“Jak III” is a Playstation 2 game from 2004 that, despite its age, still manages to provide gamers with an entertaining experience. The game is the third installment of the “Jak and Daxter” adventures, created by Naughty Dog (the same developers responsible for the recently popular “Uncharted” series). The game works well as a standalone title, as it starts by quickly bringing players up to speed on both the basics of the story and the fairly simple controls, but it also recognizes and uses its status as the third in a trilogy to its full advantage, giving nods to veteran players through improvements in gameplay and storyline and gratuitous inside jokes.
The game begins with series protagonists Jak and Daxter in the process of being banished to a vast desert known as the “Wasteland” by the power-hungry Count Veger. Veger, along with everybody else from Jak’s home, believes the Wasteland to be a hostile, barren land where no one can survive. However, Jak and Daxter are soon found and rescued by citizens of a secret city of hardened desert-dwellers. The duo soon discovers that they must earn their place among the Wastelanders and thus begins their quest to prove their worth to stay in the desert city of Spargus. Of course, since survival alone is not enough, Jak must also deal with the fact that the ongoing war back home will eventually find him.
As the story progresses, it retains the tongue-in-cheek humor fans of the series expect, but it also manages to weave in some surprisingly tense and dramatic moments. Often, these dramatic scenes are mixed with humor to keep things from becoming too serious, but the game does have its share of shocks, including one scene that has left more than one gamer stunned at its end. The characters of the game are engaging and generally very funny, drawing the player further and further into the events of the game. It is an entrancing story that broadens the mythos of the Jak and Daxter world and answers a lot of the series’ ongoing questions while remaining accessible and enjoyable for newcomers to the franchise.
The gameplay manages to achieve a similar level of depth and accessibility. The game retains the sandbox elements from “Jak II,” though the amount of world the player has to explore is vastly increased through the addition of the Wasteland location. Essential upgrades, such as armor upgrades, new powers, and weapon modifications are all presented to the player through the missions. Additional upgrades, however, are scattered all across the sandbox in the form of “Precursor orbs” that can be traded for aesthetic modifications, additional challenges, infinite ammo, and other Easter eggs the game holds.
The gameplay itself consists of sections of third person platforming and gun combat and first or third person driving. The objectives of most missions are very clear without being obtrusive, allowing the player to deal directly with the challenge without having to figure out what to do. The missions involve stationary defense, rail shooting, driving exploration and gunning, “go-here-find-this” objectives, linear exploration, and unique blends of several of these. Most missions remain entertaining in both the gameplay and the visually captivating backgrounds they are set against. The only notoriously frustrating objective involves a Pac-Man-esque mini-game with lasers. Outside of that, most missions are challenging but achievable and the sandbox nature of the game allows for more experienced players to seek out their own challenges through bonus objectives.
Overall, Jak III is an enjoyable game. The gameplay is fun and intuitive, the characters are funny and relatable, the graphics are good for the time, and the story is surprisingly deep and manages to suck the player in amazingly well for a notoriously humorous series. It is a fun game for those who are new to the franchise and a satisfying adventure for those who have been with Jak and Daxter from the beginning. Those who have never played it before should check it out and those who have played it can testify that it is always worth a replay.