Tag Archives: PS2

Hitman 2: Silent Assassin – Review

2014 has been a relatively disappointing year in videogames. Underwhelming releases like Watch Dogs and Destiny, as well as a continual disregard for the customer by releasing unfinished messes like Assassin’s Creed: Unity and the Master Chief Collection simply to meet corporate quota, made this one of those “clear the backlog” type of years. Just when I was thinking that I managed to dodge out of the way of the over-hype/upset train, The Hitman Collection went free on PSN. At first glance, this was a great thing. I had not had the opportunity to play these highly-rated games when they were new, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to see what made this series popular. What I ended up getting out of the 2002 stealth title was a tough lesson in historical game design. I had to learn (the hard way) a truth that many others who’ve revisited older stealth games, like the original Splinter Cell and Thief, already have: that stealth games age like cheese, not like wine.

http://xboxmedia.ign.com/xbox/image/hm2.jpg

The game begins with a couple of cinematic opening cutscenes. The one before the start menu appears is where the mixed feelings began. The VO work sounded laughably amateur. It felt like the two mysterious figures, who discuss some slight exposition regarding the main character, were actually just a couple of the developers talking into a microphone. Fortunately, that changed once the game started. Player character and protagonist, Agent 47’s voice has that dangerously soothing characteristic of heroin. 47 is a man of relatively few words, but every time he opens his mouth, you want to listen to what he has to say. Especially considering the surprising depth which he conveys thoughts with. Judging by the way he looks (white, bald, suit with red tie), I figured he would be the most cliche assassin type ever penned, but as his philosophical conversation with a priest indicated, the book is not just the cover. The aforementioned priest is actually the catalyst for the story of Hitman 2. Upon Father Emilio Vittorio’s kidnapping and subsequent ransoming for half a million dollars, Agent 47 digs up his past in order to rescue him. But after the first mission, in which 47 fails to find him, he is quickly forgotten about. However, the game wasn’t the only one who found themselves dismissing this mystery of the missing priest. I soon found myself wrapped up in Det. 47 and the Case of the Anomalous AI.

Hitman 2’s mission structure is really quite simple. There are 20 levels, each one with a unique map and a designated target for Agent 47 to hit. The player is tasked with getting from point A to point B, and back to point A again, without dying. There is only a couple minute deviations from that formula throughout the whole game. I honestly would be fine with that if not for two things: The game too often looks and feels bland, and the frustration. Oh, the frustration. Unless the difficulty is set on the easiest of the three options, you will spend hours reloading saves because the game will work against you at every turn. There are problems regarding every single thing that moves in this game. First off, Agent 47 controls in 3 speeds, all of which are too painfully slow for what they need to achieve. His normal walking speed,which he’ll have to go at for most of the game in order to not draw suspicion, is approximately somewhere between the pace of grass growing and paint drying. The crouching crawl necessary to sneak up on guards is marginally faster than a snail. With brain damage. That was stepped on.  Luckily 47 can run infinitely. Technically though, his “run” is really more of a brisk jog and even then the cost outweighs the benefit, as being seen moving at a speed faster than absolutely still will capture the attention of guards. You see, Agent 47’s utter lack of tempo isn’t the only test of patience Silent Assassin will have in store for you. AI problems abound, ranging from simply annoying to absolutely infuriating. Minor stupidities include not being alerted by piles of clothes (which can be changed out of in favor of disguises) to nonchalantly going about their business as bullets literally whiz past their head. More severe grievances generally involve sixth sense levels of detection on the part of guards. You’d think that being  crouched behind a guard, amidst some foliage 50 yards away, would be ample distance and obscurity to work with. Well, you’d be dead wrong about half the time in this game. Because instead of lurking like the human predator you’re supposed to be, the guards can randomly be granted the power of omniscience and down you with their best Billy the Kid quickdraw before you can say “Get Noscoped.” This only gets worse when levels have snipers in them. The worst part of that whole scenario is the “half the time” clause. The fact that the AI is so inconsistent means there’s something of a dice roll as to whether or not something that worked once before will work again. The other mechanic Hitman is well known for, donning disguises in order to hide in plain sight, had just the worst implementation it possibly could. Even dressed up head-to-toe in ninja garb (obscuring the head and face), I was approached by literally every guard who caught me in their peripheral vision. Is this game seriously entertaining the idea that every guard is paranoid to the point where they have to check each other’s ID every time they see one another? Why are they questioning me? I looked EXACTLY like all the rest, had all defining features masked, was walking the insipidly slow walk, and was still being confronted. Logical? No. F**king annoying? You bet your sweet gaming ass it was.

It was once I began questioning just quitting on the game when I decided to look back and actually see what the reviewers had deemed praiseworthy about the game back in the day. What I found gave me a mild surprise. Much of the talk was about how ‘realistic’ and ‘detailed’ the graphics and animations were. Just looking at these screenshots, you can tell that one of those compliments can be chucked right out the window now. As for animation, I had no choice but to laugh at this review of yore, considering I’d actually been jarred on multiple occasions by how stiff and clunky Agent 47 is. (Seriously, the animation to get on a ladder going downward is so bad that I thought the game was glitching out the first time I saw it.) The reviewer also spoke of how the game felt rewarding on harder difficulties, which I can now confidently say is 101% false. The amount of trial-and-error repetition forced onto the player, mixed with the Eagle Eye AI, had the end of every mission feel more like the sweet release of euthanasia than the thrill of victory.  The reviewer did mention the ridiculousness of the ragdoll physics in the game (I can attest to having seen enemies do multiple cartwheels upon being shot), as well as the tendency for random shoot outs, but overall, they stood with the consensus that this was a vastly superior game over its previous entry for having fixed what the last game lacked. Here are a few standouts  of the “new” features in Hitman 2: crouching. silenced weapons. THE ABILITY TO WALK BACKWARDS.

It dawned on me once I finally had enough of the game, and stopped playing it before having beat it (something I can’t even remember the last time I had done), that this particular entry in the Hitman Collection is only for two kinds of people. Those who want to see some of gaming’s history and should not be attempting this on harder difficulties lest they develop stress-related brain aneurysms at the same time, and those who actually played this when it came out. Stealth games have just come so far since then. Not only is Hitman 2 boring by comparison to modern stealth games, but it’s constantly trying to push away those who were willing to look past the flaws. I wish my complaints were limited to the terrible draw distance and bad graphics, but the meat and potatoes here soured and grew fuzzy long ago, as well. A couple of slight commendations for its orchestral score, and the inclusion of a first person mode which showed your feet (something first-person shooters still weren’t doing in the ps3/360 generation), are nothing more than lipstick on a very ripened and musky swine. If you really, really want to see this game in action, just watch the videos of people who mastered this game on Youtube. I guarantee it will be more fun.  I will have no negative feelings about deleting Hitman 2: Silent Assassin from my hard drive.

Obligatory Number at the End: 4/10

Review – God of War Saga

Amongst all the games revealed and available to play at Sony’s Playstation Experience event in Las Vegas, many of which looked incredibly promising, was a small confirmation that there will be another entry in the lauded God of War franchise. Considering there are already two trilogies and a comic book miniseries, this news could come off as very exciting, or smell like the curdled funk of a publisher milking a successful property. Nothing can ever have finality in the videogame industry. Regardless of your outlook, what better reason to look back on the titles that have built the story of Kratos (and his need to put a sword through anything moving on screen), into one of the premier videogames available on Sony’s console. I’ll be looking at the Complete PS3 Collection for the purposes of this review, as well as in chronological order. (*included at the bottom are some trailer links for the unfamiliar)

God of War: Chains of Olympus (2008)

Coming second chronologically in the series, Chains of Olympus did exactly what it needed to do as a portable entry in the series, but not much more. The gameplay revolves around mixing the two attack buttons together to create combos and juggle the variety of mythology-inspired enemies until you can press the O button, alternatively titled the “Be the most brutal badass in the room” button. It has the fast-paced, hack-and-slash style of combat, the brutal finishing moves, and upgradeable magic attacks and weapons that are cornerstones of the franchise. However, in retrospect, this outing comes off as the weakest in the series. This isn’t due to it being bad or having any particularly obvious flaws (nothing is fixed that wasn’t broken), but it’s clear that this one is the lite beer of God of War games. The story mode doesn’t take very long to reach the end (about 6 hours), the fights don’t reach the same “Epic!” level of all the others, and the game doesn’t really have that much replay value. The plot starts off with Kratos having to don his Sherlock hat in order to uncover who or what incapacitated the sun god, Helios, and ultimately return the deity to the sky. It’s only within the last hour or so where things get really interesting, story-wise. Kratos is  loses sight of his original objective and is forced to make tough decisions. Following the final boss fight, a tie-in occurs with a character from God of War 2. Some highlight moments like the monster fake-out at the beginning, a brutal boss kill including a chest full of treasure, and going toe-to-toe with Charon on the River Styx, are entertaining and help the game stand out. But for the most part, it is a simplified God of War game. The gameplay is fun on the whole, but this one is easy to go one-and-done with.

8/10

God of War (2005)

The original game still holds up incredibly well. Many of the recurring motifs found in every other game all started here: Epic first levels/boss fights, getting into a scrap with a sea monster, taking a trip to the Underworld, Quick Time Event sex minigames, collecting phoenix feathers and gorgon eyes, the spiral staircase downward camera shot, and bumping a bitchin’ soundtrack whilst putting deities in the ground. The chainblades which became the distinctive staple of Kratos’s combat repertoire still feel incredibly satisfying. They are easy to figure out how to use, but the game has some punishing higher levels of difficulty for those looking to be challenged. (The final boss on God mode still gives me war flashbacks) The game also allows the player to cast four different magic abilities upon acquisition. Poseidon’s power is given within the first level and players can look forward to receiving those of Zeus, Hades, and Medusa. Separate from those is a Rage of the Gods berserker mode, as well as a secondary weapon in the Blade of Artemis (which is so comically large that its only competition is with Cloud’s Buster Sword). There are only three bosses in God of War, but the journey is peppered with iconic beasts to mame and murder. Cerberus mongrels, minotaurs, cyclopes and satyrs will contest you all the way up to the final showdown with Ares. The game mixes in some puzzles and platforming sections for good measure, but to mixed results. Puzzles are generally decent breaks from the action, but platforming is a different story. Anytime Kratos has to carefully maneuver around spikes (found in the Hades portions of the game), it is an absolute nightmare of game design. It’s during those parts when you realize how much Kratos is NOT Jak and Daxter, regardless of the fact that he can double jump. Also, the Desert of Lost Souls level, which has the player wandering around a screen obscured with sand until you find and kill 3 moving Sirens, is the definition of tedium. Fortunately, these problem areas are few and far between. They don’t bring down the otherwise amazing game, but do require the player to grit their teeth and push on to get back to the good stuff.

9/10

God of War: Ghost of Sparta (2010)

Kratos’s life has never come even remotely close to something that can be called cheery, (seeing Kratos smile would be like hearing Kate Upton fart) but beginning with the Ghost of Sparta, everything starts to tumble even further downhill for the cursed warrior. Visually, the game is the best of the titles not initially made for the PS3. ReadyAtDawn studios took the “leftover” ideas from Sony Santa Monica, and constructed a truly awesome side story for the newly-crowned god. (The Atlantis and Sparta levels, as well as many of the story elements, originally started as either unlockable bonus videos from God of War 1 or content that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor of God of War 2) No longer wielding the Blades of Chaos, Kratos now uses the golden, yet functionally-identical Blades of Athena to carve his path through Atlantis and the realm of death in order to find his long lost brother, Deimos. For the most part, everything’s still working as you would expect. Notably however, the Rage of the Gods system, which previously worked upon collection of red experience orbs from slain enemies and acted as a one-time burst of invincibility and enhanced moves, is replaced with Thera’s Bane. The new ability imbues the twin blades with flames and allows Kratos to do more damage and break through certain armors which are otherwise unaffected by his normal attacks. It’s not as flashy or cool, but it’s good to see new ideas being tried out. Likewise, the secondary weapon, Kratos’s old spear and shield, can function as both melee and projectile attacks. Like Thera’s Bane, it’s neither offensive nor showstopping, but works to make GoS unique in the series. Kratos has always been a belligerent antihero, dangerously mixing emotional instability (bordering on bipolar disorder) with dogged hubris and unstoppable willpower, but the character’s descent starts to become noticeable with this entry. Kratos really stops giving a f*** about anything he does or who he offends on Olympus. A pot on the brink of boiling over is the perfect material for a pre-sequel. It should be noted that Ghost of Sparta has what may be the most utterly depressing ending in the series, On the positive side, the sex minigame is the best of the series. How can one not be amused by somehow managing to bed an entire, goddamn brothel? Exactly, it’s impossible.

9.25/10

God of War II (2007)

If there were ever the case being made that Kratos was an ass, God of War 2 would be exhibit A thru Z. Beginning once again in appropriately epic fashion, Kratos fights an animated Colossus of Rhodes statue hundreds of times his own size. Soon after, Zeus reveals he doesn’t really like the arrogant mortal-become-god, and swiftly shanks Kratos. Things begin to go off the rails once time travel is introduced into the plot. Because of course, in order to get revenge on Zeus, Kratos is told to seek the Sisters of Fate and change his own destiny. Upon the initial playthrough, it’s pretty easy to be enamored by the Rogue’s gallery of Greek figures the game brings to the table, and never pay too much mind to the logic at play. Because this game has holes like swiss cheese when you start to put even a modicum of thought into it. So Kratos is set out on another journey to a place from which no mortal survives, fraught with terrors abound, and the god of gods hates him. It’s an uphill battle to say the least, but overcoming the adversity (which in his case includes Greek heroes like Perseus and Theseus), and watching the final cutscene, feels exceptionally victorious. Bust out a Kleenex box, because the twists at the end, to say nothing of the epic cliff hanger of all cliff hangers ending, will have you crying tears of awesomeness. (Like when Batman climbed out of that hole in DKR) You love/hate Kratos for what he’s doing. On one hand, it’s incredibly selfish and destructive, yet on the other hand, you have to give him his props for standing up to literally GODS and seeing his vendetta through. When the guy puts his head to something, get out of his damn way. GoW2 is nice and varied with its level structure. I enjoyed fighting Euryale (Medusa’s sister who loved cheese puffs and lard, apparently) and the Kraken. Riding Pegasus and fighting off griffins was also a pleasant addition, but weirdly, he just sort of disappears from the game. Oh, and the three alternate weapons are a disappointing lot. The cumbersome Barbarian Hammer is too slow to be effective, the Spear of Destiny moves too quickly for its own good, and the Blade of Olympus can only be used in minor instances at the start and end of the game. Dabble with them for a fight or two, if only just to realize how much better the blades feel to control.
8.75/10

God of War III (2010)

The crescendo finally reaches its ultimate climax in God of War 3. (You know it’s serious business when there are James Bond-style opening credits) The only one of these five games to have been developed for the PS3 truly embraces the larger-than-life reputation set forth by its predecessors, as Kratos is flung from one jaw-dropping moment after another. GoW 3 is as impressive as it is ambitious. Part of that is because of the immense scale many of these levels/bosses are capable of realizing due to the increased console power. (PC elitists can go crazy now) Things that simply couldn’t happen on the PS2 happen and happen often in Kratos’s PS3 debut. Fitting, since the plot revolves around the assault and subsequent devastation of Olympus itself. Like how the last game saw the death of so many Grecian figures, so too does this one, however on a heavenly level. Hades, Hercules, Poseidon, Cronos, and the 4-part Zeus battle, are all memorable boss fights. Each one harkens on different mechanics to highlight each Olympian’s unique traits. As well as incredible visuals and technical prowess on display, the story and gameplay are also very strong, outside of some minor nit-pickings. The main theme of GoW 3, that hope can overcome all obstacles, courses through the story framework pretty harmlessly up until you meet the Pandora character, who is just two conversations away from being gratingly annoying. Seriously, the end of the game hammers the word “Hope” into your head almost as much as Kratos hammers his fists into Hercules’s face. Oh, and remember how I said that Ghost of Sparta had the most depressing ending, well… that was a lie. After building a strong connection to Kratos, spending so many hours living out his doomed life (assuming one has played all the games to this point), the ending could leave you feeling wrecked for an hour or more. It’s a good ending, to be sure. Honestly, it’s the only one that would fit thematically and realistically. But, it has the strong potential to leave some devastated (and fortunately not in the Mass Effect 3 way). Up until that point though, Kratos gets to go ham with four different types of chain blade weapons. Ditching the chainblade+something you might not like combo of previous titles, GoW3 allows the player to get familiar with all the weapons as they all play similarly but simply in different styles. The only time one might find themselves going “wtf…,” gameplay wise, is when one of the “puzzles” in the game is actually Lute Hero and has the actual PS button icons IN the game. Aside from that trivial quibble, it’s one of the most memorable action games ever put out by Playstation and is a definitely a must-play for owners of the system.

9.75/10

Obligatory Number at the End for the entire series (so far): 9/10

Jak 3 Review

Jak 3 is the perfected Goldilocks of the Jak and Daxter series. Balancing the polarity between the first two games in regard to tone and difficulty, this ultimate entry in the trilogy manages to find a happy middle ground. The returning gameplay elements of Jak 2 have been buffed and tweaked making for a more enjoyable gameplay experience. Adding in new off-road vehicle gameplay as well as giving the player a much larger arsenal of weaponry and eco powers does well to support this epic third act. Jak 3 is Naughty Dog’s most complete representation of the ideals set forth in 2001’s The Precursor Legacy. And still, this game from 2004 manages to perform on a technical level that, even today, some games cannot achieve with the same level of consistency. If the first two installments were both great games, then this last game does not only stand as the zenith of its trilogy, but represents one of the pinnacle series of the sixth generation of consoles, period.

Starting with the story, I feel it’s important to get the chief complaint I have with this game out of the way. Some of the dialogue and characters, which have all generally been of a high caliber, are now somewhat uneven in execution. This has a couple of implications as a result. One being certain lines of dialogue (and the use of the word, “hero,” all the time) will make you feel like Jak and Daxter have become a little too self-aware, but in the way that a Looney Tunes character is. Jak literally has a line in which he says, “I’m through saving the world,” as he turns away from the person he was speaking to and moodily faces the camera as if trying to win a Mexican soap opera award. Also, characters that were established in the previous games have very little impact or character development. They still maintain their personalities and give very well-done performances, but the way they behave like the talking heads from Jak 1 gives the sense that they’ve just come along for the ride in this third game. The game expects the player to know who all of these returning characters are (which many players probably will), but in doing so, it shifts character development exclusively to those of the new roles, whilst the old ones are kind of just… there. They’re supportive and serve their purpose in telling Jak to beat up the bad guy, but that’s it. Also, the end baddy is once again just the epitome of pure evil. Lacking any personality aside from pure hate, it’s as if Naughty Dog’s solution to making the antagonist went something like this: “You thought the last guy was evil? Well this guy is even more evil-er. He’s gonna destroy the whole planet, yo!” So, ND kind of worked its way into a corner with that one. Like, it does not get any more Snidely Whiplash than that. Planet Destruction? Where could they even go from ther-…

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/de/Jak_X_-_Combat_Racing_Coverart.png Oh… right… the kart racer.

That all being said, the remainder of the game is still head-and-shoulders above many of its peers, and the issues stated are really rather nominal when looking at the game as a whole. In fact, if one were to play all three games back-to-back, some of the really staggering revelations related to both Jak and Daxter’s origins have the strong potential to hit you right, square in the feels. The campaign begins much in the same way the previous game did: by thrusting the player right into an unavoidable fecal storm. Watching the first cutscene in these games is like that terrible moment when two men in suits show up to your door to break the bad news to you. It’s brief, unsettling, and you just have to deal with it. For the uninformed, Jak gets “banished to the wasteland for life,” by Count Vegar (a political figure who has seemingly appeared into this universe from thin air, seeing as how he was not in Jak II), and subsequently, Jak is rescued by desert wastelanders who all value being a bunch of badasses. Or was it strength and survival? Hmm… pretty sure I picked the right one. From there, Jak must earn the respect of his new comrades and gain citizenship of his newly adoptive city of Spargus, as well as go back to Haven City to save the day, triumph over evil, get the girl, and all that reggae. The story is good, despite following the fairly familiar plot. The fantasy elements and the way in which the mythos of the precursors weaves its way in, not to mention the shockers on the tail end of the game, will keep you entertained throughout. Jak’s less brooding, Daxter breaks the fourth wall some more, and you finally get some nice closure in your life. What’s not to like?

As previously stated, the gameplay is at its peak form in Jak 3. The same mechanics and moves that have been there since the first game are all still intact, but the gunplay, vehicle missions, and difficulty have all been refined. Jak will gain 12 gun mods throughout the length of the game, 4 of them are returning, and the other 8 are increasingly powerful add-ons. For example, the 2nd mod to the gatling gun now shoots a steady stream of raw energy, and the 3rd Peace Maker variant literally shoots mini-nukes. (This game came out before Fallout 3. *gasp*) This means 3 guns in total will eventually share one ammo type, so depending on how a gun fires, and what sort of enemies the player is facing at the time, one can try a multitude of different strategies. This only multiplies when you also include the refined Dark Jak mode, and the newly introduced, angelic Light Jak. As opposed to Jak II, where the player had to fill the entire meter with eco before Jak could blow his unholy load, both types can be activated at any time so long as there is some gas in the tank. Ultra moves still require a full meter, but it’s quicker to fill, and ravaging your enemies like a spawn from Satan is now a viable tactic. Alternatively, Light Jak powers behave more defensively. Being able to create a shield, restore health, and freeze time (as well as a fourth one too good to spoil here) all work to make Jak’s repertoire of moves and methods of enemy disposal considerably wider. Experimentation with Light and Dark Powers alongside various weapons is recommended for the best experience.

Immense variety in mission structure has always been the calling card of these games, and Jak 3 is no exception. You’re going to get a lot of the good old stuff, some minigames, jet board sections (which has also been amped up by now having the ability to repel NPC’s while on it), Daxter-only missions, as well as many others that break up the normal running and shooting with different gameplay mechanics, such as on-rails shooting and controlling a large robot spider-walker with a friggin’ lazer beam attached to its friggin’ head. But the biggest addition this time around is all the car driving you’ll do. (I guess motor vehicles are just for plebs and sand people in this universe.) Starting early on, Jak will get behind a variety of off-road vehicles that each have different features suitable for different missions. Some of these missions and cars fare better than others, but none of them are bad. Because Jak becomes so OP with all his fancy new toys, these segments are likely where the good old Jak II frustration might set in. However, considering the fact that checkpoints have been placed more generously within missions now, it’s less probable that a particularly tough mission will leave you feeling just absolutely done with everything. When it comes to the cars, a lot of them love to tip over, and though it’s somewhat wrong to judge it since it’s been almost 10 years and driving in games has improved so much (unless you’re Watch Dogs or something), but one could find reason to complain when a certain vehicle controls less like a colossal dune-roaming truck, and more like a butter-greased boulder.

Jak and Daxter’s PS2 trilogy is a collection of games that ought not to be thought of as three separate titles existing within discrete vacuums, but rather, as a longer, interactive experience that is more than just the sum of its parts. With the final game completed, it’s hard not to feel a sense of wanting more. The game lasts somewhere between the first game’s 10 hours and the second’s 16, and Naughty Dog made sure that every second of time spent in its world would feel fun, challenging, and significant. Releasing only a year after Jak II, it’s incredible how remarkably polished the game is. Despite not having as much graphical sheen as its predecessor (probably due to the inclusion of a second open world), something you will never worry about is the game glitching or stuttering or any of the other technical foibles that can often times suck players right out of their immersion. Mild narrative shortcomings aside (Kiera’s sudden voice actress change can lead to some very real, Anchorman-esque, “you’re not Ron,” moments), getting to play through this game, and this series as a whole, is videogame indulgence. It’s fun, challenging, makes you care, and makes you laugh. Sometimes a hard mission will get you so mad you could spit *ptewy*, but at the end of the day it’s still, “oh Jak and Daxter, I can’t stay mad at you.” Because the obstacles the game sets forth never feel out of your capability, and the sense of accomplishment upon overcoming them is very rewarding. And what more should a videogame be, when all is said and done, than that? So, whether or not this shows my obvious nostalgia for Jak and Daxter, I present not only my Obligatory Number at the End for Jak 3, but for the entire trilogy as a whole. Are you ready?

epic fireworks show>>>

W00t! Obligatory Number at the End: 10/10! Would ba-… Err… would smas-… I mean,… would recommend.

Hard.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy REVIEW

During the era of the Playstation 2, Sony’s roster of franchise mascots represented some of the best videogaming the industry had on offer. Amongst the likes of Kratos and Ratchet and Clank, was Naughty Dog’s duo – Jak and Daxter. The elfish protagonist with the wise-cracking sidekick immediately came onto the gaming scene with strong delivery. The Precursor Legacy represents the sort of polished, high-quality entertainment that comes from a consistent game development studio working hard to better its craft further and further with each new game they put out. After success with their Crash Bandicoot series, Naughty Dog built a truly superb 3D platformer. Seeing as how a vast amount of the original Playstation’s and N64’s catalogue was of this breed, somebody had to get the formula perfected eventually. The Precursor Legacy is the culmination of the ideas set in late 90’s console gaming, and is a pinnacle of its genre.

In the world of The Precursor Legacy, the player controls Jak; the blonde, blue-wearing, mute, elf protagonist who is inhumanly agile and has the vertical leap of Michael Jordan in Moon Shoes. Jak is a pleasant and amiable character, if somewhat mischievous, and easily falls into the hero archetype. Because Jak is playing the part of the silent hero, the liveliness is beset on his best friend, Daxter. As well as being the catalyst for the story, Daxter goes along for the whole ride in their adventure. His personality seems like a relic of sorts, in retrospect, harkening back to the anthropomorphic videogame mascots so prevalent in the 90’s. Armed with quips (usually regarding his own well-being getting constantly put in jeopardy), sassy game over cutscenes, and a cartoony-style of animation to his face and gestures, he’s an excellent balance to Jak’s character. Imagining the game without him (the cutscenes in particular) would leave the story rather dry and ho-hum. He’s an essential X element, of sorts. Which is a good thing especially since comedy is often times a tightrope in videogames few developers can walk on. His interactions with the other two lead characters, Samos (the mentor figure who can control elements of life) and Keira (the inventive love interest), help build up the sense of connection the player has with them and adds motivation to get involved and care about what’s happening.

That being said though, the plot is fairly simplistic: After being exposed to Dark Eco, (a sort of raw, destruction energy that can take multiple forms of matter, but is generalized as purple-black ooze) Daxter (who previously looked rather malnourished) becomes an orange weasel-like creature with goggles and gloves who rides on Jak’s shoulder, and he needs to be turned back to “normal.” (Really, the transformation is an improvement.) Of course, it’s not so simple, as there’s only one man who could do it and he’s “far, FAR, to the North.” The way the story unfolds from there leaves things slightly mysterious until the 3rd act, but no one would knock you for saying it’s somewhat predictable. But just because it’s ending isn’t unexpected (spoilers: Jak beats the bad guys at the end) doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, the amount of creativity and world building Naughty Dog put into establishing the game universe almost requires these more recognizable plot points. The writing is far from lazy and the voice-acting is well done. Sometimes a simpler, tried and true story with a slight twist is just as enjoyable as the more complicated ones.

Advancing in the game revolves around collecting items called power cells. In order for the player to unlock the ability to go to the next hub world of the game, Keira will ask you to find a seemingly arbitrary number of these collectibles that are located in the levels, or to buy them off the denizens with precursor orbs (As with other games of the genre, the currency is just lying about the levels waiting for some protagonist to come pick them up). These other characters are mildly interesting, but seem rather disconnected from the main plot. They can give missions, and sometimes the dialogue between them and Daxter is worth a chuckle, but it is entirely possible to collect all the power cells from the levels without them telling you, just by using natural videogame logic. The levels do not put up barriers within themselves to prevent completion. For the most part, the stages are actually rather open-ended and do not require any specific tasks to be done in any particular order. This is good for first time players who are trying to just get the power cells Keira needs for her inventions, and allows a good degree of freedom in terms of what it is you want to do. (In order to get the secret ending however, players must collect all of the power cells, offering some initiative to go back through the teleport gates to collect them all.) The manner by which one earns a power cell is the best part of the game. Jak and Daxter is, at its core, a running, jumping, punching game. The amount of variety that Naughty Dog has put into its missions using this base structure is not only impressive, but manages to ward off any sense of fatigue or repetition, instead feeling fresh and compelling. Within a given level, you can find yourself interacting with various eco power-ups and different enemy types that change the way Jak plays, riding the Zoomer or Flut-flut (mountable bird creature) to access areas not traversable by conventional means, or any of the myriad of mini-game challenges or puzzles that dot the levels. Speaking of which, the levels are well realized and have an engrossing sense of setting, aided in part by the subtle, ambient soundtrack (a personal favorite being the Underwater Precursor City). Having something different to do, and never quite in the same way you did similar things before, keeps the game fun from start to end.

All in all, the first entry of the Jak and Daxter trilogy proved to be an enjoyable, refreshing experience in an industry that has had almost all of its AAA publishers inundated with making [generic shooter title of the year] and [competing shooter title of the year]. If videogames today have you feeling burnt out on the same-old, same old, this game will literally make you remember how games were fun. Not to say the game doesn’t have its issues. The camera can be a hassle to deal with, the health system show its age, and the generally bright tone can be off-putting if you’re an old curmudgeon or an emo-goth type. But considering the way video games have gone, every gamer with a Playstation console really owes it to themselves to play what can only be described as one of the best 3D platformer/ collect-a-thon games ever made. The Precursor Legacy clocks in at about 8-10 hours for completion, but it is a great ride all the way through and is one that (obviously) is coming highly recommended.
Obligatory Number at the End: 9.5/10