Jak 3 and its precursors' legacy
Daxter way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it
The Jak series has long been misunderstood and mischaracterised. The original Jak & Daxter gave us a technically astonishing seamless, streaming open-world, then proceeded to fill it with extraordinarily generic sub-Spyro locales and tasks. It’s fun – a lot of fun – but it’s very familiar indeed and there’s little to really sink your teeth into. I’d still recommend it without hesitation, but to me it’s the least interesting game in the series.
That brings us to Jak 2 (known as Jak 2: Renegade in the UK, for some reason), which has to be one of the most contentious sequels ever made. The changes were sweeping, to say the least. Gone were the Saturday morning cartoon aesthetics of the original, replaced with a cold urban sprawl rammed with smoke-belching hovercars and patrolled by armed fascist death squads called “Krimzon Guard”. Jak himself had gone from bug-eyed mute pixie to a snarling vengeful trash-talker, motivated by months of horrific torture following his capture by big bad Baron Praxis. It’s a jarring initial change and this aesthetic shift, paired with the heavy use of new driving and gunplay mechanics, made it a hard pill to swallow for a lot of gamers who fell in love with the happy-go- lucky duo’s first adventure.
And yet, it’s all so telling of a resistance to change that Jak 2 (and 3) have this reputation at all. The games present a consistent and involving narrative that promises and memorably delivers answers to their mysteries. The vehicle missions require breakneck pace and careful consideration of your verticality, having you weave through both ground and air traffic to achieve your goals. The platforming is, in my opinion, peerless on the PlayStation 2. The levels are downright brilliantly designed, laced with extremely well-hidden secrets. They’re visually sumptuous, varied as you like and have great, pumping soundtracks.
“Darker and edgier” doesn’t mean “worse”. I contend that Jak 2 was the game that made the series at all interesting in the first place. Try playing Jak & Daxter through Jak X on PS4 and see if you agree.