Jak II (also known as Jak II: Renegade in Europe) is a platforming action-adventure third-person shooter video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.
Jak II's plot is divided into three major arcs:
Jak, Daxter, Keira, and Samos test a mysterious Precursor artifact that they found at the end of the first game, when they do a strange portal activates from which a huge monster comes out before the artifact tosses them into the portal. Jak and Daxter are separated from Keira and Samos while crossing the portal and arrive at a dystopian city named "Haven City", before they can do anything Jak is arrested by guards while Daxter escapes.
For the next two years Jak is tortured and experimented on with Dark Eco by Baron Praxis, the corrupt ruler of the city. Daxter appears planning to break Jak free, when suddenly Jak talks for the first time saying "I'm gonna kill Praxis!" Jak's natural ability to harness Eco reacts to the Dark Eco in his body, transforming him into a Dark Eco monster but he quickly returns to normal upon noticing Daxter. The two escape from prison and run into an old man named Kor who's guarding a young kid that oddly enough has mutism just like Jak used to. More Krimzon Guards attack which Jak defeats by becoming the Dark Eco monster again for a moment. Jak learns that he'll turn into his "Dark Jak" form whenever he absorbs more Dark Eco but it luckily it wears off quickly. Kor is impressed and recommends Jak to join the Underground, a rebel group fighting against Praxis' tyrannical rule over the city and ask their leader "The Shadow" for help. Jak, still thirsty for revenge, follows Kor's advice.
After joining the Underground and meeting a former Krimzon Guard named Torn, Jak and Daxter do a few jobs for the rebel group, while doing so they run into strange monsters called "Metal Heads" that have been terrorizing the city for decades. During one of his jobs Jak catches Krimzon Guards giving Metal Heads barrels of Eco. To investigate, Torn sends Jak to interrogate Krew, an obese crime lord under the guise of delivering a package. Krew pays Jak with a Morph Gun and offers to hire Jak as a lackey. Jak agrees so that he can keep pressuring Krew for intel regarding Metal Heads and so he can get more weapons. He also befriends one of Krew's thugs, a wastelander named Sig.
Krew eventually informs Jak that one of his clients is looking for a driver for her racing team. The client turns out to be Keira, but she doesn't recognize Jak's voice and remains behind a curtain at all times so she doesn't realize she's talking to Jak. Jak learns form Keira that there's an old elevator that he can use to sneak into the Baron's palace. Shortly afterwards Jak meets an Underground agent named Ashelin, she suggests Jak to go meet the blind guru Onin. Jak also learns from Ashelin that a legendary warrior named Mar was the founder of Haven City long ago. After rescuing a paranoid mechanic named Vin, Jak and Daxter take the elevator planning to kill the Baron, but when they reach the palace they find the Baron talking to the Metal Head leader and learn that Praxis is bribing Metal Heads with Eco so they won't attack the city. Praxis finds out Jak was spying on him and attacks with a ship. Jak defeats Praxis but he escapes.
Searching for the Tomb of Mar
Jak and Daxter visit Onin and her bird pet Pecker, they tell Jak to go find three Precursor artifacts at a nearby mountain that will be necessary to find a place called "The Tomb of Mar". Upon returning to the Underground Torn scolds Jak for his assasination attempt on the Baron and sends him on a dangerous mission to keep Metal Heads away from a "strange house" at a wrecked section of the city. When Jak and Daxter go there, they learn much to their horror that the house is actually Samos' Hut, meaning they're stuck in the future but they keep it secret to themselves.
Torn informs the duo that the Shadow has decided to meet them now, the Shadow turns out to be Samos who seems to be younger and doesn't recognize them. After Keira figures out Jak and Daxter are in town, she tells them that she also figured out they're in the future and is working on a plan to go back to the past. She also recommends Jak races for her team, as the winner of the league gets to meet Praxis face to face. Tension raise after Ashelin congratulates Jak for winning his first race and Keira becomes jealous.
Samos reveals that the kid Kor's been looking after is the last heir of the House of Mar, meaning he should be the ruler of Haven City after they take down Praxis. The Kid's pet Crocadog is friendly towards Jak, intriguing Kor because the Crocadog had never liked anyone but the Kid. Samos also believes that Praxis is looking for the Tomb of Mar so he can steal the treasure hidden within. Onin explains that inside the tomb is a "Precursor Stone", whose incredible power could destroy the Metal Heads for good but in the wrong hands could cause incredible destruction. She also says that only a direct descendant of the House of Mar can get the stone, in other words, the young Kid.
Once the Underground finds the Tomb of Mar, the Tomb refuses to let the Kid progress because he's too young but for some reason allows Jak to take the gauntlet instead. Jak succeeds and finds the Precursor Stone but suddenly Praxis appears and steals the Stone for himself while arresting the rest of the Underground.
War against the Metalheads
Torn admits that Praxis blackmailed him into revealing where the Tomb of Mar was by threatening to kill Ashelin but promises to help Jak break into prison to free the Underground. Upon doing so Jak finds Samos... and a second Samos. One is the old Samos that came with Jak from the past and the other is the younger Samos who is the Underground leader; that's why he didn't recognize Jak at first. For some reason. the past Samos is older than the present Samos not the other way around.
Krew requests Jak to escort three goons to the Statue of Mar but when they arrive the goons destroy the statue to obtain the "Heart of Mar" gem for Krew, angering Jak. Sig suspects that Krew is planning something really dangerous and suggests not to trust Krew anymore. Jak and Keira continue to bicker forcing Daxter to take the second championship race and Jak learns that Praxis' second-in-command Errol is interested in Keira, sparking a rivalry between the two. Krew demands Jak to let Errol win the final race but he refuses, causing Errol to challenge Jak to a private race which Jak wins much to Errol's fury. Young Samos get his Green Eco Sage powers and has a terrible vision; Praxis plans to crack open the Precursor Stone which would cause an explosion large enough to destroy the Metal Heads, but unkown to Praxis the explosion would also destroy the rest of the planet. Kor also informs the duo that Praxis has captured the Kid.
Keira reveals that all this time she's been working on a new rift rider artifact just like the one that sent them to the future, but she needs three components: A time map, the Heart of Mar, and a rift gate they can take to the past. Jak knows that Krew has the Heart of Mar but he's called to the next race. Jak wins and gets his chance to confront Praxis again. Errol interrupts them trying to kill Jak with his Zoomer but he fails and crashes into barrels of Eco, causing an explosion that presumably kill him. Jak convinces Ashelin that cracking the Precursor Stone will kill everyone, Ashelin tells him that Krew is building a giant bomb to crack open the stone and gives him an access key to the weapons factory where the bomb is hidden so he can stop Krew. Jak confronts Krew about the bomb and declares that he's done doing Krew's dirty work and fights him. Defeated, Krew confesses that he's sold out the whole city to the Metal Heads and activates the weapons factory's self-destruction sequence, Ashelin shows up and rescues them before the place explodes, killing Krew in the process. After finding the Time Map which Krew also had hidden at his bar, Jak and Daxter go to help Sig whom Krew had sent on a suicide mission. Despite their best efforts, Sig is seemingly killed by a large Metal Head.
With the Time Map and the Heart of Mar in hand, Keira and the two Samoses prepare a method to take the new rift rider to the Metal Head nest where the Time rift is while Jak and Daxter plan to join them after recovering the Precursor Stone. Before leaving, Vin warns Jak that Kor shut down the city's defense shields allowing Metal Heads to invade the city right before getting killed by them. Jak runs into Praxis confronting Kor, who reveals that he's the Metal Head Leader and shows his true form. Metal Kor mortally wounds Praxis, takes the Kid, and swears he'll kill everyone unless Jak delivers the Precursor Stone to the Metal Head nest. In his dying moments, Praxis gives Jak the Precursor Stone and admits that the reason he experimented on Jak with Dark Eco was because he hoped that Jak would be the ultimate weapon to save the city from the Metal Heads. Jak prepares Mar's ultimate weapon with the Precursor Stone to break into the Metal Head nest. Ashelin pleas Jak to forget Haven City and just go back to the past but Jak refuses to let the city die.
Once in the Metal Head Nest, Metal Kor tells Jak that the kid is none other than Jak himself. Jak was born in Haven City but he was sent to the past where he would be safe from Metal Kor and then was planned to go back to the present when he was old enough which is what's happening now. The Precursor Stone is actually a Precursor Egg which Metal Kor wants to absorb but he needs a direct descendant of Mar to activate it, since Jak is polluted by Dark Eco now the only one who can do that is Young Jak. After an intense battle Jak kills MEtal Kor putting an end to the Metal Head threat just as Keira and the two Samoses show up with the Rift Rider ready to go back to the past.
Jak and Old Samos conclude that they must stay in the present and let Young Samos and Young Jak take the rift rider so that Jak can grow in the past just like Metal Kor said. Jak and Samos bid farewell to their younger selves and watch them take the rift rider to the past. In the aftermath, Ashelin is made the new ruler of Haven City. Daxter turns Krew's bar into "The Naughty Ottsel" where the Underground have a party to celebrate their victory and mourn the deaths of everyone who lost their lives during the war. Sig shows up after having survived much to everyone's relief, Jak accepts that he belongs to Haven City, and repairs his friendship with Keira.
Why It Rocks
- In constrast to the first game's cartoony child-friendly tone, Jak II has a much more mature and serious tone. However, unlike other games that tried too hard to be dark, Jak II's change in tone form it's predecessor is well executed and doesn't come off as jarring because the characters are properly adapted to the new tone and setting. Despite being darker, it still has lots of humor in it that isn't forced or out-of-place.
- Jak is given a new design to fit the new tone and is no longer a silent protagonist, he's also given a more developed personality and a proper character arc. He's still recognizable as Jak despite this and some aspects of his characterization in the first game are still present.
- Jak's angrier more aggresive attitude is also explained in game as the Dark Eco that Baron Praxis injected into Jak affecting him.
- Awesome graphics, with added lighting and special effects.
- Significant and noticeable improvement to the character models, most notably Daxter.
- Jak can now turn into Dark Jak by collecting Dark Eco. Dark Jak is more aggressive, stronger, and reduces damage but can only use melee attacks and can only be used for a limited time.
- Collecting Skull gems from slain Metal Heads can unlock new abilities for Dark Jak.
- Rather than a collect-a-thon structure, Jak II follows a story-driven, mission based structure with a big open hub world which shares elements from GTA games but still has lots of original features and mechanics that doesn't make it like a clone.
- Despite changing the structure, the game is still at it's core a platformer and most regular missions are designed like platforming levels. Jak keeps his same moveset as the previous game and the platforming is still well done.
- Has a small easter egg for Ratchet & Clank, which is fitting given that Naughty Dog assisted Insomniac Games in the development of the Ratchet & Clank series.
- Jak now has a weapon called the Morph Gun, and has 4 variatons:
- Scatter gun: A shotgun.
- Blaster: A semi-automatic rifle.
- Vulcan Barrel: A machine gun.
- Peace Maker: A homing electric blast.
- Around the halfway point of the game Jak gets a Skateboard (called JET-Board) that is occasionally used in missions and helps you travel faster without a vehicle. Tricks can be performed to damage enemies and get a speed boost.
- There's a callback to Crash Bandicoot with few missions being a chase sequence, specially the one with Daxter.
- A new secrets mode where you use precursor orbs to unlock stuff that range between normal unlockables to gameplay changing.
- Great plot.
- The soundtrack has a very "dystopian and desolate" theme to fit the new world Jak is in.
- Daxter is briefly playable for the first time.
- Lots of challenge.
- Green Eco now directly restores your health, unlike the previous game where you had to collect 50 orbs to restore your health by one unit.
- Zoomers return, but this time you can ride them almost anytime and go almost anywhere.
- Once you collect enough Precursor orbs you can unlock a New Game Plus mode (called "Hero Mode") in which you start the game with all the weapons unlocked but enemies are stronger.
- The game has very erratic difficulty spikes due to its unforgiving checkpoint system. Most missions don't have any checkpoints, meaning that if you die you have to restart the whole mission from scratch even if you were right next to the goal. In ONLY a few missions there are checkpoints which allow you to restart from the middle point. This isn't helped by the fact that while you have eight hit points, almost every enemy in the game deals at least two damage and health pickups are rare, this is even worse in the racing levels.
- EVERY mission is mandatory to beat the game; you can't skip the really frustrating ones like "Destroy Ship at Drill Platform" or "Break Barrier at Nest".
- Slippery driving controls made worse because Haven City is full of square blocks and sharp turns that the zoomers have a very hard time taking. This becomes a much bigger problem during driving missions with time limits.
- Dark Jak is rather underutilized.
- The PS4 port is just the PS2 version running on an emulator, despite the fact that it got an enhanced remaster on the PS3 in 2012. The other two games in the Jak trilogy got this same kind of treatment.
- Even though the shift in tone is well executed, it can still be off putting for fans who preferred the first game's tone.
- There is a game-breaking glitch that occurs towards the end of the game. Jak gets sent on a mission to the Under-Port. After completing this mission Jak will be instructed to find the Mechanic at the Coliseum, but a glitch can occur causing the Mechanic to not appear at the Coliseum, permanently blocking further progress through the game's story. This occurs even on the PS2 version of the game. By the way, the Mechanic is supposed to be at the bottom of the Coliseum stairs with some equipment - where the wrench icon appears on the big city map. If you can't find the Mechanic and the wrench icon on the small map has changed into a race flag icon, you have been affected by the game breaking glitch and need to start over from the beginning.
- The fully interconnected world without loading screens isn't as effective as the first game. While there are still no loading screens, Jak now has to wait a few seconds for a door to open, take an elevator, or use a warp gate before accessing another area.
- Hero Mode is made rather easy because of the invincibility power up, which is easy to get if you use the Precursor Orb restart glitch, where you restart a Precursor Orb hunt right before you land on the orb.
Jak II received critical acclaim for its improvements over the first game, impressive visuals for the time, strong plot, and better sense of maturity given that mature games were starting to take off in popularity, but it was heavily criticized for the horribly unforgiving checkpoint system. At the same time, it was very polarizing among Jak fans who constantly debated whether the darker direction the series took starting with this game was a good thing or not.
- Baron Praxis is voiced by Clancy Brown, the same actor who voiced Dr. Neo Cortex and Uka Uka from the Crash Bandicoot series.
- In Jak II, Praxis voice closely resembles Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants who was also voiced by Clancy Brown.
- The end credits of the game begin with "IN MEMORY OF MORGAN". Morgan was a dog that belonged to Naughty Dog who died during the development of Jak II.
- When doing driving missions that allow you to change vehicles, the best course of action is to immediately switch to a large vehicle. They drive and take turns slower but are far more durable and the time limits are often generous enough that the slower bulkier vehicles will manage to clear the mission.
- The best way to win races is to just avoid bumping into walls, which drastically slows you down. As long as you consistently take curves and take a few shortcuts, the opponents won't catch up to you.
- If the Krimzon Guards attack while driving towards a mission, ignore them. Most of the time they won't pose much of a threat and will leave you alone soon enough.
- If you fire your Blaster weapon (the yellow one) during a Spin Double Jump, Jak will fire five shots around him, this tactic is very effective when surrounded by enemies. Do keep in mind that the shots are fired randomly with no guarantee that they'll hit a target and burn through ammo quickly.
- To deal damage while on the JET-Board without damaging Jak himself, preform an airborne trick while next to an enemy. If done correctly a blue wave will be emitted from the JET-Board, damaging any enemies caught in the ring.
- If desperate for ammo, kill some Krimzon Guards. Do that at your own risk though.
- It's best to save Dark Jak as a "last resort", mainly using his screen-nuke attack in a dangerous situation. Some notable moments that you should absolutely save Dark Jak for are:
- The mission where an army of Krimzon Guards attack you at the water slums ("Get Seal Piece at Water Slums"); An easy way to beat this mission is to turn into Dark Jak and destroy the turret that normally would kill you if you jump into the water. If you do this correctly, you can just swim to the exit while ignoring all the enemies.
- Right before the race against Erol (Beat Erol in Race Challenge); Turn into Dark Jak and stand right next to Erol's zoomer, Dark Jak will damage it (but make sure you don't destroy the zoomer otherwise the game will glitch out due to not having an opponent to race). Because Erol's zoomer is damaged, he'll drive slower than intended making the race easier.
- The mission where you have to escort three thugs through the sewers (Escort Men Through Sewers); At the end of the mission you're ambushed by a massive amount of Metal Heads. Dark Jak can mow down lots of them.
- The final boss against Metal Kor (Defeat Metal Kor at Nest); Kor frequently spawns enemies that distract you from attacking him. Use Dark Jak's Screen Nuke to get rid of all of them and deal lots of damage to Kor. The best moment to do this is during the second phase when Kor's health is around half-way depleted, if done correctly Kor will be pushed to the third phase where he stops spawning more enemies.