More fun than a barrel of 'splosions
In late 2006, Avalanche Studios gave gamers the opportunity to take control of CIA super-agent Rico Rodriguez as he liberated the tropical island nation of San Esperito, filled with b-movie action and vehicle stunts in Just Cause. He was armed with a grappling hook, parachute, a massive array of vehicles of all types, and the ever-trusted “Stunt Position”. However, Rico’s debut suffered from boring and repetitive side missions, as well as several noticeable and frequent bugs as a result of the game being rushed to market which stopped Just Cause from reaching its full potential.
It is extremely fortunate, then, that Eidos Interactive teamed up with Avalanche Studios to develop Just Cause 2, released on March 23, 2010 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Just Cause 2 takes the formula and basic design of the original and re-imagines it, adding new weapons, vehicles, a better grapple/parachute system, a brand new massive island to explore, more varied side missions, and a lot more to do outside of missions in general. While they easily could have just crammed all of this together carelessly, the whole experience flows well and follows a very natural progression. You’ll never just stand there and wonder what do to next.
The game takes place on the south-east island nation of Panau, which features deserts, dense jungle forests, sprawling cities, and snow-capped mountains; all of which come together very nicely to create a massive game world for you to explore, destroy, and cause pandemonium to your heart’s content. In order to get to these locales, you can jack one of the many and decently distinct vehicles roaming the streets, steal government transport in the form of jeeps and sometimes tanks, or order one of your super spy vehicles to be dropped off close to you via your Black Market dealer. You can also order some of your weapons through this magic man, in case you need some extra firepower.
Progression in Just Cause 2 is governed by Chaos. Chaos is earned by completing missions (and the dozens of side missions), blowing up government property, and also by finding some of the game’s nearly infinite number of collectibles scattered across Panau. You need Chaos to unlock new weapons, new missions, and new vehicles, so you will be actively engaged in sabotage, searching for collectibles, and helping out the locals with a few dangerous tasks for a good portion of your visit. The only downside is that throughout the game, you will be blowing up the same towers, gas tanks, etc over and over again; every settlement and military base is filled with the exact same destructible objects, save for a few specific cases. This probably won’t concern you, however, because blowing @#%$ up is just so darn entertaining.
In fact, going around and sabotaging government installations and partaking in side missions is a lot more interesting than what the main storyline has to offer. It’s really just a half-interesting spy story with heavy nationalist overtones, with few memorable characters. All of that takes place over only 11 missions, which feels pretty short as a main narrative. However, this leaves more time and puts more focus on the explosive fun to be had elsewhere, so it’s forgivable. It’s also worth mentioning that the voice acting isn’t very good, with cheesy dialog and laughable accents, and a general lack of emotion throughout. So with that, as well as the completely over-the-top craziness that governs the gameplay, it begins to strongly resemble a B-list action movie.
As well as housing a gargantuan number of things to do, the island of Panau, and almost everything in JC2, look beautiful. Water reflects sunlight just like you’d expect it to, the snow has a perfect texture to it (you can almost feel it chilling Rico to the bone), explosions are always a treat to see and never get old (you’ll be seeing a lot of them), the forests are super dense and lifelike, and the whole natural world is uber detailed. The city portions, however, look really bland in comparison, and there is lots of repetition in building design. Also, the pre-rendered cutscenes are passable, but are overshadowed by the gorgeous world they take place in. You’ll also encounter the same pedestrian and enemy models more than you’d perhaps expect, but you won’t notice, because you’ll be too busy with your crazy, over-the-top, summer blockbuster shenanigans.
Whether those shenanigans be swinging through the city like spider-man, or crashing a jet plane into a fuel tank, jumping out and parachuting to a government jeep, shooting the government skin-jobs in the face, then driving off triumphantly, you’ll be able to do it with ease thanks to the game’s intuitive and flowing control system. Using the game’s parachute and grappling hook combo takes a bit of getting used to, but after the half hour learning curve, you’ll feel like a professional adrenaline junkie/ CIA bad-ass. All of the vehicle stunts are performed by first getting into stunt position with a press of a button, then choosing which action to perform using the on-screen prompts. It’s a very straight-[forward system, but again, take some getting used-to.
At the end of the day, you’re left with an open-world game that generally looks great, plays well, and offers limitless fun to be had. There are a few problems with the voice-acting, and there’s a lot of repetition with the enemy-types and destructible objects, but you’ll still be flying around and blowing stuff up like there’s no tomorrow, which is what the game does best. There are an infinite number of possibilities in Just Cause 2, and the whole island of Panau is your playground. When everything is taken into consideration, it comes together to create a super crazy open world game that’s highly entertaining. If that sounds appealing to you, you should definitely check out this game.