PlayStation 2
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Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Jak 2 is the second game in developer Naughty Dog?s Jak and Daxter trilogy, proceeded by Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, and followed by Jak 3. The series originated with fun, light-hearted, open-ended platforming. However, the game suffered somewhat in sales do to its competitor: the mega-blockbuster game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Therefore its develop decided to take a ?If you can?t beat ?em, join ?em? with Jak 2?s gameplay; with a more mature story in Jak 1?s dark future with a GTA-like environment, and featuring the incredible open levels of GTA and also retains platforming elements from Jak 1. Unfortunately, like GTA, with Jak 2 (a lot more so than Jak 1 and Jak 3), Naughty Dog has sacrificed moral values for gameplay, making this a questionable addition to the classic trilogy.

Game Play

As stated above, Jak 2 combines the open-ended levels and city car-jacking action of GTA and the platforming elements of Jak 1, with a some extra stuff thrown in to spice it all up. Also like GTA is the mission-based gameplay. You?ll visit different characters to receive a mission, which can be any number of things. (When you have a mission, an icon appears on the screen specific to the assigned person or area you?re visiting to guide you there.) It?s nice to start up a new mission with the knowledge that you?ll never take on two alike missions. Some are generally the same, but there are definite twists in the mission structure that will keep you entertained throughout. Sometimes you?ll take on a combat mission for the Underground. Sometimes you?ll take on exploration missions, which are essentially the platforming parts of the game. On occasion you will take part in racing challenges (which are very fun). You?ll get to use a JET-board in a Tony Hawk-style arena, and also take it with you on different missions. Also there is a dungeon similar to those found in the Zelda games with platforming and a few puzzles of its own. There?s even a whack-a-mole game towards the end. The combat in Jak 2 is much improved over its predecessor. The old melee moves (uppercut, spin-kick, and the butt-stomp) have returned, but now Jak is also equipped with a fearsome arsenal of weapons: the precision aiming single-shot Blaster, the short-ranged power punch Scatter Gun, the rapid firing Vulcan Fury, and the devastating artillery weapon called the Peacemaker. You?ll receive them at scripted points in the game, along with different mods that will improve different areas of performance for some or all of them, such as rate of fire and such. Jak 2 takes place in Haven City, which is a giant environment featuring different large sections: the Industrial Sector, the Slums, the Stadium, the Palace, the Waterways, the Farming Sector, and a division that is pretty much a mini-Venice of sorts. Again, all are quite large. To get around there is a constant stream of zoomer traffic. To ?borrow? one, you simply walk underneath it and press triangle to jump up to it and again to toss out the driver and take over the vehicle, much like in GTA. It?s nice to have such a sense of freedom in movement, but the problem here is that getting around, even in a vehicle (you don?t want to know how long it takes to get around on foot), takes a good while, and is can get boring at times. In Jak 2 the four main characters in the last game are teleported to the future when Keira finds a strange Precursor artifact. When they arrive in this strange new place (Haven City), Jak and Daxter are separated from Samos and Keira. Immediately, a group of soldiers called the Krimson Guard approach, knock away Daxter and arrests Jak, whom is then ?escorted? to the prison of the city?s leader Baron Praxis. Praxis tortures Jak for two years by conducting Dark Eco experiments on him. When you start up, Daxter comes after searching the entire palace for his buddy and frees him. At once you?ll see that the experiments on Jak have given him the ability to use the Dark Eco in his body to become a devastating monster of sort. Jak is infuriated at the Baron for what he has done to him, and vows to get his revenge. The two heroes are pointed in the direction of Torn, who is the leader of the Underground Resistance Movement against the Baron and his tyrannical rule. From there on you proceed in a rebellion against the leader of Haven City, and at the same time protect the people from the menace of the Dark Eco-hungry (among other things) creatures called the Metal Heads. Jak proceeds on a journey of rediscovery as he tries to put back together his past self and find his old friends. The story has a very good sense of drama, but at the same time keeps up humor in the cutscenes. (On a note, please do not make the same mistake as me and play the Jak games out of order, since it really messes up the storyline.) The typical playing time for Jak 2 is anywhere from 15-20 hours (18 for me), depending on your skill level and how much extra time you spend looking for secrets. Once you?ve beaten the game on your first play-through you can go back to all of the areas you have visited to find Precursor Orbs, which you may remember from the previous game if you?ve played it. However, apparently they have become much more rare (about 600 in the entire game) and much harder to find. You can trade in the Orbs you find to unlock secrets and special bonuses, including ?Hero Mode,? which is where you restart the game with all of your weapons on a harder difficulty. Overall, the gameplay in Jak 2 is very fun. At times it can get difficult, but never really overtly so. Despite what you may think, it is not a clone of GTA or of the previous game. It?s all that and more.

Graphics

The graphics are well done in Jak 2 and is an example of the PS2?s capabilities graphically when you really work with the system. The detail in everything is very good, and with the exception of the vehicles and random NPCs (there?s just too many of them for this to really work), none of the designs are really reused at all. What?s really impressive in the main world of the game is that the designers at Naughty Dog really worked with the entire giant scope of the world and pretty much designed and created a whole city in a lot of detail and variety. The cutscenes in Jak 2 are all fully animated, and might I say that they are all beautifully done so. All of the characters in the cutscenes move with a high level of believability, and are very easy on the eyes. When called for the designs of the game are colorful, although given the fact that most of the game takes place in a city ruled by a tyrant, a lot of the time things look really glum. But it is brought out in places such as Haven Forest, and is rendered nicely. It occasionally looks a bit rough around the edges, but it?s very minor, and overall the game looks very good.

Sound

The sound is good, nothing spectacular such as in Lord of the Rings, but it works. The different effects throughout the game sound good and are believable. The weapon audio sounds right for each one. All of the cutscenes have full voice-overs (when they talk at least), although if you want to you can have subtitles supporting. Something that impresses me is that in missions and in the city, NPCs will have different audio clips of them saying something. In the city for example you?ll hear a Krimson Guard muttering his contempt for that particular part of the city. They?ll also radio to each other at times, confirming each other and such. When you put them on high alert you?ll hear them yell things like ?Freeze!? and ?Pull over!? along with other believable sayings. They?ll call for reinforcements, verbally coordinate attacks, all kinds of things. You hear similar stuff in missions among NPCs, usually either bickering with each other, yelling at you, or taunting the enemy. Sometimes those that aren?t helping in the mission (or sometimes even hindering it) will also chat amongst themselves. It?s all very well and good.

Stability

The game maintains a steady sixty frames per minute throughout the entire game with minor slowdowns during high-volume levels and explosions. There are no major bugs or glitches in the game. The only problem I experienced was respawning after I died once, and the game didn?t load back. Considering how many times I died (much as I love the game I?m not that great at it), that?s not that much at all, and I was able to simply reload the game with no continuing problems. Speaking of load times, Jak 2 carries the new trademark of sorts of the Jak and Daxter series of virtually no load times, and yes this is partly due to the fact that it is very open ended. But still, whenever you select a game to load or whenever you warp to a completely different level, the game loads up almost instantaneously. Since all disks must load (unlike cartridges), so little loading time is very impressive indeed.

Controls/Interface

Just saying, I personally like it when games have a cool-looking pause screen, like in Golden Eye 007 it would be when James Bond looks at his watch and on the watch would be the main menu. Jak 2 has a cool-looking menu system just like that which is also easily to navigate. Again, just saying since it?s controls and interface. The controls are sharply refined and easy to use. Anyone returning from Jak 1 should be right at home here.

Violence

- People killing people in cold-blooded murder (-5 pts.) - No Blood (-0 pts.) - No Gore (-0 pts.) Much as I love the game I had to put down the cold-blooded murder thing. While killing Krimson Guard would be more of an act of self-defense (most of the time) since you?re at war with them and their leader, there are so many civilians that are ready to be harmed in the game. It?s entirely optional, but the game has it so takes forever to get from Point A to Point B without jacking someone else?s car (at least in Jak 3 there are a lot of Underground vehicles they have strewn across the city for you to use), and so it?s hard to travel in a vehicle without running over civilians on the ground. There?s just so many of both (civilians and vehicles) that it is very tempting or very hard to avoid it, and a lot of times it?s seemingly necessary. Most of the missions themselves are war missions and do not involve opportunities for cold-blooded killing (most of the time at least), however outside of the missions (and even during some) it is disappointing to see Naughty Dog put a level of violence that can be seen as competitive to GTA at times. However, despite the violence there is no blood or gore whatsoever.

Language

- Swear Words acceptable for Prime Time TV are used throughout the game (-3.5 pts.) - Sexual Jokes are made once or twice (-2 pts.) There a good amount of swear words in Jak 2 ranging from mild to not-so-mild. Words starting with H, D, and A are used mostly, usually in cutscenes but also during gameplay. (Example on the latter: A demo guy you?re covering says to you and the other guys there ?Better watch you guys? a**.) Also, the term ?Payback?s a b***h? is used once by a Krimson Guard and several times by one of the female characters, Ashelin. And a couple of times during the game Daxter would make a sexual comment/joke.

Sexual Content/Nudity

- Characters? clothing is sexy or accentuates their sexuality (-1.5 pts.) - No Sexual Content (-0 pts.) The clothing of all the female characters (although you will more than likely notice only the three main ones, Ashelin, Keira, and Tess) are usually very form fitting and sometimes (all of the time with the main three) there will be some belly exposed. There is no sexual content in the game, the closest coming to love, and there?s not much of that either.

Occult/Supernatural

- Game takes place in an environment with minor occult references (-3 pts.) - Borderline magic (hard to tell if occult) is used by player (-3.5 pts.) The world of Jak and Daxter was created by the Precursors, the story goes, who are essentially the gods of their universe. Doesn?t take much of a brain to figure that one out. However, this game does not have that much of it, since most of it is dealing with the Baron and the Metal Heads, not so much with Precursors themselves, such as in Jak 3. In the game you can also become Dark Jak and use your Dark Eco powers.

Cultural/Moral/Ethical Issues

- Game requires rejecting authority figures or laws (-2 pts.) - No Prejudicial bias in the game (-0 pts.) - No gross humor in the game (-0 pts.) - Poor value decisions are promoted through the game but are not required to progress (-1.5 pts.) You?re a part of rebellion against the Baron of Haven City, and you?re going to go against the authority quite a lot here, although since it is standing up against the evil people, you?ll have to decide that one for yourself. The game does promote violence with the car-jacking and stuff, although it is still optional, so you don?t have to do it if you don?t want to.

Overall

Jak 2 is a fantastic game from a secular point of view, but again, like I said up top, like GTA it sacrifices morals for gameplay, which is a pretty questionable trade. While still not close to as bad as GTA, if you?re moral-concerned, be wary of this game. If you?re strong in your faith, or choose to play it anyway, keep your mind open but get ready for a thrilling ride. Or play Jak 3, it?s got a lot of the freedom and great gameplay elements but without a lot of the language and a lower level of violence.

Grades

Gameplay Scores: Gameplay - 20/20 Graphics - 10/10 Sound - 9/10 Stability - 4/5 Controls/Interface - 5/5 Total Gameplay Score: 48/50
Appropriateness Scores: Violence - 5/10 Language - 4.5/10 Sexual Content/Nudity - 8.5/10 Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10 Cultural/Moral/Ethical Issues - 6.5/10 Total Appropriateness Score - 28/50 Bonus Points: +0

TOTAL SCORE: 76%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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