Giant Bomb Review


Just Cause 2 Review

  • X360

Just Cause 2 refines and expands on everything that made the first so charming, delivering a joyous blend of B-movie goofiness and physics-defying open-world shenanigans.

 Welcome to Panau. Have fun blowing it up!
Just Cause 2 makes a great argument in favor of iterative video game sequels. Armed with the mistakes learned from the first go-around and superior technology, Avalanche Studios has delivered a sublimely ridiculous open-world action game that values cheap visceral thrills over reality at nearly every possible turn. It's often more fun to just muck around in this expansive, explosive sandbox with all these wonderfully destructive toys than it is to adhere to the proper mission structure, but it's hard to complain when you're hurtling through the air, blowing up everything you see.

In proper sequel fashion, Just Cause 2 happily rehashes the setup from the first game, though the action is moved from a fictionalized corrupt island nation in the Caribbean to a fictionalized corrupt island nation in the South Pacific, again putting you in the role of swarthy Latin caricature and superhuman CIA agent Rico Rodriguez. You're initially sent there to hunt down an old comrade-in-arms who seems to have gone all Colonel Kurtz, but you quickly find yourself in league with multiple rebel factions intent on taking down the militaristic regime that's currently in power. Everything, of course, is not as it seems, though the twists and turns aren't themselves as interesting as some of the set pieces they help justify, including a grand finale that outdoes the climax of the original Just Cause on an atomic level. It's pure B-movie fodder, right down to the wide variety of broad stereotypes and consistently terrible accents most of the characters are saddled with. But then again, if you're coming to Just Cause 2 for the story, you're kind of missing the point.

 Nope, nothing crazy to see here. Move along!
What fundamentally set the first Just Cause apart from the sea of middling open-world action games was the unique toolset it provided the player. You had a grappling hook that you could use to hitch a ride on any vehicle that made the mistake of getting close enough, along with a miraculous stunt parachute that offered a quick escape from whatever fiery death you were about to plummet to. You could use the two in tandem, but only being able to grapple onto vehicles limited the freestyle fun you could have. In Just Cause 2, the stunt parachute works basically the same way, magically appearing and disappearing as needed, but the grappling hook now works on any surface that's close enough, effectively turning it into a skeleton key for fun. You can still use it to easily hijack whatever car, boat, helicopter, or plane you can get within grappling distance of, but you can now also use it to yank enemies off high emplacements and work your way up tall buildings.

One of the more important new tricks in Just Cause 2 involves using the grappling hook on the ground in front of you and deploying the stunt parachute while you're in motion, providing you with immediate lift and forward momentum. Once you're up in the air, you can basically just slingshot your way through the air, provided you stay low enough to the ground to still grapple it. It's a great way to get out of a sticky situation when you're low on health, or when you just need to cover a little ground in a hurry. While the vehicle handling is much more agreeable than it was in the original Just Cause, and most vehicles still feature the "stunt positions" originated in the first game, the new grapple-parachute dynamics provide so much more mobility that, other than when required by missions, I rarely found myself compelled to stand on top of cars. This is the power of the sequel: what was one of the most satisfying and memorable features of the first game is a second-stringer in Part Two.

 A helicopter gets the punishment it oh-so-richly deserves.
Oh, but that's not all! By holding down the grapple button, you can also tether any two objects together, which is intermittently useful in a tactical sense, but almost always hilarious. The world is littered with volatile propane tanks that, when shot, will unpredictably rocket off in whatever direction they're facing--tether an enemy soldier to one of these tanks before igniting it, and they're both likely to become the stratosphere's problem. I also found that, when being pursued by enemy cars and trucks, the most effective way to get them off your tail is to quickly tether them to the side of the road, violently redirecting their forward momentum and causing them to go hurtling through the air.

But here's my favorite example of just how ridiculous the grappling hook is in Just Cause 2, and a bold indictment of the most basic laws of physics. When you fall a certain distance, you automatically move into a free-fall position that slows your fall and provides more horizontal mobility. You can fall several stories without taking any damage, but if you hit the ground in the free-fall position, you're done. It used to be that the parachute, or a conveniently placed vehicle, were the only ways to safely transition out of a free fall. Now, once you're close enough, you can just grapple the ground beneath you--which actually makes you move faster than when you're in free fall--and land without a scratch.

 Man, the meter maids in Panau are friggin' ruthless.
These are merely a few examples of the absurd applications you will find for the grappling hook, and the sheer volume of ridiculous YouTube videos that started cropping up when the demo for Just Cause 2 was released is very telling of this fact. As an open-world game, Just Cause 2 isn't free of its fair share of awkward physical interactions, but it sets such a wide gate for what kinds of behavior are acceptable that its hard to hold any of that weirdness against it. Still, the uniqueness of your skill set can take some getting used to, and pressing the wrong button at the wrong time can often prove calamitous.

So what's the point of all these silly-ass action fantasy moves? To facilitate blowing up of as much stuff as possible. The weapons you'll brandish are fairly conventional, including submachine guns, assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, triggered explosives, and so on. The aiming can be incredibly forgiving, which proves to be a bit of a necessity when you're trying to shoot a sniper out of a helicopter while you're clinging to the front bumper of a speeding jeep.

If you find yourself short on ammo, holding the wrong type of weapon, or simply stranded from your desired destination, you can call on a friendly black-market dealer who will airdrop guns and vehicles, or just take you where you want to go, provided you've already discovered the place you're trying to go to. It's through this dealer that you can also upgrade the weapons and vehicles you have access to, using supplies found in the world and earned through missions. Rather than providing a completely destructible environment--ala Mercs 2 or Red Faction: Guerrilla--Just Cause 2 limits the stuff you can blow up to vehicles, various explosive canisters, and specific military structures, and it smartly color-codes most destructible objects, making it easy to quickly identify any potential targets.

 I've run out of clever captions, so please just enjoy this wicked explosion.
Missions will be provided by your CIA handlers, as well as the leaders of the various factions, but any kind of destructive mischief you get up to, in-mission or not, will earn you chaos points, the underlying currency of progress in Just Cause 2. It's by earning chaos that you unlock new agency missions, new faction missions, new black-market gear, and peripheral activities like time-trial races. It's a savagely simple system that speaks directly to the whole mission statement of Just Cause 2: the simple joy of blowing stuff up begets more opportunities to blow stuff up. Part of what makes blowing stuff up so much fun in Just Cause 2 is how terrific the explosions look and sound. Characters don't look so great up-close, and I found the smudgy skybox occasionally distracting, but this is a big, detailed world with all sorts of bizarre nooks and crannies to discover, and then blow up.

It's a good thing that blowing stuff up is so much fun, because the structure of missions themselves can get kind of repetitive, and I often felt like I was performing the same types of tasks for the three factions over and over again. What it lacks in variety, though, it makes up for with volume. I had sunk a good 20 hours into Just Cause 2 when the credits started to roll, though I had completed a mere 28% of the game, a number that I'm still eager to increase.

Not to sound too harsh, but there's nothing all that original about Just Cause 2--this is, in the purest sense, iterative game design. Many of its best ideas feel lifted from other games, including Mercenaries 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Bionic Commando, The Force Unleashed, Pursuit Force, among others. What makes Just Cause 2 special is the way those parts are assembled for both the minimum amount of reality, and the maximum amount of fun, the law will allow.
48 Comments Refresh
Posted by Robiin

Yay, finally!

Posted by Yobalt

This game seems pretty good! Maybe I should give it a try.

Posted by griefersstolemykeyboard

Was for some reason expecting a 5 after all the good things Ryan and Brad has said about this game, but I guess it isnt really 5 star material.

Posted by Slim

Makes me want to try the original too, though it is apparently way more messed up

Posted by dbz1995

This game is simply too crazy for 5 stars.

Posted by warpedzappa

Great review. 
I can see myself not even following the lackluster story in this game and just causing havoc and pushing the open world to it's limits until I get bored.

Posted by Kohe321

Awesome review

Posted by takua108
@warpedzappa said:
" Great review.  I can see myself not even following the lackluster story in this game and just causing havoc and pushing the open world to it's limits until I get bored. "
This is literally all I've been doing so far; I haven't even progressed the story missions after the very first one, I've just been running around the world, completing these towns and military bases. It's a great game to play while listening to podcasts :D
Posted by granderojo

I would just like to stop in to tell ryan, I appreciate you knocking out reviews like these. You have been ontop of your shit.

Posted by McDunkin

I loved how he described the grappling hook as a skeleton key for fun.  Spot on!

Posted by EricWinholt

Good review. "Skeleton key for fun" is one of the better ways anything has ever been described.

Posted by Swaboo


Posted by Jacob816

I just wish the shooting was better :/

Posted by SquirrelGOD

This is probably the perfect score, because that look on cartoon Ryan's face is generally how I look every few moments while playing.

Posted by NoDeath
@takua108 said:

" @warpedzappa said:

" Great review.  I can see myself not even following the lackluster story in this game and just causing havoc and pushing the open world to it's limits until I get bored. "

This is literally all I've been doing so far; I haven't even progressed the story missions after the very first one, I've just been running around the world, completing these towns and military bases. It's a great game to play while listening to podcasts :D "
I agree completely with this sentiment.
Also, I'm just itching to do this
Posted by Brackynews

Definitely keeping this on my shopping list, but man, I'm only 15% into Red Faction.
Get your ass to Panau just ain't the same.

Posted by TheHT

All I did in the first one was play a few missions, then download a trainer and blow the shit outta everything while occassionally jacking a choppa, flying as high as I could, and just jumping out sometimes trying to get back on the choppa. Then I uninstalled it. :\
Still, it was freaking awesome!

Posted by buckybit

                                                       this one's my favorite. I like math AND it also reminds the players of the HARD SURFACE 

Posted by Lambert

There is a story? 

Posted by Xealot42

I'm a few hours into the PC version and having a blast so far.  I need to finish up DAO Awakening and spend some more quality time with JC2.

Posted by JellyFish_Gsus

Awesome the top 2 images where uploaded by me :) Also good review.

Posted by darkjester74

Nice review Ryan, thanks!
I have a question for those of you that have played it, I downloaded the demo on XBL, I feel like I could really like this game, except for one detail:  seemingly endless respawning of bad guys.  I would go into a settlement start blowing stuff up, and an endless stream of bad guys would keep showing up.  I think I spent a good 15 minutes on the first gas station I ran into and the bad guys never stopped spawning.
So my question is simply: is that the how the retail game is?  Because if so, it seems like it would be a deal breaker for me, which is a shame because this seems like the kind of game I could really get into.

Posted by Ghostiet
@Swaboo said:
" known as the REAPAAAAAAAAAHS.
Posted by piderman
@darkjester74 said:
 is that the how the retail game is? 
Well, it's basically like GTA. You start blowing stuff up, you get 'heat' which are the stars in GTA. Blow up more/kill the military, you get more heat and more baddies spawn. If you escape and lay low for a while, they disappear.
Posted by Daryl

I'll get this soon as the plain boring Mars landscape of Red Faction is depressing me at th emoment. 

Posted by RedSox8933

One of my main gripes with the game is how repetitive the stronghold takeover missions are. I just sort of wish they put more variety into those missions like they did to the others.

Posted by KinjiroSSD
@NoDeath said:

" @takua108 said:

" @warpedzappa said:

" Great review.  I can see myself not even following the lackluster story in this game and just causing havoc and pushing the open world to it's limits until I get bored. "

This is literally all I've been doing so far; I haven't even progressed the story missions after the very first one, I've just been running around the world, completing these towns and military bases. It's a great game to play while listening to podcasts :D "
I agree completely with this sentiment.
Also, I'm just itching to do this
Dude!  What? Mind blown!
Posted by Willy105

I don't care what you guys say, this is much better than any GTA.

Posted by virtorio

Holy fucking sold

Posted by FellOpenIan

 Finally someone who understands that the aiming needs to be forgiving and squishy when you are trying to shoot a dude in a speeding vehicle while perched on top of a jet.

Posted by MrAriscottle

Good review. I agree entirely, although, I have yet to finish it.

Posted by Trilogy

Excellent review. Can't wait to pick it up myself.

Posted by animateria

Sounds like this should have been what Capcom should have done with Bionic Commando. 
Hell, just tape the name Bionic Commando on the cover and done!
Anyways, I think this game sounds like a blast to play.

Posted by s7evn

I'm definitely going to have to pick it up this summer. Some of the stuff you can do looks hilarious.

Posted by StingingVelvet

For those worried the PC version is all good, it runs and looks amazing and has good controls.
I agree with the 4 out of 5, in fact that is what I gave it on amazon.  Just a lot of big stupid fun, but lacking the quality missions and such of a 5.

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

Picking this up soon.

Posted by get2sammyb
@Swaboo: That was amazing! :)
Posted by dylanderoo
@Ghostiet said:
" @Swaboo said:
" known as the REAPAAAAAAAAAHS. "
you are the scorpio, nooooo?
Posted by Hitchenson

I'll pick this up sometime soon me thinks.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

Goddammit, that's not all!
Because if one of those things gets down here then that will be all! Then all this - this bullshit that you think is so important, you can just kiss all that goodbye.

Posted by radioactivez0r

This is the sort of thing I don't get about reviews - why are they all relative?  If you buy JC2, you do it because you aren't concerned about story, characterization, or dialogue.  You want to pull of insane stunts and blow stuff up.  On that level, the game seems to pass with flying colors, so why isn't it a 5 star game when taken on its merits? 

Posted by galerian

Panau.... That is some sort of skin disease right?

Posted by Quipido
@radioactivez0r:  In my opinion its just beacause even if these things (story etc.) dont really matter, if developers made them better, it would make the game better as a package. Imagine if they used the engine and all and then make awesome intense story on top of that, hire good voice actors so the story would be delivered properly... it would just make so much better game. That would be 5 stars game. 
Edited by Killaman996

This game is so much fun!!! IF you come into this playing it like any other open world game then you will not have fun with this. When you think of crazy stuff to do which will most likely be possible to do in the game thats what makes it fun. The story is crap but that is made up by the sheer massiveness of the game, as well as all the crazy stunts that you can do. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys open world games and is looking for something a little different.

Posted by wanderingpixel

I just couldn't get into it. I thought the whole premise was boring.

Posted by LXM

I just wish I hadn't spent 10 hours playing the demo before this was released. I've still put about 17 hours into the retail game but the repetition really starts to wear on you after a while. The world itself is amazing, one of the best open worlds I've seen to date. I just wish the missions were more interesting and the shooting mechanics a little tighter. I'm not done with the game, but I don't know if I'll ever make it through the full campaign. 
Also, driving a pickup truck off a mountain and just watching it bounce down the cliffs for a minute straight is awesome

Posted by endlesspunishm3nt

All the comments i've read so far are all correct Just Cause 2 is one of the many games where there is so much to do,so much to explore and more importantly BLOW UP some might think its crazy wanting a game like that where the fun is with explosions and and doing crazy stuff like jumping off a building,jacking a plane or chopper right in the middle of the air,landing on a car or just shootin' someone,s head off from the air and land on whatever vehicle they are driving  
and in short its CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!
AND FUNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Posted by fix8ed

This was just fun from start to finish!!!! Loved playing it. No real complaints.