Jak X: Combat Racing
[I]And that's about it.[/I]
Jak X: Combat Racing is the fourth addition in Naughty Dog's successful Jak and Daxter franchise that was introduced on the Playstation 2. Throughout the first three parts (the initial trilogy) of the series, Jak and Daxter have hunted down monsters, stolen power cells, gone back in time, killed bigger monsters, killed even bigger monsters, stolen hover bikes, and rescued all of existence from certain extinction at least twice –so what's there left to do in a futuristic Dystopian universe for the pointy eared Jak and his loud mouthed Ossel companion, Daxter?
Go cart racing!
Yes, Naughty Dog has brought the Jak and Daxter series to the loveable genre of cart racing, but with mixed results. On one hand it has an engaging story with the same sort of humor and style that's become a trademark of the series and several enjoyable modes, but on the other Jak X: Combat Racing isn't really that all…well fun. It has the potential to be a great racer, but there are so many flaws in it that it spoils any real enjoyment there is to be had.
Like mentioned before, Jak X: Combat Racing is story driven, and that is where it succeeds the most. It brings back virtually every character (and a few dead ones) and tells a tale worthy of the rest of the trilogy. Bottom line is that before he died, Krew, the fat gangster, set in motion a series of events that would force Jak, Daxter, and the rest of the cast into the bloody sport of cart racing. During the reading of his will, Jak and his friends are poisoned, and the message becomes clear: They race or they die. If they win the championship, an antidote will be provided. Lose and die. Throughout the tale there are plenty of twists and turns, and is by far the most enjoyable part of the game. Seeing all your favorite characters back (with accompanying grade A voice actors) and interacting with each other is awesome for a fan of the Jak and Daxter series. It's so good, that a die hard fan of the series like me played the game through to completion just to see how it ended.
But that brings us to the racing. There are power ups to help you win. Red eco orbs provided rear security with items like land mines, turrets, and flamethrowers, while yellow eco orbs grant offensive weaponry like missiles, chain guns and a plethora of other destructive weapons to help you gun you to the front of the pack. However, these items are quite unbalanced, with some being insanely more powerful and useful than others, and the red eco orb weapons are really pretty useless all together. The only reason why I ever bothered to use them was because they deflect homing missiles which the computer seems to always have at the most inopportune moments, so it's usually a good idea to always have one. Blue eco orbs give booster energy which you'll be using a lot, and green restores health. Lose your health and your car will blow up and chances are you'll end up in last place when you re-spawn. So keep that health up!
For each race you win you win orbs (in the thousands…which kind of makes all that orb hunting in the first three games kind of silly, don't you think?) to upgrade your vehicle and unlock secrets. Speaking of vehicles, you can customize it cosmetically, changing out side panels and so on, but that's really it. The only other customization comes in pumping points to increase the stats on your vehicle…which almost seems pointless once you realize that everyone else is doing the same thing and that means your car is just as fast as everyone else's in the end anyway.
In the adventure mode there are several different modes which include: Circuit Race, Turbo Dash, Deathmatch, Death Race, Freeze Race, CTF, Artifact Race, Hunt, and Rush Hour. Each has its own pros and cons, and some are definitely more fun to play than others.
Circuit Race is your standard first one to the finish line wins deal. This is the bread and the butter of Jak X: Combat Racing and is where you'll spend the most of your time. Unfortunately, of all the modes, this is probably the least fun to play because of one huge flaw in its execution. To keep each race intense and close, Naughty Dog makes each circuit race an exercise more in luck and patience than any actual skill. Opponent racers will ALWAYS be no more than two seconds behind you, meaning no matter how well you drive, how you tune your car, or what power ups you pick, they'll ALWAYS be right on your tail. This quickly gets really annoying when after being in first place for most of the race, you're suddenly gunned down at the very last second and victory is stolen away. This didn't happen just once or twice, but literally during every other race and is irritating beyond comprehension. If you're lucky you win, if you're not, you'll lose and have to repeat the entire process again and hope this time you get lucky. Fun, fun fun.
The tracks in the game are not particularly interactive either (though it's kind of cool to see different stages from the Jak and Daxter series turned into racing tracks) and none really possess any real uniqueness which really kills any fun that might be left over after repeating a race for the billionth time. In Mario Kart 64, each map was special in its own way, and picking out a track was a really big deal. In Jak X: Combat Racing, the only time I got excited when a track came up was because it was short and that meant when I lost because the computer was being cheap, it would take me less time to repeat it. Fortunately, loading times are pretty short so you get back into the action pretty quickly.
Turbo Dash is actually surprisingly fun, as it requires some skill to it. Basically you're racing and picking up power cells and trying to energize them by holding down your boosters. Every time you charge one up you get a point and the cell fires off as an offensive weapon. On top of that, for every lap you complete, the point multiplier increases. This forces you to decide which is more important: Collecting power cells to charge up or finishing the lap quickly so you can get more points on the next lap. Also, because you're always using your boosters, you have to drive really carefully to avoid slamming into walls. This requires more than a little bit of concentration, especially with the computer trying to kill you all at the same time.
Deathmatch is your classic fragging fun. It's also insanely easy. Pick up weapons and kill each other.
CTF is your standard capture the flag stuff. Or in this case a power cell. Your team mates are surprisingly competent and the matches are quite intense in adventure mode. However, it doesn't show up enough.
Death Race you race alone and try to destroy computer drones while racing face. Same concept as Turbo dash. After every lap your score multiplier increases forcing you to decide whether driving fast on the first lap and killing more on the second is more important than just scoring huge on the first lap. It's another interesting mode merely because you get to destroy huge amounts of things with lots and lots of weapons.
Artifact Race you race to collect shining icons which randomly appear around the map before anyone else does. Whoever collects the most at the end wins.
Freeze Race is probably the coolest of all the modes. You race solo, but the objective is to keep your time below a set time by collecting icons that will freeze your clock. So the idea is to race fast, but to also try your best to nab this time saving icons so that you're time will be as low as possible. It's a lot more fun that it sounds and was one of the few modes I had fun playing.
Rush Hour is just stupid. You race and try to slam into cars that are coming towards you to score big points. Just dumb and not fun at all.
Hunt is actually incredibly fun, and it's again, it's a shame that's it's not featured more in the single player mode. Basically, you hunt down drones, animals, robots or whichever with weapons, but at the same time everyone else is trying to do the same thing. What's cool about is that sometimes the enemies are slow moving robots, while other times they're fleet footed bird creatures which makes killing them rather challenging.
There's also multiplayer modes, but I've never really played it so I can't comment much on that. Again, the story is what hooked me, not the actual game.
In conclusion, Jak X: Combat Racing is a mediocre racing game. It has a few enjoyable features and an awesome story, but it's marred by the lack of customization in your vehicles, a few completely pointless and annoying modes, and the incredibly irritating circuit races.
JA_Japster's Final Score: 70%