We finally arrive at the end after over 3 years, Jak 3 is the final chapter in the series…or is it? That’s a question you’ll be asking when you reach the end, a goal that is far easier to obtain this time around than in the very difficult Jak II last year. This time around Jak and Daxter have been exiled to the Wastelands after Haven City is attacked and the ruling group thinks it is all Jak’s fault. The opening cinema shows that Jak, Daxter and Pecker are picked up by outcasts of Haven City, a group ruled by Damas, who gives Jak a lesson in hard knocks, but generally wants the young man to succeed.
Sadly, this game is also Jason Rubin’s last with Naughty Dog. He helped co-found the company and no one really knows where he is going to go from here or whether Jak and Daxter will survive at Naughty Dog, another company or not at all. In many ways this is a bittersweet end to the game that started the whole dominance of Sony in platform exclusive games.
The graphics look better this time around, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The Wasteland is less populated than Haven City was, so the majority of graphical wonder is in the architecture both inside the Wasteland main city and in the outlying areas that Jak and Daxter go to in order to connect the dots with the Precursor story and find the Eco stones Jak needs.
The cutscenes are still top notch with great lip-syncing. You will find that there are a lot of cutscenes in this game, almost one per every segment/mission in the game. This game is not just a platformer, it also brings in the gameplay of Ratchet and Clank with the guns and a nice Mad Max style feel to racing around in dune buggies and other vehicles.
Character animation is also top notch, much like it was in the other games. Also there are no visible load times and you can see far and wide if you’re at a vantage point where you can. Things do load like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night where it loads as you’re playing, but you never notice the loads.
I’d go so far as to say this game is larger in area than Jak II, mostly because you travel the vast Wasteland and there are several stops in the Wasteland that furthers the Precursor legacy. Why the heck people didn’t drop Jak in the Wasteland before I have no clue, because even toward the middle of Jak II people started to understand that Jak was the character from the prophecies. Then again that didn’t stop the ruling group from exiling Jak out of Haven City either.
For the final note in this section I will say that the refresh problem I talk about in my Jak II review is also present here, but in far less places. There will be times where you see the refresh not catching up to what you are doing with Jak and Daxter. It happens very rarely, but it certainly is something you note. This game, much like Jak II, uses Progressive Scan and 16:9 support if your television has it.
As usual, the voiceovers are top notch, although Jak seems to have gotten a bit more bass in his voice this time around. Granted, I would be pissed too for being accused of something I wasn’t a part of and being banished to a desert Wasteland to spend the rest of my days. However I would say he had a lot more to be pissed about at the beginning of Jak II thanks to Praxis and his infusion of Dark Eco into Jak.
Daxter and Pecker are the other standouts and they also make excellent comic foils both to Jak and to each other. Daxter obviously has as much invested as Jak in getting to the bottom of things because deep down he wants to become human again. Early on Pecker sets himself up as the speaker for Damas and doesn’t have to go through the trials and tribulations that Jak and Daxter have to go through in order to leave the confines of the city.
The music is also top notch with new tracks depending on where you are. If you’re in battle you hear the battle music type of things for instance. The music goes well with what you are doing in the game and that’s all that matters to me.
Things stay pretty much the same from Jak II this time around. Gone is the incessant need for hijacking hovercars like in Jak II. Instead you are basically given dune buggies and other vehicles to finish your quests. No longer is there authorities after you if they notice you steal something, so that frustration level is gone this time around.
The biggest gameplay change outside of the new selection of vehicles and weapons you get to use is that Jak will be able to use Light Eco powers in the game once he gets the ability. This allows him to slow time, fly and heal, things that come in very handy as you go through the game. Yes, Jak still has his Dark Eco side as well, so don’t be worried that it is gone.
It is quite ironic that the Jak and Daxter series has changed so much over the 3 games, making this final game almost the perfect example of “Jack of All Trades” mentality. The first game started off as a straight platform game, Jak II changed it into a difficult Grand Theft Auto-like game with platform and driving elements. Jak 3 it all and tries to give even amounts to each type of gameplay. At its base it is the best example of a “Jak of All Trades” game, a game that keeps you occupied because the missions are so varied in what you have to do. You may be doing a fetch quest at one point, a platform section another and flying high on a hang glider the next. The cohesiveness of the story keeps it all together and not feeling that it can’t be better than the sum of its parts.
Many people would say that Sony’s other platform games have stayed to their roots and been better for it, but I think the general nonchalant attitude many gave the first game made Naughty Dog create the second game, which was well received for all but the maddening difficulty. I’m happy to say that the difficulty curve has been greatly waned back in this game and you should have no problem getting through the game at a good pace.
The gameplay in Jak 3 is not anything new to people that have stayed with this series like myself. However the situations you get into can be new. The dune buggy sections are fun to ride and easy to control, but I had a hard time with the hang glider section of the game, but I eventually made it to where I needed to get. There are even some mini-games for Daxter which are Pac-Man like in how they play. Daxter also has a moment in the sun early on when he needs to corral some animals into a cage. This is very much Naughty Dog’s way of trying to convey a Ratchet and Clank style of play, although it doesn’t go far enough to reach those levels. To be honest, Jak and Daxter have their own sort of style and shouldn’t have to borrow from other games in order to become more popular.
The guns are back as well, this time with modifications that you can win. I found that the guns weren’t as needed in this game as they were in Jak II. To be honest I found myself able to get through many battles using just Jak and Daxter’s moves without resorting to the guns. It’s not as easy to aim guns in this game as it is in the Ratchet and Clank series, so you have to keep on your camera controls in order to have enemies in front of you to use them.
I talked about the ending in my introduction. This is the ending of the Precursor story, although it may not be the ending of the Jak and Daxter mythology. I have no clue whether there will be more games in the series or not and with Jason Rubin gone from Naughty Dog I’m not sure where they’ll be going from here. Naughty Dog probably has a new IP idea out there, but we shall see if we’ll see Jak and Daxter in the future.
This game will take you under 20 hours to beat, unless you want to get all the orbs and the like. The world is huge and the story will keep you coming back for more. If anything Naughty Dog, Insomniac and Sucker Punch should be lauded for creating great stories for their games. The only minus with this game is that there is no multiplayer or online component like there is in Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, which supposedly has a competent single-player section and a great multiplayer section. If you only have enough to spend on one Sony first-party produced game at $40, that may come into your mind if you have a Network Adapter or if you lean more toward one or the other series.