All in all, “Jak 3,” the concluding chapter in the epic saga of Jak and his Joe Pesci-sound-alike sidekick Daxter, is a complete and beautiful universe of colorful characters and a linear storyline made up of disjointed parts. If that sounds like a contradiction, that’s exactly how the game feels. Despite its strong, likable cast and stunning art direction, “Jak 3” is too fragmented to be a cohesive product in the end.
Despite this, “Jak 3” is an honest, well-produced game. One of the most striking aspects is that the developers have introduced a streaming system of gameplay that allows gamers to go from cut scenes to the playable environment without any pauses or load times. Saving is done so automatically and also without pause, producing a fully streamlined flow of events that isn’t often seen in games.
The vehicles in the game are certainly a welcome addition. Their controls — Jax and his companion can now operate up to eight all-terrain vehicles — are a joy to use, as their maneuvering is tight and well-executed. The voice-acting by all of the characters involved is also a treat; the humorous banter that often comes with the expansive storyline is actually that: humorous.
Gameplay is varied enough to keep gamers interested, though often frustrated as well. Newcomers to the series are likely to find the missions overly difficult and frustrating, not only because of the objectives overall complexity, but because of the way the game responds to a player’s intended actions. A platform-jumping example early on, a mission taken directly out of UbiSoft’s “Prince of Persia” title, demonstrates this. Unfortunately, the awkward controls of “Jak” don’t hold a candle to the fluidity and feel of “Persia.” Technical faults aside, the mission simply feels like it has been handled before — and handled with more expertise.
The incongruent story is also to blame for the overall lack of cohesion. The diverse missions provide an entirely different feel, whether it’s flying a hang glider “Pilot Wings” style off of the top of a mountain or careening through the enormous environments on an off-road buggy. However, they rarely feel connected to one another and, more importantly, to the overarching story.
“Jak 3” is in the state of a very difficult balancing act, one that can easily accelerate it to greatness or plunge it into the obsolete. Fans of the series will likely consume this extension with ease, as not much has changed since the last installment. Newbies, however, should be warned: This title has a Jekyll-and-Hyde persona that could lead to one of the most rewarding gaming adventures or one of the most frustrating.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars