Jak 3 is a fitting conclusion to one of the best trilogies the PlayStation 2 has ever seen.
Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy was a game that took everyone by surprised. The lighthearted platformer featured endearing characters, expertly designed levels, solid gameplay and on top of that, it had no loading times. The sequel, on the other hand, adopted a really grim tone and eschewed the lovely vistas of the first game, in favor of an open-word metropolis. But the dark tone didn’t end there, since Jak II dealt with more mature themes like revenge and betrayal. Jak 3 doesn’t represent a complete departure from the series’ roots, but it does include enough changes to be considered a worthy conclusion to the Jak and Daxter trilogy.
One year has passed since the events from the second game. At the beginning of the adventure we find out that Jak has been banished to the Wasteland desert. Haven City is under heavy attack by a large group of surviving Death Bots and Metal Heads and most of the people blame Jak for the dire situation. As a consequence, our hero is left for dead in the desert with his loyal companion Daxter and the talkative parrot Pecker. Fortunately, they are eventually rescued by Damas’ men. Damas is the king of Spargus, a forgotten city in the middle of the desert and the main setting of this adventure.
As you may have noticed from the description, Jak 3 introduces a completely new setting and characters (as well as some returning ones, such as Keira and Samos.) But apart from that, there are multiple new additions. Jak still has his dark powers that allow him to deal with enemies, but this time around he has also learned a handful of light powers.
In order to transform into light Jak, the protagonist needs to accrue light echo and once he possesses enough of this powerful energy, he can use one of four attacks: Light Regeneration is used to replenish Jak’s health, Flash Freeze let’s him slow down time (quite handy to solve puzzles,) Light Shield pulls up a temporary shield and finally, Light Flight gives Jak the ability to glide to areas otherwise inaccessible. Overall, these abilities are fun to use and counterbalance the use of dark abilities pretty well, mainly because you’re never using the same power over and over again. In addition, all the Dark Jak abilities (which include Dark Bomb, Dark Blast, Shadow Invisibility and Dark Strike) are still available.
Additionally, there are Arena fights in which you obtain medals as well as some gun mods. The Morph Gun from Jak II is back and a wide variety of modifications can be obtained, providing different firepower capabilities. There is a short-range weapon (Scatter Gun,) an all-round weapon (Blaster,) a machine gun (Vulcan Fury) and a BFG-esque gun (Scatter Gun.) The different modifications allow for different attacks and combination of attacks, making the firefights a much more engaging or even strategic affair.
The way in which the different environments are explored has also changed. First of all, there are no Zoomers in Spargus City which provides a nice change of pace. Instead, there are some creatures called Leaper Lizards that you can ride to move much faster. Replacing the Zoomers with these critters is a great idea, especially if we take into account how difficult it was to make maneuvers while using one of the aforementioned hovering vehicles.
Thankfully, driving vehicles is still a possibility in Jak 3 and this represents one of the game’s best features. Since a large portion of the game takes place in a small city in the middle of the Wasteland, a lot of missions have you driving sand buggies that can be used to travel, race, recover ancient artifacts, explore caves, defeat large foes and so on and so forth.
At first, driving these vehicles is quite hard, but you’ll eventually get used to the controls. Each vehicle is different to all the others in terms of maneuverability, firepower, speed or the amount of damage it can receive. For example, some buggies regenerate turbo automatically, others allow you to perform really high jumps and others can run over small obstacles.
Being able to shoot while driving is quite important because the desert is filled with vicious mercenaries who will attack you as soon as you invade their territory. If you manage to destroy one of their vehicles, you can grab a turbo and increase your buggy’s speed for a short period of time. Shooting a mercenary as he’s rushing towards you and being able to grab that red glowing orb his destroyed vehicle has left behind is gleefully empowering.
The bonus missions where you can find Precursor Orbs are still part of the game and even though they can be used to unlock some inviting secrets (extra modes, new vehicles, weapon upgrades) these undertakings are really dull and obtuse. Fortunately, there are some minigames, turret sequences and missions in which you control Daxter that add variety to the game.
Although most of Jak’s 3 new additions feel refreshing, the game still has some issues. While vehicle sequences might be really fun, the game features one or two races only and this seems like a completely missed opportunity. In addition, the only way to get collectibles is by accruing Precursor Orbs which, at the same time, can only be obtained by undertaking the overly repetitive and tedious extra missions. Since some of the collectibles are really good (such as audio commentary, new modes and scene players, to name but a few,) it’s a shame that the game forces you to waste time in those in order to gain access to the bonus features.
Some of the game’s features are fantastic and the new setting and characters make the story much more compelling. The inclusion of vehicles and light powers as well as the blend of gun combat, driving sequences, puzzle-solving and platforming are all welcome additions to the series. In the end, Jak 3 is a fitting conclusion to one of the best trilogies the PlayStation 2 has ever seen.