Developer: Naughty Dog |
Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game |
Genre: Driving

Release Date: 10/18/05

Still coming strong and keeping things fresh on the PS2 is the odd couple Jak and Daxter. In this upcoming fourth release for the franchise, time is of the essence. You, as Jak, are forced into the Kras City Grand Championship race to compete for the grand prize antidote to the poison all the competitors have consumed during a deceptive toast.
(Hey, every racing game needs a story.)

At first glance, it’s impossible to tell just how in depth Jak X: Combat Racer really is. You see, it is absolutely not just a spin-off kart racer for the franchise. Naughty Dog has created a thorough domination of the racing genre that includes objective-based combat racing that makes this title a deserving installment in the series.

The adventure mode of Jak X: Combat Racer is where you progress the story by competing in the various game types. The different courses are specifically designed for each objective. One level may require you to simply be the first one around the finish line, while another will have you using your firepower to be the first to kill off a set number of racing droids. These objectives require different strategies from the player, and expand well beyond those two examples. By doing so, Jak X manages fresh game play for each stage even though you are using the same controls and same character(s).

To elaborate, the stages will also include modes of racing such as turbo dash, where you are forced to use as much turbo as you can in order to win the race by firing the most power cells. Power cells can only be fired after using so many turbos. Another game type is freeze rally, which is like a time attack mode. It features targets that can stop the lap timer for various amounts of time. Combating that feature are vehicles racing in the opposite direction that add to the time if you collide with them.

And then there are arenas, the all-range mode for Jak X. In arenas, the stage is not a track, but an open space to freely roam (think Twisted Metal). The game types played out in arena vary from death-match free-for-alls, to hunting modes, to collection modes where you must obtain the most artifacts in the arena to move on. All of these courses will not only feature hectic battles with other characters, but also natural elements or obstacles. This is expected, however, since that has become standard since erasers and cereal trails in Micro Machines.

Beyond the different objective-based courses, Jak X: Combat Racer continues to distinguish itself from the crowd by combining all the feel-good elements of different types of racing games. The game is really fast and intense, so the controls are all about maneuverability. To be able to manage the vehicle in some areas will require you to master the abilities at your disposal: shooting, jumping, boosting, and power sliding. Shooting refers to your power ups you find while racing around the tracks. These are both offensive and defensive. You can shoot some of the weapons ahead at leading opponents, and drop some off behind for ones threatening to pass by. Jumping and boosting can get you access to many shortcuts as well as dead ends or drop offs, or allow you to dodge obstacles and zoom past your opponents at the final stretch. Power sliding is a slick addition to standard controls that will give you an edge around hairpin curves or turns. It is important you master all driving aspects to earn your orbs during each stage.
Orbs equal money, meaning how you fair in the race directly affects how much spending money you get for automobile upgrades.

Spending orbs can add functionality or flare to your ride; I suggest starting on the functionality. In Jak X: Combat Racer, you will be able to upgrade stats for your vehicle. By upgrading, you can create a sturdy powerhouse, a speed demon, or stay in the middle range by adding a little to both. The different characters and levels in the game will present new vehicles to ride and upgrade, so saving might be a good idea. But if saving isn’t really your style, you could always customize the appearance by changing the color or adding accessories like fuzzy dice! And don’t worry, damaging the car during a race will not require repairing or re buying any parts. It’s all for looks, even providing a slow motion camera style for big crashes or explosions. Wisely, there is a quick button press to get right back to the action if you ever get tired of watching these.

Not much is known about the multiplayer, but it is surely a safe bet to assume all game types will be available. Hopefully there are some custom multiplayer maps in the mix, but if not there is surely enough variety in these courses to warrant some interest in multiplayer against your friends. We’ll find out for sure come October and the anticipated release of Jak X: Combat Racer.

By Keith Schaefer – 09/21/05
ESRB Details: Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Language, Use of Tobacco

Screenshots for Jak X: Combat Racer