natetodamax's Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360) review

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You Are The Scorpio, No?

Just Cause 2 is one of those games that you can spend an hour playing doing nothing but retarded things like base jumping off a building and jacking a helicopter in mid air. If that's not crazy enough, try blowing up a satellite as it launches into space. Blow up some military bases in your spare time. If you're really bored, attach a civilian to a commercial jet and fly off. Just Cause 2 excels not because it tells a great story, but rather it's a stunning destructive playground where almost anything is possible.

 Just Cause 2 in a nutshell
 Just Cause 2 in a nutshell
If you come to Just Cause 2 to experience the story, you have the wrong idea about the game. But for those wondering, you are put into the shoes of Rico Rodriguez once again and are sent to the island of Panau to overthrow a dictator abusing his power. While you're there you'll get to know the three main factions on Panau and will complete missions for them and help them take over strongholds (which basically become safe zones for you). It's a shame that variety only exists in the main story missions (and it's even more unfortunate that there are only 7 or 8 story missions), so every time you do a faction mission or a stronghold takeover you'll know what to expect (but to be fair the faction missions can get pretty interesting on occasions). The only good thing I can say about the story is that the dialog is borderline atrocious. The reason I say this is a good thing is because even though the game seems like it was written by a 12 year old, the accents all the voice actors use are sure to make you laugh. I seriously can't decide if is the voice acting is the worst I've ever heard of the best I've ever heard. But no matter which way you slice it, it's special in it's own good and bad way.

Rico's most important tool is his grappling hook, which you've no doubt seen or heard about. The grappling hook provides an almost endless amount of opportunities to do some really insane things. Besides being able to grapple to any vehicle you find to steal it and using the hook to zip yourself wherever you point it, you can also grapple enemies and even tether two things together. By doing the latter, you can attach enemies to vehicles and drag them across the ground, or pull your favorite car out of a ditch. For even more fun, you can attach two vehicles together, hop in one of them, and drive off a cliff. You also use this ability to topple statues of Baby Panay that you find around the island. The grappling hook also plays a role in what will probably be your primary form of traversing the island. By activating your parachute (which is unlimited), you can then grapple the ground to create lift and zip yourself forward. By doing it's possible to float around in the parachute forever instead of slowing floating to the ground.

 I'll take that
 I'll take that
Just Cause 2 is all about blowing things up, so it's fitting that you need to cause Chaos in order to get new missions. It's a very clever mechanic that works really well: by destroying government property (anything marked with the Panauan star) you generate Chaos which then fills up four bars (Agency Mission, Faction Mission, Stronghold Takeover, and Black Market Item). When the bar is filled, you will unlock whatever the bar is for. There are also races you can do around Panau Island, but I never really felt compelled to participate because there's always a chance to do something much more explosive and entertaining. 
If you need ammo or a ride, you can call in a black market dealer who will drop whatever you need (after a fee, of course). You can use weapon parts and vehicle parts (which are considered collectables that you'll find all around the island) to upgrade your stuff too. The weapons themselves are very basic and there's nothing that you haven't seen before, but the shooting feels pretty good. The driving is a mixed bag. I noticed that the faster the car is, the easier it is to lose control. I once found a car in Panau city that probably went 0-60 in 2 seconds, but as soon as I started going remotely fast I spun out every time. Oh, and you'll eventually gain the ability to fast travel using the black market dealer.

 Enjoying a sunset on Panau...or should I say over Panau
 Enjoying a sunset on Panau...or should I say over Panau
Visually, Just Cause 2 is great looking in terms of scale, but up close the character models can look pretty generic. Explosions both look and sound great, and you'll be amazed at how spectacular the draw distance is. This is one of those few games where you can stand in the middle of the desert, stare way out at some snow capped mountains, and be able to say "Hey, I was just there". Panau itself is absolutely massive: I once stood on one end and put a marker on the opposite end. The distance was 22 kilometers, which translates to 13 miles. That's crazy.

I'll end this review with a recent experience I had during the game: I attached a small personal jet to a large truck and started driving down a hill towards the edge of a cliff. When I went over, something amazing happened. Because I was going so fast, the jet attached to my truck started to take off slightly, and as my vehicle flew towards the ground it began to get pulled forward by the aircraft as it tried to escape. The jet failed, however, and when my truck hit the ground it shot back up into the air, spun around probably 50 times, landed in a river, and exploded. Just Cause 2 is a game where the craziest things can happen with just a few button presses. It's an extremely unrealistic game that defies pretty much every law of physics, but the end result is something really special that shouldn't be missed by anyone.    

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