Jak X: Combat Racing Review

The Jak and Daxter trilogy may have come to a close, but everyone’s favorite odd couple is back in Jak X: Combat Racing. In case you couldn’t tell from the title, Jak X is the first game in the series to break out of the platform genre. Combat racing as developer Naughty Dog sees it is a blend of kart racing, arcade circuits, and Twisted Metal style vehicular carnage. However, they’ve also remained true to the Jak and Daxter legacy by wrapping all of the racing up in a full storyline more akin to a platform game than to your typical racer. The result? Well, let’s see…

Jak scores a kill.
Ok, well not quite yet. First let’s take a look at the story. I can’t really mention a story and then not tell you anything about, can I? Anyway, Jak X takes place shortly after the storyline of the original trilogy. Crime boss Krew (last seen in Jak 2) has invited our heroes to a reading of his will. Soon after partaking in a toast they learn that the wine was poisoned and that they will only be given the antidote if they win the combat racing championship. This championship is not a single race, but an entire series of races divided into four cups and played out on television as entertainment for the violence hungry populace. Think what would happen if the WWF acquired NASCAR and moved the tracks to Iraq and you’ll get a feel for what’s in store for our heroes.

Your vehicles in your racing career are all dune buggy style racers, some sleek and built for speed and others bulked up to absorb more damage. As you make your way through the game you’ll unlock new vehicles and it will be part of the strategy of each race to choose the best vehicle for the job before the race begins. Each vehicle in the game can be upgraded by distributing points earned in races to car attributes such as top speed and acceleration. You also have a lot of control over the look of your car, starting with support for truly custom colors that you can create for your cars using an intuitive color wheel interface. Your between-race garage is home to a bevy of add-ons such as fenders, fins, and rims, and also includes fun accessories such as fuzzy dice for your car’s antenna.

The races themselves are divided into four cups, or race series. As you complete races your performance will earn you points that are used to unlock additional races in the cup until you eventually work your way up to the cup championship. There are a variety of races in the game – ten modes in all – that will have you racing solo, against other drivers, or just battling it out to destroy the competition more times than they can take you out. There’s the familiar kart-style mode in which you race against other drivers on a track filled with boosts and weapons and one that plays like a death match arena. Others are more novel such as Freeze Race in which you must reach the end of the track before time expires, picking up power-ups that freeze the clock along the way. Death Race is just you and a bunch of drones racing around the track with the goal of destroying as many of them as possible before the race ends. These races are run on 24 different tracks set in seven areas/arenas, and you can unlock mirror versions of these races as well. The tracks all include features to make the races more interesting such as alternate routes, jumps, and even hazards designed to take unwary racers out, such as trains which run on tracks right down one of the circuits. When you take all of these factors into account there is a lot of variety in the game, but in reality there will be times when things feel repetitive – no matter how you dress it up you’re always running around a track shooting things.