Developers Naughty Dog have always been synonymous with the PS1 and PS2 with such classics as Crash Bandicoot, Jak or Ratchet and Clank. I loved some of those early games but lost interest after each succeeding instalment. It is my belief that you start to lose some of the lustre after too many similar games with numerals added to each title. Naughty Dog's most recent title
1-2 players (offline)
2-6 players (online)
Dolby Pro logic 2
Developers Naughty Dog have always been synonymous with the PS1 and PS2 with such classics as Crash Bandicoot, Jak or Ratchet and Clank. I loved some of those early games but lost interest after each succeeding instalment. It is my belief that you start to lose some of the lustre after too many similar games with numerals added to each title. Naughty Dog's most recent title “Jak X: Combat Racing” really breaks out of the tried and tested formula of sequels, giving new life to the venerable franchise. Jak X is a top down cart racer, not dissimilar to say Simpson’s Road Rage or even Twisted Metal. So how does it play? Can you play online? Stay tuned and find out.
Visually, Jak X looks great and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the game really looked. Framerates stay fairly constant even while explosions billow from road kill racing cars or when missiles are wildly flying across the screen. There is some clipping here and there, but not anything to get upset about. There is also a good variety of color in the various levels and this helps accentuate the atmosphere of each respective city or scenario. I thought the tracks were very well built and their visual panache showed a polish only a developer with some PS2 hardware knowledge could do. The game also has many different cut scenes spread throughout. They range from a few seconds to a few minutes. As with all Naughty Dog games the cut scenes are excellent although some of the loading times were a bit disappointing. Regardless all of them were well worth the wait.
If I were to complain about anything to do with graphics in Jak X it would be the jaggies. Anti-aliasing issues pop up in the game and when they did they were not pretty. The game runs in progressive scan and for the most part everything looks great but I did find certain areas, specifically graphic heavy situations, to cause these jaggies to appear. I think most gamers wouldn’t even notice the shortcoming as it really isn’t too noticeable, especially if you were in the heat of gaming. However the PS2 has never been able to do true progressive scan as the hardware limitations don’t allow for it and I would think that the jaggies issue are more due to the hardware than software.
Queens of the Stone Age accompany most of the games musical soundtrack as the music leans toward a cheesy heavy metal inspired affair. It perfectly suits the game, but is seems most unremarkable. That being said the game actually uses Dolby Pro Logic 2 to handle the sound processing and it shows the same high quality production values the graphics engine received. Any gamer with a cool surround sound set up will love the over the top sounds of explosions, crashes, machine guns and many other weapons of destruction. Even in regular stereo the sounds have an uncompromised quality to them, clear and bright throughout. Another sound related goodie is the voice acting. While quite cheesy at times the voices are bang on with the characters as they sound like you would expect it too, especially when you get that idea in your head what the voice should sound like. I thought it really helped to drive the story along nicely.
If you are a fan of the series you’ll instantly recognize the players and the continuing storyline. The single player game has a fairly good storyline and will keep the gamer’s attention to the on-screen action. What is new here is that this game is now literally a combat racer. One is able to compete against 1-2 players in split screen offline and up to 6 other racers online via the PS2’s network adapter. Basically there are 4 major modes of gameplay that the gamer can traverse: 1. Death match, 2. Race to the finish, 3. Grand Prix and 4. Combined destroyer. Each mode also has many branching races almost doubling the amount of gameplay. As the gamer progresses through the ranks or classes they tend to get tougher, and a little frustrating at times, so practice makes perfect. Of course along the way there are other races and options for the gamer to discover as well.
I found the game easy enough to control; the PS2 controller is fun to use and suits the game quite nicely. I did find the A.I. to be on the cheap side as many times I was free and clear in the lead only to have them come up behind me and nudge and me off the road just short of the finish line. I would expect this behaviour online where cheap driver’s crash and bash your car till you fall by the wayside but I was surprised by the rubberband A.I that reared it's head now and then. I found computer racers were never far behind, and any wins I did get were by the slimmest of margins. This forces you the gamer to be vigilant about checking out what’s behind you on quite often during the race.
Of course the real highlight of this game is the racing, environments and the vehicles. It is very interactive with the cool environments and locales playing a part in the game. Sometimes a volcano will spew lava or rocks will tumble on to the track giving the gamer fits as they try to avoid the pitfalls and opponents at the same time. Of course having weapons on your vehicle will most certainly make things a bit hairier. There are many types of weapons and mostly all of them are upgradeable. There is also a feature where the PSP game “Daxter” can unlock hidden drivers and or vehicles. I wasn’t able to try the feature as the game isn’t out at this time, but it most certainly adds to the replay value of Jak X. As for the cars themselves they can also be up outfitted to suit almost any racing condition. Beef up suspension, armour, tires, and of course weapons. Interestingly any modification made can and will have some kind of effect on the handling of the vehicle. If you weight it down with too many options it will handle like a lead weight, conversely keeping light will make it handle like a jack rabbit. This is a strategy on its own, being light can lead to heavy damage or being to heavy makes you to slower, so it is up to the gamer to make the right decisions.
Jak X: Combat Racing is one cool game. I actually found myself giggling from time to time as I tried everything I could to keep my opponents behind me. Of course when they eventually passed me it was because of the cheap tactics and constant bumping. This only got me into the game more and strategizing on how to win. The online component also is a feature that must be tried to fully appreciate the beauty and depth of Jak X. Naughty Dog has done a fabulous job on this title, giving the continuing series another great game for all to enjoy.