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Classic game appreciation section: Jak II: Renegade

A whole new world

Moving away from the linear roots in the first game, Naughty Dog flung you straight into an open world. From here, Jak II adopts the usual sandbox mission structure. So yes, Triangle is used to hijack vehicles and doing naughty deeds will mean the fuzz will descend on you in a heartbeat. So far, so GTA. Yet, Haven City’s distinct charm meant that it rarely felt like a boorish clone. On top of that, anything that hovers will also be better than anything that doesn’t hover; so the liberal splashing of hover bikes, jet boards and hover mobiles were instantly gratifying.

Above: Show-off!

The open world approach worked for me because it wasn’t just oppressive slum after oppressive slum. As the game progresses, it treats you to areas that keep things from being too bleak. There’s the Mar Memorial Stadium, which houses the racing tracks and Jet Board initiation test. It, in addition to being a speedway, boasts the classiest entrance to any stadium I can think of, with massive fountains, golden statues and trees with fire raging at their base. Olympic stadiums for 2012, take note.

The actual city itself is built around the majestic and overpowering Haven Palace, a skyscraper that dominates the skyline; lest you weren’t aware that Baron Praxis, who lives in it, is indeed evil. And this huge scale isn’t lost when you get to mooch around inside it either, with one boss battle taking you to the highest heights of the tower. It’s a testament to the ingenious level design that progression through these areas and boss battles feels natural.  

The areas outside the city are, somehow, even better. The first bit of the wasteland you encountered combined beach, ocean and machinery, all clashing together and requiring various expert leaps to navigate. The desert and Dead Town also gave my platforming expertise a solid workout. That’s without mentioning the serene Haven Forest, where the game hits the height of its beauty. There were few moments in the PS2 era that matched the zen-like calm of scootering around on the Jet Board, zipping past trunks and flying across the forest lake.

Above: I’ve probably spent more time in Haven Forest than I have entire games

All the idiosyncratic areas that the game throws up shouldn’t mesh together the way they do, but the level design ensures it works. The slums are gloomy and cramped enough to give you a reason to help the resistance; the wasteland’s offer traditional platforming challenges to sink your teeth into and the stadium is simply astonishingly grand. The world might not be as heavily populated as Liberty City, but it oozes character from every corner.

48 comments

  • JamesRadar - January 13, 2012 7:18 p.m.

    This game gives me that "Blade Runner" feeling. So much fun and and good memories to boot.
  • Henrys5002 - August 28, 2011 3:32 p.m.

    Your appreciation section is unique and thoughtful, but you're beginning to add games that AREN'T true classics. My first disagreement was with doom3, a game which had no 5 star rating in any review. Yes, I'm sorry, but it's NOT a classic. The second disagreement is now jak2. It's a good game, but NOT a classic. How could jak2 be in this section without mario64, the definition of 3d platforming? The second I saw these games I knew they didn't belong here. I'm happy I've been able to rend my opinion across as I really love this section. It's actually the reason I joined in. Just don't let it lose its way. Remember: REAL classics. Bye for now.
  • Yeager1122 - August 26, 2011 10:27 p.m.

    I absolutley love Jak 2 one of my favorites games always replay it at leat once every year or so.
  • Markstone - August 26, 2011 4:22 p.m.

    Loved this game, probably my favorite PS2 game besides Star Wars Battlefront. Maybe they'll make a new one after uncharted 3? PLEASE Naughty Dog, make it happen!!!!!
  • 08rpotter01 - August 26, 2011 1:26 p.m.

    Man alive Ben!! I remember playing the first jak and daxter when I rented it from blockbuster about a million years ago. I don't recall anything from it, and haven't played any of the games since, but your review makes me wanna buy them all, lock myself in my room, and play them until I die.
  • MeanwhileGuy - August 26, 2011 2:44 a.m.

    Ah, I remember my 14 year old self being hopelessly addicted to this game. Everything about it is just fantastic, bar some questionable difficulty spikes (as JJBSterling said THAT @#**ING DOCK ESCAPE). And Ben, I completely agree, that Naughty Dog has done nothing with the franchise since Jak 3 apart from a couple of racing and PSP games is simply criminal. Like any other PS3 owner, I love Nathan Drake and the Uncharted games, but it's time to bring Jak back, and show the other platformers like Ratchet and Sly how it's done.
  • yareet - August 25, 2011 5:29 p.m.

    Go bournemouth! I do wonder Ben if you have met Gordon the tramp; our local hero. This is an 80 year old tramp wannabe who can tell the time by just looking at the sky if anybody was curious. Back on the note of Jak 2 though. Easily one of the best platformers on PS2.
  • Ben Tyrer - August 25, 2011 11:27 p.m.

    Not yet, but I've still got another two years to bump into him, I'll keep an eye out for anyone gazing at the sky for too long!
  • SumthingStupid - August 25, 2011 5:14 p.m.

    Jak and Daxter is my favourite series ever, i wish they could make a ps3 jak and dax, like jak 4 or something, and a hd collection would be sweet too, i wish i never got rid of my ps2 :(
  • VagueRaconteur - August 25, 2011 4:13 p.m.

    Ahh nostalgia... I played all of the Jak games, and got to the 3rd to last level on every one. No idea why I never finished. Mfw spoiler alert: o.O'
  • kingsmikefan - August 25, 2011 3:47 p.m.

    Jak II is my favorite game of all time. It was the first time a game really shook me. Thank you for this.
  • gilgamesh310 - August 25, 2011 2:25 p.m.

    Jak 2 still stanndsas the best Naughty Dog game. I don't think Uncharted has anything on it. At least not in terms of gameplay.
  • FanofSaiyan - August 25, 2011 1:47 p.m.

    I really wish somebody would develop a true PS3 Jak & Daxter game...
  • JJBSterling - August 25, 2011 1:43 p.m.

    One of my favorite games of all time. BUT THAT DOCK ESCAPE LEVEL, OH MY GOD.
  • IsaacShadow - August 25, 2011 1:21 p.m.

    Ahhh...I wish I still had my PS2 and this game. This game was amazing.
  • ComradeKhani - August 25, 2011 1:11 p.m.

    Same story for me, I had received this for a birthday though, had never heard of the series. I would really love to see a sequel, it would make me want a PS3. Probably one of my favorite series of all time.
  • Errrrbo - August 25, 2011 12:15 p.m.

    One of my favorite games of all time. Making a sequel like this, where you go from cartoony to dark to this degree, and they pulled it off really well. The writing and story are really good, the gameplay is fantastic, and the graphics are some of the best on the system.
  • Terrorrizor - August 25, 2011 11:57 a.m.

    Jak ll I feel was one of those landmark games, it's transition for Jak and Daxter was like a splash of cold water, everything changed forever. Jak wasn't that little cartoony guy anymore he was a hardened, foul mouthed cartoony guy who could really kick some ass! It takes you where most games could not, and the environment in and of itself is a character! Like the article said, it was so sad bleak and depressing that you wanted to tear down the establishment! All in all, it's a good game with an awesome story that keeps wondering how it will all end, and then when it does end you'll wish it never did end.
  • Terrorrizor - August 25, 2011 11:59 a.m.

    *keeps you wondering
  • MrSuitMan - August 25, 2011 11:56 a.m.

    Thank you. Thank you so much for this. Jak II is one of my most influential games and thank you for recognizing it.

Showing 1-20 of 48 comments

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