Game: Jak X: Combat Racing
Platform: Sony PlayStation 2
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: EU: 11/04/05, NA: 10/18/05
Genre: Racing
Players: 1-2 offline, 1-6 online

So, imagine you're a suit at Sony or Naughty Dog. You've got a hit franchise on your hands, but for intents and purposes, the story is over. What's a games developer to do? Obviously, the answer is to make a game with a lighter story that doesn't feel too much like a cash grab. This is exactly what Naughty Dog did. Borrowing from another of their franchises, Crash Bandicoot, and his gaiden outing, Crash Team Racing, the development team brings you Jak X: Combat Racing (the X is for extreme or some such nonsense; and all these years I thought that four was the natural successor of 3). Fortunately, despite two early strikes, the game shines where an arcade racing game is supposed to shine. It's fast, it's fun, and you get to blow stuff up.

Story: For a racer, Jak X has a good story. For a Jak game, however, the story is very light. In the other three Jak games (1, 2, 3), Jak and Daxter save their world from well thought out platformer bad guys while Daxter makes lewd comments about his lack of pants and Tess's womanly assets. Gamers (myself included) laugh at the funny jokes and appreciate the challenging platforming, gunplay, and bosses. In Jak X, our intrepid hero and his friends get themselves poisoned by Krew, who Jak killed in a previous game. As a final scheme, Jak, Torn, Ashelin, and the others have to win the world's biggest race as a part of Krew's team. Only then will one of Krew's surviving lackies administer the antidote to the racers. PLOT HOLE/QUESTION: Jak races against his friends. Who are also poisoned. Why aren't they all working together to win the race? I can't be the only one that thinks this is a little strange.

Graphics: Jak X looks like it uses the same engine as Jak II and Jak 3. Naughty Dog have made changes and improvements to it over time, and I'm sure there was a lot of work to be done to change a platforming engine into a racing engine. The game looks great. Cars feel like they have some weight to them, and the tracks you race on look and feel like they belong in the Jak universe.

Sound: I like guitar-heavy rock music as much as the next guy, but regardless of musical genre, your soundtrack needs variety. As soon as I realize I'm hearing the same songs over again, I'm tired of the soundtrack. The songs present are good, and they fit the tone of the game, but there are far too few of them. Voice work is good, and all the characters sound right. Sound effects are especially well done. Explosions sound painful, and turbo sounds fast. If Jak X offers immersion in any area, it's sound effects.

Gameplay: I like racing games. Wait. That's not quite right. I like arcade racing games. Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, F-Zero GX, Cruis'n USA. I don't want to play a driving simulator. If I want realistic driving physics and damage modelling, I'll get in my Neon. I play games to have a good time.

Jak X is fast. Very fast. And deadly. Eco returns in full force in Jak X, and since it can do whatever the guys at Naughty Dog say it can, it enhances your ride as you run it over. Blue gives you a turbo boost. Green restores some health. Red and yellow give you rear and forward weapons respectively, and black makes your weapons more powerful. Taking out your opponents is just as important as skillful driving because you're not always the fastest car on the track, and some of the events focus entirely on combat instead of racing so you'll need to get acquainted with the weapons at your disposal (machine gun, homing missiles, grenades, mines, etc.). You also have access to shields that make you invulnerable for a few seconds.

Jak X isn't just a racer. Yes, all of the action takes place in a car, but you're not just driving in circles. You'll find your standard race, time trial (with clock freezers scattered about the track), deathmatch, death race (most kills at the end of the race wins), and power cell hunt (grab the doodad and keep it away from the other racers). There are enough modes to keep you from getting bored, and each mode is fun enough that you'll want to go back and get that gold medal.

Fun Factor: Jak X is a fun single-player racing game. When you're through with the adventure mode, you can unlock hero mode. It's like adventure mode, but harder, so it's got replay value for you great racers out there. It's a decent two-player offline racer, as well. After all, who doesn't love blowing up their friends and stealing first place at the last possible second? Where Jak X's multiplayer really shines though is online. Up to six racers can compete for free online. And competition isn't the only reason to race online. It's great fun, and it's a really good source of income after the payouts drop off in the regular races.

Overall: If you like arcade racers that feel as fast as they look, don't pass up Jak X. If you have a PS2 broadband adapter (or a PStwo which has one built-in) and want a quick online game, don't pass up Jak X. It's not quite the sequel Jak fans were hoping for, but it's a solid racer, and it's a lot of fun. 7/10

Reference: - Release date information

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