THE TRIBUNAL: Jak 3 (PS2)

The official review of Jak 3 scored a 7.5. But how will Jak’s final(?) adventure rank in…THE TRIBUNAL?!?!?

THE SESSION HAS NOW BEEN CONVENED

*The crowd gathers into the fabled Inside Pulse Tribunal Stadium*

Attention! Attention! All will come to order!

*The crowd quiets down…huh?*

Taking my Lowrider comment to heart, eh? Let’s see how long it takes for that shock to wear off. (Ahem) Anyway, we gather here in the fabled Tribunal Hall to look at a game the brings a trilogy to its conclusion…well, at least until the fourth one arrives. Jak 3, you will rise and step forward.

*The game does so.*

Jak 3, you’ve been brought forward to prove yourself to us, and to the world. The franchise you present to us began as a light-hearted adventure with a silent hero and a smart-mouthed sidekick. I guess we can consider it your grandfather for all intents and purposes. The next game, your father, transformed the silent-but-lovable hero into a deadly dark warrior with an angst-ridden past. The change was great, as it brought brand new dimensions to the world the heroes lived in. And now we come to you, the grandchild of the Jack & Daxter series. Do you close off the series with a bang, or leave the world unfulfilled? This is why you are here today.

Your judges today are Matt Yeager, Bebito Jackson, and myself. How will you be scored within the confines of…THE TRIBUNAL?!?!?

LET THE JUDGEMENT COMMENCE

JUDGE #1: Matt Yeager

Not quite the same ‘Is it already 1am, then I can play for 6 more hours till I gotta go to work’ experience that Jak 2 was, but Jak 3 still has enough heroin-like qualities that the game should come with a warning label. Whether it’s just playing so you can get back to Haven City, or to see the next Daxter/Pecker exchange, or because you have to know what happens next, or just because you want to end on 81% instead of 74% you’ll keep coming back. If you are already a fan, cancel the plans you’ve got for the next couple of nights. Even with some of my complaints about level design and difficulty I still was completely hooked to the game for one main reason, I had to know how it was going to end.

Sure, it has its problems. The driving still sucks. It’s easier. Despite the same issue with the last game they still focused more on the other parts of the game than platform gaming that they’ve proven to be great at making. Doesn’t matter, you will keep coming back till you know how it ends. The fact remains that it isn’t as mind consuming as the last title, but I think some of that is due to a story with a tighter focus, the last Jak game had more suspense and intrigue with many twists and turns. Jak 3 doesn’t have as many twists, but it also reveals so much more than the previous game.

The choice to move farther away from the platforming elements that hooked people into the series as well as some large balance issues make this the weakest of the games in the series for me. However Jak 3 is still a very good game that is also a GREAT end to an already awesome series of games. If you are already a fan than this is a must buy. If you are on the fence about the game, go buy the first two, then this one, the problems I have with the gameplay do not detract from the overall experience of this game.

THE SCORE: 7.5/10

JUDGE #2: Bebito Jackson

Wow, the Jak & Daxter Precursor Legacy story arc has finally come to a close. This is my favorite series in this generation of gaming. The original was wonderful, the second was mind-blowing, and the third… well. It’s good. Naughty Dog did a great job delivering everything we’ve come to love about the franchise. The humor, charm, excellent voice acting, cinematic visuals and story are all up to the high standard of Jak 2, making Jak 3 a romp worthy of your game time.

Sadly, with the difficulty severely decreased, AI issues, way overpowered and needless weapons, and too many “gimmick missions” clumped together throughout the game, Jak 3 is the least balanced title in the series.

I’m also beginning to notice how broken or useless certain parts of gameplay have become. The hover board remains a functional part of the game without adding any real fun to it. Also, for a series that is now based so heavily on shooting, it is in serious need of a lock-on or strafing feature to make aiming a less painful exercise. And yes kids, if the vehicles missions frustrated you from the last game, prepare to be equally if not more perturbed, as they haven’t gone anywhere and as a matter of fact are featured even more prominently in Jak 3 towards the beginning. The “weightless control” feeling addition of the Dune Buggies actually serves to worsen things even further, believe it or not. Why Naughty Dog would ignore the massive fan outcry from Jak 2 about vehicle based missions and then continue to remove the series farther from it’s platforming based roots is beyond me.

Still, like Sonic Heroes, it’s a love-hate relationship. I hate it for not being the nirvana of platforming goodness that I know it could be, while at the same time loving it for what it gets wonderfully right despite itself. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s not to be missed. It just wasn’t the perfect evolution of the first two titles that we all hoped for.

THE SCORE: 7.0/10

JUDGE #3: Alex Williams

If I had to rank each of the Jak games in the order of how much I enjoyed them, I would probably put Jak 3 in the middle of 1 and 2, with 2 being my favorite of the bunch. While Jak 3 is a pretty good game, it still doesn’t contain that certain “umph” that made the second one so awesome.

Despite what others may say, I like the desert missions. I like the vehicles you drive, and I like destroying things while within them. It’s the “getting from point A to point B” thing that drives me nuts. It takes very, very, very long to get where you need to go, and it REALLY hurts when you have to hop to that temple on the edge of the Wasteland multiple times after you think you were completely through with it the first time you accessed the place. And once you get to Haven City, the smaller vehicles are also a pain. They’re hard to control, and they’re not fun to drive.

I also like the variety of items you can do in the game. Call me a sucker for 87 things you can do at once, but I like the combination of desert animal riding, desert vehicle riding, hover boarding, gun mission, gunner missions, and good ol’ fashioned platforming elements. When you get about 40% in the game, and you end up doing 5 different missions than similar ones five times, it really adds to the experience.

The one thing that urks me is the ending. They say that it’s the end of the Jak trilogy, right? Then WHY DID THEY SET THE DAMN THING UP FOR A SEQUEL?!? You kill whatever I don’t spoil to be killed, right? Then why is there MORE THINGS YOU NEED TO KILL?!?!? (Don’t tell me, its to make money. I know.) Still, ending aside, this is a great gaming experience. It may not be as cool as Jak II was, but the story is a very good one. Rent if you’re skeptical, buy if you’re a fan.

THE SCORE: 7.0/10

The Tribunal has spoken! And now, to the final judgment…

SCORE #1: 7.5
SCORE #2: 7.0
SCORE #3: 7.0

FINAL JUDGEMENT:

It is the decision of this Tribunal that Jak 3 is a good game as a whole, and an acceptable ending to an impressive trilogy. You are a bit easy, and you do have some AI issues that still need to be worked out. But what you get right does outweigh what you get wrong. Go forth, Jak 3, and spread happiness to your fan base. Your “ending” is quite a treat.

THIS SESSION HAS NOW BEEN ADJOURNED

We now dismiss all the attendees to this gathering. But we shall require your presence again, once The Tribunal deems another to prove itself…