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The cinematic of Jak being tortured, as the camera cranes up and all that stuff... we were really making movies now.

— Josh Sherr, Naughty Dog, interview with IGN

Jak II (known as Jak II: Renegade in the PAL region and Jak and Daxter 2 in Japan) is the second installment (third chronologically) in the Jak and Daxter series, developed by Naughty Dog, Inc. and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was released in October 2003 for the PlayStation 2 console, later released in February 2012 and June 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, respectively, as part of the trilogy remaster. It is the first game in the series to drop "Daxter" from the title, with which Jak 3 and Jak X followed suit as well.

Jak II takes on a notably darker tone with a more cinematic story-telling approach compared to its predecessor. While beginning where The Precursor Legacy left off, Jak, Daxter, Keira, and Samos are abruptly thrust into the foreign, industrious Haven City. Jak is captured by the Krimzon Guard and subsequently subjected to torturous dark eco experiments. With his eventual escape, aided by Daxter, Jak is now a wanted fugitive, pumped with dark eco and capable of transforming into a savage alter-ego. Blinded by revenge, Jak joins forces with the Underground and must take the fight to the Krimzon Guard, ultimately becoming entangled in the fate of the cosmos for which he had never been prepared.

Notwithstanding, the core of Jak II's gameplay remains similar to that of The Precursor Legacy, with an identical move set and the recurring reliance upon zoomers and platforming challenges. To add to his moveset, however, Jak is given control of all-new dark powers evinced by the experiments. Also different is a significant amount of gun play to replace various eco powers, the addition of a hover board, and a departure from the usual progression of missions: Instead of collecting power cells, the player now has to complete a set of missions that go from linear to more open, ending with a linear finale.

GameplayEdit

OverviewEdit

Daxter firing the Vulcan Fury

Daxter fires the Vulcan Fury while Jak drives a zoomer in Haven City.

Jak II is a third person three-dimensional platformer, in which the player controls Jak, an athletically-built human with a familiar core moveset. However, early on the player can discover Jak's "Dark Jak" mode (activated with L2 once the eco meter is full), and can unleash a more unruly melee skillset, with eventual dark powers like Dark Bomb and Dark Blast. Jak also earns the Morph Gun capable of equipping various weapons, introducing shooter elements to augment the game's brawler-style of gameplay.

Haven City serves as the game's single hub location, through which zoomers can be used to travel, either commandeered from Haven citizens or stolen from the streets. Later in the game, the JET-Board is introduced and can subsequently be used at any time with R2. Missions are assigned by certain key characters who are situated at various points within the city, therefore zoomer and JET-Board travel is heavily relied upon.

As previously mentioned, missions are completed in a set progression to move the story, which also entails unlocking new areas of Haven City (known as sectors), and earning Morph Gun upgrades (including new weapons and increased ammo capacity, strength, and rate of fire). Outside of story progression, side objectives and pastimes include optional side missions (via computers placed around the city), collecting skull gems to improve Dark Jak (found after defeating metal heads), or collecting Precursor orbs to unlock secrets (found in secret areas or earned by beating side missions or course challenges with the Morph Gun, JET-Board, or NYFE races).

The streets of Haven bustle with citizen zoomer traffic (allowing for near constant access to zoomers), but is also patrolled by guards who will pursue Jak should he kill a citizen, hit a guard, or commandeer a guard's zoomer. The main story missions take place both within the city hub and outlying areas beyond the city walls, accessed via either an airlock in the Water Slums, an airlock in the North Gardens, an air train in the Port, or a teleport gate at the power station. These locations are much less rural but still very diverse in nature, and have an open level design more reminiscent of The Precursor Legacy.

CombatEdit

Health meter Jak II

Health and dark eco meter.

With the addition of Dark Jak and the Morph Gun, the combat is noticeably expanded upon from its predecessor, though Jak's core combat moveset is the same. Combat is a large part of the game, and beyond combat-based missions, players can pick a fight with a guard at any point, who will drop ammo after being killed. Jak has eight hit points, though a large portion of enemy attacks deal two points of damage. Jak uses green eco to replenish his health in the form of health packs, making their first appearance in the series, which replenish two points.

The Morph Gun is fired using L1, and aside from the Scatter Gun mod, features a red laser sight that shows which enemy will be targeted. It features four different mods selectable using the d-pad: the short-range Scatter Gun which deals a strong blast in close proximity to Jak, the long-range Blaster which can target more precisely, the medium-range Vulcan Fury which can fire extremely rapidly with the caveat that it drains ammunition quickly, and the ultimate weapon in the form of the Peace Maker which has very limited ammunition but deals heavy damage and can defeat many enemies grouped together. As they function as replacements to eco, each gun mod is colored after and functions similar to one of the different eco types from The Precursor Legacy, with the Scatter Gun being designed after red eco, the Blaster after yellow eco, the Vulcan Fury after blue eco and the Peace Maker after dark eco respectively. The weapon is heavily incorporated into Jak's skillset, and when combined with melee attacks, can fire more effectively; for instance, using a punch (Square) or a kick (Circle) followed by firing the weapon causes it to immediately quick-fire three blasts at the enemy it hit, while kicking in mid-air and firing will cause Jak to fire five blasts at different surrounding enemies. It can also be used when on zoomer, though Daxter will fire it.

The other addition, Dark Jak, can be activated with L2 at any time once Jak has collected enough dark eco, the meter fills up and the Dark Jak icon replaces his normal head icon on the HUD. This form cannot use the Morph Gun, but uses upgraded versions of his melee skillset. It can be upgraded by giving skull gems to the oracle once the player possesses enough for an upgrade. The upgrades either provide passive improvements (such as Invincibility), or an active ability (such as a combination attack that can immediately destroy areas in the form of Dark Blast and Dark Bomb, or the transformation to the more powerful Dark Giant).

VehiclesEdit

Jak on the JET-Board

Jak riding the JET-Board.

The most common form of transport is the standard zoomer found through Haven City. These zoomers are stolen from around Haven by pressing Triangle, and come in distinct sizes and shapes, which vary in agility, speed and vulnerability. The second most common form is the JET-Board, which is required in many missions to traverse many areas such as grind rails, and can be pulled out at any time, though it is much slower than zoomers. Specialised air racer zoomers are featured in the NYFE racing missions. Aside from this, many turrets are found in missions and used to defeat enemies.

Due to how large Haven City is, the missions that are featured within it and its requirement to access other missions, much time in the game will be spent using vehicles.

MinigamesEdit

Daxter playing Metal Head Mash

Daxter playing Metal Head Mash.

Minigames feature more prominently than its predecessor, though less prominently than the following game Jak 3. The two button-based minigames featured are the Onin game and the Metal Head Mash. Other minigames are based on main gameplay elements; gun course training requires the player to use the Morph Gun to destroy targets and earn points, while NYFE racing requires the player to race a zoomer around a track for five different laps. These minigames are all required at some point in the main story, but can be played again to earn Precursor orb prizes.

SynopsisEdit

SettingEdit

Jak II world map

Haven City and its surrounding locations, the primary setting for Jak II.

Jak II takes place in the bustling, dystopian metropolis of Haven City, after the main cast leave their old home of Sandover Village behind. Haven is ruled by the tyrannical Baron Praxis and his Krimzon Guard, a unit which doubles as a military and a police force, and will not hesitate to execute innocents in order to destroy enemies of the Baron,[1] who keeps power through an orchestrated war with the Metal Heads which leads the citizens to believe they need his protection rather than returning rule to the rightful heir to the throne,[2] and that there is no life outside Haven's walls.[3] The city has a vast number of propaganda stations set up throughout it, which declare that the citizens should give up their freedom for his protection, that defying him is futile, and that one should report even a close friend,[4] which highlights the level of control Baron Praxis has over the city and its dystopian state. The Metal Heads, whom Haven is at war with, are a deadly race of creatures outside Haven's walls, which have earned themselves a reputation for their devouring of life in the past,[5] meaning both factions are morally corrupt, as the rag-tag Underground rag-tag group attempts to topple them both. The city is also home to powerful crime bosses such as Krew, with much insight into the city.[6]

Haven is an urban environment and a massive contrast to that of the villages found in its predecessors, as from Jak II onwards, environments in the series became very different aesthetically. Haven City is largely cyberpunk in art style, though it features geographically different environments, from the run-down Slums to the much richer Main Town, as well as more standard locations such as a Port and the gardens. Locations outside of Haven are much larger, open spaces, less colorful and rural than those found in the predecessor. These include the drill platform, the ruined Dead Town and the industrial weapons factory, while other locations such as Mountain Temple feature Precursor artifacts frequently and a more colorful Haven Forest, serving as throwbacks to the predecessor. In addition to aesthetically different, the darker, more mature themes of the series began with this game, as despite how rough the streets of Haven City are, they pale in comparison to other places on the planet,[7] and Jak is said to be one of the last heroes remaining alive, with the only goal being to survive.[8]

PlotEdit

Jak turning into Dark Jak

Jak in the fortress, becoming Dark Jak

Like Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, the game's begins with a speech by Samos Hagai. Jak, Daxter, Samos and Keira are in the process of activating the rift rider, the precursor device hidden behind the large door at the end of Precursor Legacy, and its accompanying rift gate. When the gate is activated a large figure steps out, accompanied by a swarm of creatures. Jak panics and activates the rift rider, propelling the group through the gate. As they are travelling through the rift, the rider is destroyed. The group fall out of the rift and are separated, though all find themselves in Haven City. Jak and Daxter land and are immediately identified by a patrol of the Krimzon Guard, led by Captain Erol. Jak is taken into custody, as Daxter promises to rescue him (see the events of Daxter). Two years later, Jak is in the Krimzon Guard fortress, where he has been the subject of a super soldier program. His body has been infused with dark eco. Erol and the Baron Praxis are there. They declare the 'Dark Warrior Program' a failure. They leave, just as Daxter appears to rescue Jak. As Daxter fidgets with the restraints, Jak transforms into the Dark Warrior Program's ultimate goal, Dark Jak. He breaks the binds and then returns to normal, after speaking his first words, "I'm going to kill Praxis!" The pair then escape the fortress into Haven City.

Once outside, they meet an old man and a child. The man introduces himself as Kor. A patrol of Krimzon Guards approach and Kor offers to help Jak if he saves them from the guards. Jak transforms into Dark Jak, and fights off the guards. Per their deal, Kor tells Jak to seek out the Shadow, the leader of the Underground, a resistance movement. When they reach the hideout, Jak and Daxter meet Torn, a high-ranking member of the Underground and their coordinator. He assigns them their first missions and oversees the occasional challenge missions. Torn refuses to let Jak and Daxter meet the Shadow until they have proven themselves loyal to the cause.

On one such mission, while infiltrating the Krimson Guard fortress, they find a group of Krimzon Guards supplying eco to a group of Metal Heads when the two factions are meant to be at war. Torn then sends the "Demolition Duo" on a delivery job to the Hip Hog Heaven Saloon, where they meet the foul, morbidly obese mob boss, Krew, and his bodyguard Sig. Jak and Daxter work for Krew for a time, in exchange for upgrades to the Morph Gun.

Krew reveals that Baron Praxis is working with the Metal Heads to keep the people distracted from his own corrupt governing. In light of this, Torn sends Jak and Daxter on a missions to find Vin, a paranoid scientist, and Ashelin Praxis, a high-ranking member of the Krimzon Guard who works with The Underground. Ashelin reveals that Baron Praxis is interested in artefacts related to the precursor hero Mar.

Krew also sends Jak to meet a racing manager down in the stadium (revealed to be Keira Hagai). She explains that she is working on a secret project, and gives Jak the JET-Board to keep him occupied. Jak is more interested in the prize for winning the race championship, a tour of the palace.

At the Underground hideout again, Torn tells Jak that the Shadow wants him to prevent the Metal Heads from reaching "The sacred site" outside the city walls, in order to protect an important artifact. Jak and Daxter discover the sacred site is Samos's hut, now overgrown. The pair realize that they have been transported through time via the rift gate, and are in the future. Then the Shadow is revealed to be a young Samos (who does not recognize the pair, because they have not actually met yet).

Samos tells Jak that the boy they saw with Kor is important because he is heir to the throne of Mar, and only he can open the Tomb of Mar, where the Precursor Stone is hidden. The precursor stone is an artefact of great importance, and key to the defeat of the metal heads. Jak and Daxter destroy a statue of the Baron, revealing the Tomb of Mar below and its guardian, an oracle. The young boy is taken to the tomb, but oracle states that the boy is too young to face the Trials of Manhood, and the door begins to shut. Jak and Daxter dive through as it closes. They complete the Trials Of Manhood, and enter the main room, which holds the Precursor Stone. Another oracle tells them that the Metal Heads destroyed the Precursors. Baron Praxis arrives, and despite Jak's efforts, escapes with the Stone.

Shadow and Sage arguing

The two Samos' meet one another and argue.

Back at the hideout, Torn confesses that he sold the Underground out to protect Ashelin. Several members of the Underground were taken captive and Jak must rescue them. Afterwards, Jak and Daxter find the Samos they know. Upon returning to the hideout, Samos (both of them) send Jak to find the Life Seed in their old hut. The Life Seed would give young Samos all the power old Samos has. Old Samos reveals that he had been preparing the life seed for years prior to entering the rift gate. Jak escorts the young Samos, who reveal through meditations that Praxis plans to break open the Precursor Stone in an effort to destroy the Metal Heads. Samos confirms that destroying the stone would stop the metal heads, but only because it wold destroy the entire world with it.

Keira reveals that her secret project is a nearly completed rift rider based on her studies of the original, though she is still missing two major components: the Time map and Heart of Mar, the latter of which is in Krew's possession.

Jak races for Keira's team and wins, gaining entrance to the Haven Palace. Praxis, however, recognizes Jak and orders the guards after him. Jak and Daxter escape with the unintentional help of a bitter Captain Erol, who tries to run them down after losing the race. When Erol misses, he crashes into a crate of Dark Eco and dies in the explosion (presumably). At this point, Ashelin intercepts the heroes and holds Jak at gunpoint, demanding to know why he has been sabotaging Praxis in the war with the Metal Heads. He explains, but she doesn't believe him until a call to Vin, who confirms that her father's actions will destroy the world.

Ashelin confides in Jak and Daxter that Krew is building something for the Baron at a secret weapons factory. Jak and Daxter go there, and Krew reveals the piercer bomb, which has the power to destroy the Precursor Stone. Krew tries to buy Jak's silence with a weapon mod, but Jak refuses. Jak and Krew fight. When defeated, Jak acquires the Heart of Mar from him, but Krew activates the bomb in a last-ditch effort to kill the meddlers. They escaped with Ashelin, and Krew is left at the construction site and, like Erol, dies. After acquiring the time map from an arcade game at the saloon, Jak and Daxter discover that Metal Heads have still breached Haven City through Krew's treachery. Sig, who was sent on a mission by Krew, is met in the Underport, and explains that Metal Heads are coming in through a passage he had unknowingly open. Fighting their way out of the Underport, the three make it to the elevator, but Sig falls when a Metal-pede destroys the bridge he's standing on. Warrior and beast plummet to the darkness below.

Jak and Daxter finally confront Praxis, along with a squad of guards at the construction site, but Kor appears and reveals himself as Metal Kor, leader of the Metal Heads. Baron Praxis proceeds with a suicide charge, to which Kor responds with a fatal blast. After Kor leaves, Jak and Daxter come out of hiding and approach Baron Praxis, who shows them a second piercer bomb he intended to use all along. In his final moments, Baron Praxis says that Jak is the "supreme weapon". Daxter recovers the Stone, disarms the bomb, and saves the world.

The two use the Precursor Stone to attack the Metal Head nest, and confront Kor. Kor reveals the boy as young Jak, and demands that Jak give him the Precursor Stone. After the resulting battle, Kor’s head flies off and he is defeated. The Precursor Stone is finally opened, and a hologram of a Precursor appears. Samos and Keira arrive with the now-completed rift rider to send the younger versions of Samos and Jak to the past, so they may prepare everything for the present.

In the end, the group is celebrating at the Saloon, which Daxter takes over and renames "the Naughty Ottsel". Sig reappears, to the excitement of all present, having survived his seemingly fatal battle with the giant Metal-pede. Samos mourns the deaths of all those who gave their lives in pursuit of peace and justice in Haven City. Finally, Sig gives Jak the ruby key, an artefact to bypass all security in Haven City, and says he's designated driver. Jak grins and adamantly says he is done with adventures. Samos cryptically comments that they may not be done, and may yet meet Mar.

Haven City fades to black under a beautiful, fireworks filled sky. Credits roll.

DevelopmentEdit

BackgroundEdit

Following development of The Precursor Legacy, Naughty Dog stated that they would develop a new game in the Jak and Daxter series if people liked the characters of the world.[9] During the later years of the game's development, Graft Theft Auto III released, a game many of the developers enjoyed, and would become a huge inspiration for the developers.[10]

The game went on to sell admirably, eventually selling 2.01 million copies in the US alone by December 2007,[11] and the developers chose to develop a sequel. This time, the developers wanted to go further in ambition, and wished to emphasize storytelling greatly.[10]

Jak II was developed with a budget of $15 million.[12]

StorytellingEdit

As one of the biggest ambitions of Naughty Dog for Jak II, the storytelling was greatly expanded upon. One of the biggest changes was the large increase in the number of cutscenes, and giving the cutscenes their own music, a thing the developers in retrospect attributed as a great improvement.[10] The story became far more complex, important and relevant, though the developers claimed they considered it a reward at the end of gameplay.[10]

With the storytelling and settings changes, greater emphasis was placed on the development of characters and world building. There are fewer characters encountered in Jak II than in The Precursor Legacy, though each one is given much more in-depth character development, a larger role in the story, and many more lines of dialog. While many characters in The Precursor Legacy were only tied to a single mission, most characters introduced Jak II appeared in many more, and many also reappeared in future sequels. The characters in Jak II were often far more intimidating or ruthless, whereas many in The Precursor Legacy were lighthearted. Villains also have more clear-cut motivations and expansion, while heroes have many more grey areas in morality. In terms of world building, the world is more consistently built, and deep in lore.

TechnologyEdit

Daxter polygon comparison

Daxter polygon comparison

The technology in Jak II was largely reused from the previous game, particularly in the technology that allows the game to be run seamlessly with no loading times. A notable change, however, is the improvement in graphics. Character models are more detailed, with a higher polygon count.

SoundtrackEdit

The official soundtrack for Jak II was composed by Josh Mancell and Larry Hopkins, new composers. Fitting with the change to a much darker setting, the soundtrack is also much more cinematic.

The background music adds instrument layers depending on what changed on screen. Jak pulling out the Morph Gun, riding the JET-Board or riding a zoomer while in Haven City would each trigger an additional layer added for the vast majority of location themes, as well as a layer added sometimes when the Metal Heads attacked. At other times, such as when fighting the Krimzon Guard in Haven City, the soundtrack would change completely.

ReceptionEdit

Critical receptionEdit

Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87.93% (based on 79 reviews)[13]
Metacritic 87/100 (based on 34 reviews)[14]
Game Informer 9.25/10
GameSpot 9.1/10
IGN 9.5/10[15]

Jak II received positive reviews, with both Metacritic and GameRankings awarding the game 87/100. IGN stated that the though "the story is what drives this game forward", ultimately they were most impressed by "the perfect blend of platforming elements and action-shooting that are so good, feel so right -- and with guns that feel so good", and called it "one of the very best games on PS2".[16] GameSpot claimed that "Jak II is an enormous and ambitious game that succeeds on every level, the gameplay is rewarding, and the story twists and turns more than you'd expect from a game like this".[17]

Jak II went on to win the Editor's Choice Award on IGN.[18]

However, the game has received criticism, for the dramatic change from The Precursor Legacy to Jak II. pushsquare.com described the change as unnecessary, and noted that the "change in direction was divisive at the time, and it still proves a little jarring today", adding that "Naughty Dog tries hard to make the change in direction believable, but it all comes across as a bit cynical."[19] In retrospect, Naughty Dog did state that there was "debate" as to the quality of the game and whether it "lost its charm", despite others loving "its scope and the breadth of all the different activities you can do", though Naughty Dog developer Josh Sherr did admit that "one thing everybody can agree on, though, is that that game is just way too fucking hard.".[10]

Commercial performanceEdit

Much like the rest of the games in the series, Jak II reached "Greatest Hits" status, indicated over 1 million units sold in the US alone.[20] As of December 2015, Jak II sold 2.78 million copies globally, with over half of the sales in North America at 1.68 million, and 0.74 million in Europe.[21] The game won a "Platinum Prize" in Japan for 1 million units sold.[22]

The game sold poorly in Japan, as Naughty Dog noted in retrospect that the sales in Japan were "horrendous", feeling that it was the "darker play" that "completely alienated Japan".[10] Jak II sold 0.36 million copies in regions outside of Europe and North America.[21]

LegacyEdit

The game changed the Jak and Daxter series heavily, as the series took a much more mature direction after the game. The storytelling improvements from Jak II marked a huge turning point in Naughty Dog, as they incorporated these elements into future games such as Uncharted and The Last of Us.

Ultimately, Naughty Dog expressed no regrets over the change in direction, calling it "the decision we had to make", and stating that "[Jason and Andy at Naughty Dog] had to mature this franchise if they wanted it to compete long term", referring to the changing demographics and industry.[10]

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Naughty Dog. Jak II (Meeting Kor and the Kid). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2002).
  2. Naughty Dog. Jak II (Krew's Sewer Job). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2002).
  3. Naughty Dog. Jak 3 (Let The Games Begin!). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2003).
  4. Naughty Dog. Jak II (Propaganda stations). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2002).
  5. Naughty Dog. Jak II (Kor is Upset). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2002).
  6. Naughty Dog. Jak II (Torn's Delivery). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2002).
  7. Naughty Dog. Jak X: Combat Racing (Back in Haven City). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2004).
  8. Naughty Dog. Jak II (The Winner's Circle). Sony Computer Entertainment. PlayStation 2 (2002).
  9. Interview with Naughty Dog staff. PSXemtreme. Accessed October 3, 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 Rising to Greatness: The History of Naughty Dog, page 10. IGN. Accessed October 3, 2015.
  11. US Platinum Videogame Chart. the-magicbox. Accessed October 6, 2015.
  12. How Much Does It Cost To Make A Big Video Game?. Kotaku. Accessed April 4, 2017.
  13. Jak II GameRankings. GameRankings. Accessed January 1, 2016.
  14. Jak II Metacritic. Metacritic. Accessed October 3, 2015.
  15. IGN Jak II review. ign.com. Accessed January 1, 2016.
  16. IGN Jak II review. ign.com. Accessed January 1, 2016.
  17. GameSpot Jak II review. gamespot.com. Accessed January 1, 2016.
  18. IGN PS2 Editor's Favorites 2003. ign.com. Accessed January 1, 2016.
  19. Pushsquare Jak and Daxter collection Review. pushsquare.com. Accessed October 3, 2015.
  20. PlayStation website Jak search results. PlayStation. Accessed October 3, 2015.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Jak II VGchartz. vgchartz.com. Accessed October 3, 2015.
  22. Naughty Dog Timeline. Naughty Dog. Accessed October 3, 2015.

External linksEdit

Jak II

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