Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
I didn't play Jak and Daxter and Jak 2 first. Well, I slightly played through Jak 2, but considering these games are tightly connected in an overall story arch, I should have gotten them first. Oh well, we all make mistakes in our gaming lives.
So, Jak 3 is a platform game that's got an attitude. It's not completely over-the-top, but it's always there. Throughout a plot - taking place partically in a harsh wasteland and desert, and partially in a city on the verge of losing a war - it's dark, sinister, and quite refreshing for a platform game, really.
Well, I say platform game, but truth be told, there's much more to it than that. Driving cars around in the desert is very important, for one thing. Then there are also hang-gliding, some F-Zero-inspired racing inside a tube (with lots of traps), jet-boarding, controlling a huge robot, steering a nuclear warhead(!), and even a version of that ooold game where you were driving a car through a maze-ish set and there was this other car driving the opposite way and trying to crash with you... OK, so that last one isn't really much fun except for the nostalgia factor, but you can't accuse this game of being about platforming only.
For that matter, the platform sequences are quite varied, partially because you'll spend a lot of time using guns. Big, nice guns. Guns are good. You'll keep on earning upgrades all through the game. 12 different ways of shooting your enemy to pieces. Not all of them equally useful, but they are there. In addition to this, you also have the Dark Jak powers, and also now Light Jak powers, which are also given at certain intervals, and which makes it both easier to survive, as well as helping you to get to new places. Heck, you usually get -some- sort of upgrade with almost every mission, so you can't complain about not being rewarded.
And then you've got all the tiny sidequests. Mostly it's about getting to a red crystal within time, but there can be more races, and also some other stuff that's rather hard to explain, when all's said and done. Also, there are a lot of certain red crystals spread everywhere (used to unlock a huge plethora of bonuses, from extra cars to increased weapon damage to sketch books, and other useful, useless, and funny stuff), and sometimes just finding out how to get there is a real challenge in itself.
Plot is, as I said, rather dark, but the ferrety Daxter keeps it from getting too dark and taking itself too seriously. He may be a bit annoying at times, but it's usually OK.
Graphics aren't spectacular, as they are set in cartoon style. But the desert wasteland in particular is -big-, and this game series prides itself on making a seamless experience, something which they deserve credit for. OK, so they do "cheat" a little when moving from one area to another (meaning that there are loading times), but you're always in control of your character, even when auto-saving. Why this style of moving from one area to another hasn't become a standard for other game developers is beyond me. It may be an illusion, but then again, an illusion is what video gaming is about.
But there is one thing that is annoying me a little bit graphically; the day-and-night cycle. Putting it shortly, there is no difference at all between day and night. Enemies are the same, there aren't any shops around, you can't talk to certain people at certain times... So the only thing that night-time does is decreasing the visibility. I know it's supposedly making it more realistic... But me, I prefer seeing fully at all times.
Anyway, Jak 3 is a very good game with loads of big and small extras... But, without quite knowing why, it just doesn't feel like a -great- game. Perhaps it's because it's a quite deep story (at least for a platformer) told in a very sterile setting (human-wise)? I mean, there is only one person to talk to at any given moment, and that is the one advancing the plot. The other people around are just.. there. And then there are the vast wastelands, which can often feel depressingly empty. Perhaps if someone had made it possible to interact more with people, I'd have had that little extra spiff of enjoyment that would have earned this game an A-.But still, "very good" is far from bad, after all.