Jak II

What did you think of it?

It is very hard for me to be objective about this game since I’ve just finished working on a product which is potentially in competition with it. (Similar genre anyway). I am all techno-critical, and can’t see the game that I am sure is there.

When I look at the game, I see:

  • The frame rate dropping below 20fps
  • Terrible tearing caused by not locking the page swap to the refresh - probably required because of the frequently varying frame rate
  • Poor texturing
  • Semi-frequent hard crashes - especially during cut-scenes, usually with corrupt triangles being displayed
  • Cut-scenes with different physics from the game
  • Polygonal poke through glitches on the animated characters
  • Innappropriate language and themes for a family oriented platformer
  • Annoying shooting controls
  • Blandly populated quest areas
  • An annoying city hub that takes far too long to navigate

What happened? This game is getting good reviews (with the exception of GameSpot^h^h^h^hSpy). Why?

What’s really good, and what’s really bad? Am I over reacting, or am I seeing the game as it actually is.

I hate, HATE, HATE a platform game without a rock solid framerate. There’s no excuse for that. It just plain sucks the life out of a game to be running towards a jump and have the framerate all over the place.

I might be mistaken, but didn’t it get a score in the 9s at GameSpot?

Yeah, GameSpot loved it. GameSpy wasn’t quite so positive.

Whoops - I meant GameSpy.

The controls never suffer due to the framerate - in fact I’m sure the tearing is because they had to decouple it. It just makes me feel a bit nauseous.

Bland is my only thought, from the demo they handed out at E3. Bland, bland, bland. It was clearly trying to rip all the good ideas from Ratchet and Clank. Shame they didn’t manage to rip off any of the charm or humor.

One thing I noticed, after a while working as a developer, and playing games which had varying frame-rates throughout development, is that I got hyper-sensitized to framerate. It made me not want to play Sega Rally 2 for the Dreamcast because the 60fps to 30fps framerate switch just made me feel ill. I no longer have the ability to tell the threshold of the general public to framerate issues, I think - but I do know it’s definitely more noticable when it keeps changing.

Having only played demos of the Ratchet And Clank and Jak sequels thus far, for some reason Ratchet And Clank feels more free, more stylish, more… other stuff. Maybe it’s the ‘sandbox’ angle to R+C, with the large amount of weapons, all of which feel easy to wield, fun to use, etc? I like it when platformers make me feel like I’m a good player.

Incidentally, Tyrion, it’s interesting that you say ‘Inappropriate language and themes for a family oriented platformer’, because I thought the point of the Jak sequel was that they were going all, uhm, Sum 41 Tony Hawk teen edgy badass or something. Has changing the style without changing the underlying gameplay not worked? Content and parental advisory-wise, it’s like Conker on GameBoy Color being all Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Conker on N64 being all grim fairy tales - mixed messages?

The bad language was pointless. Of no artistic merit whatsoever,

Very poor judgement went into this game design. They clearly decided that they needed to GTA3 it. Idiots.

Jak was an interesting piece of art. Jak II is a velveteen Elvis portrait.

What’s odd to me is that the issues that Gamespy (and you) bring up seem valid, but the positive reviews don’t even seem to mention them. Maybe they just found the platforming parts really great.

Which is why I posted here. What I want is an enthusiastic rebuttal pointing up all the great things about it. Then I can revisit the game and try and see it a different way.

I want to like it.

I’m about 8 hours in or so. Played far enough and completed a bevy of missions/objectives that I feel confident to comment.

I’m running the game on a Progressive scan setup in widescreen which may or may not make a difference, but granted I have not run into any issues with framerate as of yet. The polygonal tearing is barely noticeable if at all, and rarely if ever has it been distracting. (I’d be more inclined to agree had you mentioned the obvious LoD issue popping up so blatantly as animated objects appear closer however, I’m not seeing much of a problem with fluctuating framerates or a wonky engine that can’t display it’s textures correctly at all…)

The game did crash on me once while playing last night. Forunately it was at the beginning of a new section and it occurred well beyond the 5 hours mark on my savegame. Hasn’t been a repeat occurrence since.

The gun shooting is a bit awkward at first, but not unwieldly. Granted, R&C does provide a far more efficient way of tackling your opposition. Strafing, a helpful lock reticle, not to mention more varuety to the slaying really puts it ahead of the action in thsi so far. Though I’ve been enjoying the gunplay in Jak 2 quite fine. The wide girth of a shotgun blast is very predictable, and fine tuning rifle/Minigun shots is not really a concern. Hit detection and reaction from your enemies is competent. The game seems to succeed at its purpose, giving Jak a few armaments to decimate his foes.

If I had to add my own Personal complaints, first up comes the camera. All dozen buttons on the Dual SHock 2, not one of them snaps the viewpoint behind Jak…(This bears repeating.)


Babysitting with the R-stick isn’t uncommon in this day and age, but I tend to make it a habit of finding that all important insta-swivel button first when I start up a new 3D platformer even before I become comfortable with jump physics. Jak 2 really suffers without one of these, especially in some of the hectic hunfights later on(bosses included) where you must constantly keep track of a foe that tends to fly all over the screen. Too many off screen hits have bested me while tryiong to swivel that damn camera around and keep it from locking into walls or background objects. It’s 2003, this problem should have died on the PS1…

My other complaints are minor. The minimap in the city is a nice gesture, but why couldn’t it extend to the outer sections? Instead you are forced to pause and flip through the dial menu to see a map representation fo the area you are in. (Again R&C really set a great standard with it’s quick R3 map click) Though to be fair the linear progression of the platforming section doesn’t demand a map too often, but the option for an onscreen variant to toggle would be nice. if only to satiate the need to separate invisible walls from possible platforms to attempt traipsing towards.

Otherwise, I am enjoying this one much more than I did Jak 1. The platforming is smarter, the area design more impressive(how anyone wouldn’t be stunned by platforming sections such as climbing the baron’s castle keep and overlooking the ENTIRE city in full polygonal glory whilst dodging electric tiles and turret fire with timed double jumps is madness.)

It had a slow start, but several hours in and the game has really begin to shine with varied mission objective and stunning scenery. The city IS massive, but navigating through it hasn’t irritated me quite yet.

I do expect R&C2 to provide one hell of a competetive blow though.

I find that the polygonal tearing is really driving me to distraction. I can’t believe that the reviews barely mentioned this as its almost a game breaker to me. I would have much preferred worse graphics if it would have prevented this. I keep thinking “man I really need to enable v-sync.” What’s shocking about it is I seem to remember reading an interview with Jason Rubin of Naughty Dog where he professed how essential a constant 60 fps was. What happened?

I’m like 3-4 hours in and really enjoying it so far.

Love the gameplay, the city is a touch bland but still pretty cool, and the cutscenes are nice. Graphically I think it’s quite nice, though I liked the more colorful world of Jak & Daxter better personally.

Haven’t noticed any framerate problems. I once got stuck inside an enemy, that’s the worst bug-like behavior I’ve seen.

Count me in with Tyrion. I’m finding it very disappointing for a number of reasons. He mentioned many of them, so I’ll just throw in the heavy-handed and sophomoric mugging that passes for humor, how awkward it is to run through a three button combo and a long loading time when I just want to glance at the map, the imprecise floaty controls, the annoying way you have to jink around to pick up the contents of a crate even after you’ve opened it, and what a complete throwaway gimmick the Dark Jak stuff is.

Jak II’s developers at Naughty Dog have, however, done a superlative job of making me appreciate the fine work Insomniac did with Ratchet & Clank, which handily avoids all the problems I mentioned above. Bring on Going Commando.


Is anyone finding Jak II on the hard side? I thought it was weird to have the best Jak II player at Naughty Dog die repeatedly while demoing the game. I’m also not really good at Tony Hawk-style games, so scoring 15,000 points in Jak II wasn’t something I was a fan of.

R&C: GC is pretty much The Awesome at the moment.

I’m desperately trying to like this game.

I loved Jak & Daxter, it was well rounded and had a great element of the “checklist” which I blame Mario 64 for getting me addicted to. Now when I play a platformer that doesn’t quantify my objectives and doesn’t force me to figure out what they are, I feel lazy.

Then Ratchet came out and I think it’s one of the superior platformers ever. It had a clever way of changing the gameplay everytime it was about to get repetitive.

I agree that Jak 2 doesn’t build on the superior aspects of Ratchet. It seems like they decided that R&C’s strongpoint was “merely” weapons when it was a much greater combiation of dynamic gameplay and a really clever story. I’m going to keep playing Jak in the hopes that it picks up on the things I’m missing from the original. I don’t mind the graphic glitches, loading, and framerate; so hopefully in the long run those are the only major drawbacks.

This is the first time that I’ve felt pretty misled by a GameSpot review though.

“Going Commando” brings to mind a question: where the hell is my 3D Bionic Commando, damn it?

Yeah, Insomniac are pretty much pure genius.

While Jak II is not pure genius, I am still enjoying it a fair amount, and I need something to fill the 2-yr-old-who-loves-watching-platformers until November. :)

Ok, the humor isn’t highbrow, but some of it is pretty funny, IMO. “Jak and the Fatman”… that had me laughing out loud… :)

no one answered the hard question. I watched my kids play today and it looks exceptionally hard. There hasn’t been a platformer yet they couldn’t rip through, this one has them almost to tears in frustration. Does the difficulty level stay ramped up though the game?