gruntsavage's Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360) review

Just Cause 2 Review

Just cause 2 is an open world game that delivers on what it promised: parachutes, grappling hooks and lots of flambuoyant, silly, and over-the-top action. The game plays to it's strengths, and seldom will you feel forced into something you don't want to do.

In Just Cause 2 you play as CIA agent Rico Rodriguez, (aka the Scorpion) as he drives, flies, skydives, parachutes and grapples around a small, fictional South Asian island country called Panau. Throughout the game, Rico is working for three rival factions: the Roaches, a mafia-like gang who wear expensive italian suits while doing their dirty work, the Reapers, who take after Che Guevara in their People's Revolution, and the Ular Boys, a tribalistic lot who want to see Panau returned to its noble native roots. The three factions all have a common goal -- the downfall of the current regime. All this political strife paints a perfect backdrop for what the game is really about: parachuting, grappling, and blowing stuff up in crazy, unbelievable ways. 

The gunplay in Just Cause 2 feels good. You'll get a pretty standard arsenal of weapons including an assault rifle, submachine guns, rocket launchers, c-4, handguns and more. The weapons feel impactful and responsive; the standard enemies also never seem like they're just soaking up bullets. That being said, you'll be able to get through the game using slightly upgraded versions the same weapons you get in the first hour or so with not a lot of gunplay-related difficulty. Rico has a contact in the black market who you can call in at virtually any time and will sell and upgrade guns and vehicles, or extract you to any previously discovered location. Running low on ammunition? Call in some more guns. Need to get somewhere quick? Have your contact fly you there. Or better yet, order a private jet. 

 The real treat, though, is the grappling hook. It's permanently mapped to the left bumper, or L1, depending on what system you're playing on, and it is easily the most versatile tool in Rico's arsenal. You can use it to grapple onto any surface, pull enemies off of walls or out from behind mounted guns, and thanks to it's tether funcionality, you can hang enemies off of walls, attach them to exploding barrels, moving vehicles, and countless other things. Or,  by shooting it at the ground or buildings, you can use it to gain momentum when you're parachuting. 

 Believe me, you'll be using your parachute a lot. When combined with the grappling hook, the parachute provides a reliable way to get around fairly quickly. And Rico needs to get around. Panau is a huge (roughly 32 square kilometers) playground that ranges implausibly from arid savannahs to lush forests, from snowy mountain ranges to wet marshes. The islands are populated by hundreds of settlements that range from tiny fishing villages to military complexes to the ultra-modern capital city, and are jam-packed with collectibles. Not only are there the settlements to discover, there are countless weapon parts, vehicle parts, and armor parts that can be used to upgrade your equipment. The environments look really nice; it's pretty breathtaking to stand on top of a mountain and see the whole country panning out in front of you. 

 Throughout the game's 12-15 hours you'll be doing missions for the three factions and taking on the occasional Agency mission that furthers the storyline. The missions are mostly one of two types: either you drive an NPC to a drop-off point while being chased by the military, or you'll go to a military complex and cause some chaos. The driving missions tend to be frustrating, rather than fun, as you're always going to be assaulted by the military, and almost all the vehicles aren't quite fast enough to shake off your pursuers. There are some missions that really stand out, though. Destroying a massive radio dish lifted straight out of James Bond: Goldeneye, and jumping into a fighter jet and shooting a satellite-bearing rocket out of the sky stand out as some great moments. Also, the last setpiece is super rad. 


In order to expand the three gangs' territory, further the storyline, and unlock missions, weapons and vehicles, you'll need to cause Chaos. Similar to Red Faction: Guerilla, throughout Panau you'll find government buildings and installations to destroy. Blowing up military constructs causes chaos and further destabilizes the already fragile government infrastructure. The game's chaos system also gives you a reason to get sidetracked. It's much more fun to explore and destroy stuff when you know that almost everything you're doing is furthering your end goal. That being said, once you beat the game and complete all 50 or so missions, there's not a lot of incentive to go back into the game and explore.

 Just Cause 2 isn't all great. It suffers from the typical open world flaws such as repetitive dialog and missions, some glitches (the first time I put the disc in, all the NPC's were invisible), and poor pacing. The game starts off on an action-packed mission, but gets repetitive quickly, and it wasn't until the latter half of the game that the missions got interesting again. There are only a handful of characters, and they're each kind of dumb or unlikeable in their own way. There's a female character who constantly alludes not-so-subtly to sex, a rich, fat mob boss who talks in metaphors for gross illnesses, and a stereotypically stupid, southern, overly-patriotic American who loves his food and hates commies. Rico himself is supposed to be a suave ladies' man, but he really only comes off as kind of a jerk. Add some poor voice-acting to the mix and you get a story and characters that you really don't care about. Thankfully, you don't have to. 

 Just Cause 2 is a game that knows what it's about and does a good job of sticking to it. Its story, characters, and setting are all just a vehicle with which to let you run, drive, and fly around causing as much chaos as possible. Its poor pacing and unlikeable characters keep it from being truly stellar, but I'm hard pressed to think of another game where I could tether a stone head onto a helicopter and use it as a wrecking ball to destroy government installations. If you're at all interested in open-world games or air-jacking a passing plane, definitely check this game out.

I finished the game with 490/1000 gamerscore   

3 Comments
Posted by padrino

Good review. I pretty much agree with your take on the game. Mostly positive and the basics of parachuting around the island and blowing stuff up is simply fun for many hours. 
 
Enemy AI is pretty basic (they often just stand still) but this game is less about strategic gunplay and more about over the top action.  And I suppose it can get repetative but I find I just enjoy getting around much more than in JC1 due to the much improved grapple/shoot mechanic.
 
Also, the variety in vehicles including boats, helicopters, small engine planes, and jets is impressive and adds to the fun. 
 
This game (much like Red Faction) just nails the formula of over the top action.

Posted by brooksee

Great review, GruntSavage. I'm really looking forward to playing this game. I did have a concern while playing the demo, though. It seems like combat situations can easily result in a gigantic clusterfuck. Are most overwhelming combat situations avoidable by way of the grapple/parachute? Or is this a better game to, say, play on casual/easy mode to avoid waves and waves of enemies?

Posted by GruntSavage

Thanks for the feedback, guys.  
Brooksee, to answer your question, it's true. There will be situations where you're being shot at from all angles, and there won't be a lot of cover. But yeah, there's always the option to get the hell out of dodge if things are too hot and heavy, thanks to the grapple-chute. 
I played it on normal, and I didn't really have much difficulty with the firefights, unfair as they were. But it might be a good idea to play it on easy, just to circumvent some of the frustrating deaths that I had to deal with.

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