Jak X: Combat Racing E3 2005 Hands-On

We take a spin around the track in the newest Jak game.

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7.5 million gamers can't be wrong! The Jak series is definitely popular enough that while the series sorta, kinda ended with last year's Jak 3, Naughty Dog is wisely cranking away on a side game that will throw Jak, Daxter, and all your other favorite characters into a bunch of brutal races for fun and profit. Well, and also their lives... Jak X: Combat Racing finds the pair having accidentally imbibed a secret poison, and the only way to secure the antidote is to become champions of an underground racing circuit. (Don't ask.) It's a good excuse for what looks like it will be a great offbeat racing game with a lot of depth and content.

The racing in Jak X ought to be familiar to anyone who's played Jak 3, since the driving is quite similar to what we saw in that game. It's really bouncy and focused on powersliding, in other words. And now you'll be able to pick up eco power-ups that grant offensive and defensive powers, turbo boosts, and health in every race. The game will ship with 24 circuit-style tracks and eight open arenas, and there will be a number of different game types that can be used on each, making for a ton of gameplay options overall. The tracks will be set throughout all the Jak games, from Haven City to the desert wastelands, and everything in between.

You'll find plenty of familiar faces in the game, aside from Jak and Daxter, like Sig, Kiera, Ashelin, and plenty of others. Each will have his or her own driving properties, and combined with the many different available vehicles, there will be lots of different driving styles to choose from. You can also tweak out your car to the nines by slapping on all kinds of different spoilers, side panels, and other stuff that will alter both the cosmetic and handling properties of the vehicle. You even get full RGB color control over the body and stripes of your car, giving you just about limitless customization potential.

Jak X will ship with some serious multiplayer capabilities, too. You can do two-player split-screen with all the tracks and game types, and the online mode will accommodate up to six players (which is as many as you'll find in any race, period). Online, you can race in limited mode, which has all players racing with vehicles of the same power, while the unlimited mode lets you drive your tweaked-out car from the single-player so you can dominate all those scrubs who haven't put in as many hours as you, you shut-in. You'll even get first-person-shooter-oriented modes, like capture the flag, in the online, which makes us curious to see how well that works out in a racing game.

We went through a number of races in the E3 demo of Jak X. Some of them had us just driving around the track while trying to beat the other racers to the finish. Others tasked us with killing as many artificially intelligent drone cars as we could in a limited time. With all this variety, coupled with PSP connectivity with the upcoming Daxter that will unlock new cars and drivers, we're looking at a whole lot of stuff to do here. The gameplay feels solid already. And with another six months or so to go before release, we're expecting Jak X to be one entertaining, quirky racer indeed. Stay tuned for more soon.

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