We recently got our hands on a three-level playable demo of Jak 3, which is currently in development for the PlayStation 2 at Naughty Dog. None of the levels are particularly lengthy, but they're surprisingly varied, and they have given us the opportunity to try out a number of the new weapons, gadgets, and light eco powers that are being added to Jak's arsenal.
The first level included with the demo is one that we've actually seen before. You'll find yourself at the wheel of a dune buggy armed with twin front-mounted machine guns and the ability to jump at the push of a button. Your goal in this mission, which takes place in the expansive Wasteland desert area, will be to pursue and kill four metal head beasts that show up as targets on radar at the bottom of the screen. The beasts are quite large and, although that makes them pretty easy to hit, it also means that they're capable of doing some serious damage to your ride when provoked. Follow a beast too closely and you won't have time to avoid the bombs they drop behind them, attack them from the front and you'll be sent flying across the desert as your buggy is charged and/or trampled. The level took us only a few minutes to beat, but when we took the time to explore the environment we discovered a makeshift race circuit, a large torch-lit town, statues that we could talk to for additional missions, and some kind of challenge course with several broken bridges to jump across. The handling of the buggy, by the way, felt quite realistic, and it was just as much fun to drive as those in most off-road racers.
The second level, which is by far the lengthiest included with the demo, is more conventional and will require you to explore a large eco mine in which you'll encounter several different types of enemies. Fortunately, the demo version of the level saw us starting out with access to three different weapons--two of which had been upgraded to incorporate alternate modes of fire. Although the eco mine was pretty big, our exploration of it turned out to be a strictly linear affair, and getting from one area to the next invariably required us to kill a bunch of enemies, cross narrow footbridges, jump between platforms, and to punch rodentlike enemies into wheels so that their attempts to escape would spin the wheels and power moving platforms that we could use to reach previously inaccessible areas. The eco mine also featured a couple of the vents that charge up Jak's light eco powers, and as we progressed through the level we were able to use them to restore Jak's health and to "flash freeze" the level momentarily--slowing everything in the level down except for Jak. The weapons at our disposal--which will auto-aim once you point them in the general direction of a target--included: a single-shot rifle with an upgrade that allowed our shots to ricochet off walls; a short-range gun that could hit multiple enemies simultaneously and came with an upgrade that, once charged up, was effectively a smart bomb; and a minigun that got quicker according to how long we squeezed the trigger. Ammunition for all three of the weapons was in quite plentiful supply, but we were definitely switching between them because we could rather than because we needed to.
The third and final level included in the demo, which will appear at the end of the eco mine area, required us to escort a bomb train along a track so that it could blow up a door that was in our way. The track, of course, had a number of gaps in it, but by shooting a number of switches scattered throughout the level, we were able to fill those in so that the train could pass safely. The trickiest thing about the level, aside from locating the switches in the first place, was getting into positions from which we could shoot them--enemies were attacking from all sides, moving platforms had to be negotiated, and we had to jump onto Jak's hoverboard to grind on narrow pipes across chasms in a couple of places. Riding the hoverboard was every bit as easy as moving around on foot, and at no point will you have to worry about falling off of it or maintaining Jak's balance during grinds--the hardest thing, actually, was resisting the temptation to try to ride the board throughout the entire level.
Jak 3 is currently scheduled for release on November 9. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.