.
The Pumping Station is more along the lines of traditional 3D platform design, though is focused mainly on combat. You’ll make your way through the level as you fight alongside a gung-ho teammate who is equipped with a powerful weapon called the Peacemaker. Your teammate will often instruct you to watch his six while he charges up his weapon to take care of a faraway monster, other times you’ll simply fight alongside him. It was quite challenging and took a few tries before I was able to successfully complete the level, but the spot-on controls and visually stunning surroundings helped to keep the action feeling fresh and fun all the way through despite the pre-staged events that the level is composed of.
From a visual standpoint Jak II looks damn impressive, just take a gander at some of these screenshots for a good idea of the amount of detail and graphical splendor packed into the experience. Animation is incredibly smooth and following in the tradition of the previous game cut-scenes are rendered in real-time and feature lots of subtle facial animation and well-choreographed character movement. The environments feature a realistic day/night system drenching the surroundings in amazing lighting effects and real-time reflections on nearly every object. Naughty Dog pulled out all the stops with Jak II in nearly every way, graphics especially. Despite the layers of visual refinement the game runs at a constant 60 FPS, not a single instance of slowdown was present in the demo and the final product will undoubtedly be equally stable.
Overall, the E3 demo disc we were able to play around with managed to entertain and impress. Simply put, we can’t wait until the game is released this October.