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Jak X: Combat Racing – An often overlooked great racing spinoff of Jak & Daxter series!

First of all, many thanks to u/MetalMan1349 for his permission to post this; he did a great job on reviewing all three games in the series but didn't play the Jak X. However, I played the shit out of this when I was a kid, bought it again for the PS4 and replayed it completely, so it's fresh in my mind, and with his blessing, I'm reviewing this one!

In the late 90s and early 00s, a lot of established franchises attempted to breach in and create their own racing spinoffs featuring their characters, such as Super Mario with Mario Kart, Sonic with Sonic Dash, and Crash Bandicoot with Crash Nitro Kart. Jak & Daxter has done the same, with Jak X!

Admittedly, I'm reviewing this with a large hint of nostalgia, but I've managed to remove the rose tinted glasses. Many will be surprised, but Jak X, rather than being a simple racing game but with Jak characters, actually has a rather decent storyline (for which you don't have to play the original trilogy, although it is highly recommended that you do so.)

(WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T PLAYED THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY)

It continues a year after the ending of Jak 3, where Jak, Daxter, Ashley, Torn and Keira gather in a new location, called Kras City, by Krew's daughter, Rayn, to read his will after his untimely death in Jak II. However, Krew, in his holographic diary, reveals that he poisoned all of them and essentially forces them to race in the upcoming Kras City Grand Championship, a death race competition, and by winning it, they will recieve the antidote. Since the poison works slowly and will kill them in a year, it will give them just enough time to finish the competition, all the while being followed by an obnoxious TV host called G.T. Blitz , who covers the event, and his new assistant (to apsolutely nobody's surprise), Pecker!

Jak X does bring you back to both Spargus and Haven City, also introducing Kras City and the Icelands as new areas exclusive for the game. Haven and Spargus have been redesigned completely to turn them into racing tracks, but they are still very familiar to everyone who played the original trilogy, and also adds many off-map locations and some new, unique ones, split up between Spargus, Haven, Kras and Icelands, The tracks are very diverse, although a bit too few of them in my book. They are very challenging, although at times you will seriously consider ragequitting over the sometimes rather unfair design of the tracks, requiring you to have God-like reflexes in some corners.

Now, onto the cars. The cars have clear and direct inspiration from Jak III and its own buggies (Sand Shark makes an appearance too, in the game intro, the tutorial and as a bonus unlockable car), although they are much faster and much easier to control than the ones from Jak III (admittedly, they haven't completely fixed, they are still kind of wonky to drive) and clearly, the inspiration drew from the racing minigame from the aforementioned game (and even some of the tracks from Jak III have an appearance in the game, although slightly changed but yet familiar). The game is divided into four stages (or Cups), with three of them having their own set of cars to choose (and the fourth letting you choose all the cars from the original game). You can modify the car appearance (wheels, bumpers, roof, side skirts, etc) and the performance stats as well. As is with Mario Kart, you also have a weapons system which you pick up on the track, divided into offense and defense, ranging from rockets, mines, oil slick, machine guns, sticky bombs, a shield and an electric instakill ball (clearly inspired by the infamous blue shell from Mario Kart, as it also automatically destroys the leading opponent). A great feature is the Light Eco/Dark Eco system in the game: a bar that fills up as you kill other opponents, and when it fills up, it unlocks the Dark Eco, essentially upgrading your arsenal and makes you a powerhouse on the track (electric ball now destroys everyone in front of you, you gain additional two rockets, machine guns fire much deadlier ammo, oil slick is now set on fire as you spray it, etc.). It's a great feature that upps the ante and gives you an edge (but it resets back if you're killed on the track).

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Back to the track. The tracks are very unique, some have very narrow pathways with tight twists and corners, while some are very open and wide, and many offer alternate paths and shortcuts. All the weapons, like I've said, are divided into offense and defense, each having their own unique pickup on the track. Alongside that, you also have healing powerups and nitro boost as well. Again, mentioning Mario Kart, it also fills up your nitro boost if you powerslide in corners (however, unlike that game, you control the nitro boost instead of the game firing it automatically, giving you an incentive to master drifting through all the corners. All the tracks are challenging (and sometimes too challenging, looking at you, Sewer Raceway, you bane of my fucking existence). Besides the usual circuit and sprint tracks, the game also features open maps with different mods, like your standard Deathmatch and Team Capture the Flag /but with cars). It also returns the artefact hunt mission from Jak III (where you have to collect all the artefacts and finish the track in a set time), but it changes it by virtue of the first driver who collects 10 artefacts a winner (or whoever collects the most in a time limit), adding a nice change of pace from the race tracks. Additionally, you have two interesting track modes in the game featuring blank, paper-mache vehicles, where the objective is to gather enough points to destroy vehicles, with a multiplier that increases with each lap completed on the track. In one mode, the cars drive in front of you and you have to use your weapons to destroy them, and in the second, more challenging mode, they spawn driving in the opposite direction and directly smash into you (in here, you have three types of these cars; blue and green collect points, while red damages you, making it tricky).

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Another feature I apsolutely have to mention is the soundtrack. Good lord, the soundtrack is apsolutely fantastic! It fetures techno and heavy metal original songs exclusively for the game, and it is apsolutely amazing and very much compliments the quasi-steampunk aesthethics and the fast pace of the game. They really serve great in pumping you up for the race and during it, and personally, it just hyped me up even more during the race. Special mention for these two songs,


and


, two of my favorites and the ones that I LOVED when they played during gameplay).

However, now it's time to remove the rose-tinted glasses, because I have to address some downfalls: While it has a steady difficulty curve, it does have a rather frustrating AI rubberband. It's no NFS: Most Wanted (2005 one) levels of rubberbanding, but it can feel very jarring and downright unfair at times, and spinning out of the track or ending up last almost guarantees a restart, even if you're only 1/3 in the race because it's almost impossible to catch up. Like I said, while the cars perform much better than they did in Jak III, they are still very wobbly, tend to horribly understeer (forcing you to drift in many tight corners), and tend to easily lose control (especially when you have to land from a jump).

Another notable complaint is the currency system: You have a currency system based on the one from the original games, but it is incredibly frustrating with one simple fact: it automatically resets your current money in the bank whenever you finish a new race, simply treating the new race winnings as all your winnings instead of adding them to your total amount of money. This makes upgrades (and buying secrets unlocked through the game) a Sisyphean task to complete. Thankfully, you can also earn money outside of the story mode in casual races, but be prepared to set up some very jarring endurance races if you want to earn that bank.

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From graphical standpoint, it matches up the original trilogy in terms of originality and the beautiful visuals and aesthethics, but still, it hasn't aged very gracefully and in some shots, you can clearly see that it's a 15 year old PS2 game. However, the cars are very original and uniquely designed, the tracks are vibrant, colorful and diverse, the scenery is gorgeous, and the steampunk presentation from the original games is also in this game as well.

Overall, I'm happy to say that this is not only a game I'd recommend to Jak & Daxter fans, but fans of racing genres in general. The sheer destructive, more mature combat racing style than the other spinoffs in the same genre make this much more comparable to Carmageddon and Twisted Metal than it is comparable to Crash Bandicoot: Nitro Kart, or Mario Kart. And yes, I'm happy to say, it has a 4-player mode ON BOTH THE PS2 AND PS4 VERSIONS. Again, many thanks to u/MetalMan1349 for his blessing, thanks to all for reading this, and if you can find a copy, or buy it on the PS4 store, go buy it. It's addictive and fun, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the game!

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