The Chaos of Conformity
Many open-world games on the market try to provide players with a more serious and meaningful experience, whether it be through story or more ‘realistic’ gameplay mechanics, while keeping some semblance of a sandbox style game and the freedoms they provide. And while retaining the open-world toybox that makes this genre unique, Just Cause 2 scraps the grit and realism of modern open-world titles to focus more on the player’s creativity.
The game’s cast of characters are fairly memorable, if only for their over-exaggerated speech and near cringe-worthy quips. At times, these individuals feel more like a parody to other open-world games and their quests for more serious and significant narratives. In this case, the game succeeds. Just Cause 2’s story is comical at best, with bad voice-acting and cheesy dialogue accompanying a very slim plotline. In it, you play Rico Rodriguez, a CIA agent sent to the island nation of Panau to find your mentor, Tom Sheldon. The agency thinks he may have gone rogue and you must scour the landscape to recover him. But that’s not all you’ll have to contend with in this paradise. Rival factions on the island are attempting to unseat the country’s new ruler, Baby Panay, who seized power from the island’s former U.S.-backed President.
To progress through the story, you need to cause as much ‘Chaos’ as possible. Chaos can be earned in several ways. Completing faction and agency missions or liberating civilian populations and military installations will net you large amounts of Chaos, but destroying anything bearing the Star of Panau will help you move forward.
Most of the game’s missions are very cut-and-paste, with some heavy action sequences sprinkled in. Agency missions are the main storyline, with Rico trying to find his lost mentor and wreaking as much havoc to the local government as he can. Stronghold missions require you to take over a government installation so the faction you are working for can extend their influence in that area. These strongholds double as spawning points when you die, so it’s really in your best interest to complete them. Once that faction has gained enough influence, Faction Missions become available to you. These missions serve more as the game’s side-quests and don’t actually have to be completed to finish the game (unless you’re a completionist).
In fact, the most fun can be had in Just Cause 2 when you ignore the scripted missions and take matters into you own hands. Like other open-world games of its kind, Just Cause 2 gives players an enormous world to explore, and the relative freedom to do so. This relative freedom is given to you through a wide variety of vehicles either found in the world or through the game’s Black Market. A decent assortment of vehicles, and weapons, can be found on the Black Market, all of which are unlocked in the same fashion as the game’s missions (by amounting enough ‘Chaos’). These items can be upgraded by spending points earned when collecting crates scattered around the many islands of Panau. Upgrade crates are made easier to find thanks to a helpful item locator, but they’re not always placed in the most accessible areas.
Other than the usual cars, boats, planes, and machine guns, Rico is also equipped with an indispensable parachute and grappling hook that when combined can be used as a parasail to make a quick getaway or even traverse long distances. You can also use the hook to tether two objects to each other, allowing you to perhaps attach a car to a helicopter and use the vehicle as a wreaking ball (try it, it’s pretty fun). The hook can be attached to humans as well, letting you for instance, tether a person to a tank of highly flammable gas, allowing you to then shoot the tank and watch him or her fly away on your makeshift rocket (try this too, it’s really fun).
If you look past the poor dialogue and story, Just Cause 2 is a really enjoyable game to mess around with. The grand scale of Panau and the freedom the game grants you is really its’ redeeming quality. Having such a large playground at your disposal isn’t done often in a time where games are judged more on their narrative faults than the general satisfaction of play. And to that end, Just Cause 2 is a success.