Just Cause 2 is the video-game equivalent of a trip to Amsterdam in July; crazy, explosive, wild and memorable. It’s a third-person action-adventure shooter set in a crazy Southeast Asian world that’s bustling with life and action. It evolves on the decent experience its predecessor offered, going out on a limb to offer a purposely-unrealistic familiarity that we’ve all come to love about open-world sandbox games. Avalanche Software made many a promise during development and thankfully, they’ve kept many of them. Just Cause 2 is a blast, a game that will stay with you for a while, even with its minor issues.
While Just Cause 2 is not without its problems, it’s a very fun game. It’s essentially one crazy stunt after another, as you guide our hero in Rico Rodriguez throughout the lush and beautiful landscape of Panau. It’s a highly pleasurable experience, one that will satisfy your cravings in the most outrageous of ways. Just Cause 2 never wants to be a realistic experience, as it relies on magnificent action fused together with free-flowing stunts with the sole intention of blowing your mind. Get the Adobe Flash Player to see this video.
The game follows Rico Rodriguez, a field agent for a secret agency called The Agency. His mission is to find and rescue close friend Tom Sheldon, who is either missing, dead or gone rogue in Panau. In order to find the answers he seeks, Rico must cause as much damage as possible while assisting the three criminal factions of the island in order to cause chaos and overthrow the evil dictator that corrupts the city’s livelihood. The story quite obviously takes a backseat to the action, and its clear B-grade direction and cheesy one-liners fitted together with the chaos-inflicting main goal of the experience, give Just Cause 2’s story that “so bad it’s good” feeling. This isn’t a game that strives to be remembered for its class or complex story arch’s, but rather its reliance on explosive action. Think “Once Upon A Time In Mexico” meets “Shoot Em’ Up”.
You’re initially guided through the world and told where to go before the world is open for you, and the three separate criminal factions that you help out, while each giving off a sense of repetitiveness, offer enough challenge and explosiveness to keep you coming back for more. The gameplay does a great job of blinding us from the game’s undeniable repetitive nature, something that Crackdown also did very well.
There are a few memorable gameplay mechanics that work really well and have been implemented perfectly into the experience. Firstly, the grappling hook is a wonderful tool that can be used at any time, including during combat at the most outrageous of locations. The hook can latch onto almost anything in the world, and you can use it to latch onto moving cars, pull enemies towards you or even pull down explosive barrels onto attacking enemies. It’s not a tool you’ll have to rely on in order to be successful in missions, but it actually makes things a lot easier. For example, you can be trying to take down a sniper who has taken refuge on top of a tower. You need only latch onto the top of the tower and pull yourself up to the enemy to take him down. The number of different things you can actually do with the hook is quite astonishing, and it is a perfect example of how crazy and unrealistic the gameplay can be while still maintaining that strong level of enjoyment.
Secondly, the parachute acts as a fantastic form of transportation, especially considering how large the world is. You can combine both the parachute and hook together to move from one location to another, and gliding from one cliff to another while using the hook to grapple onto trees and buildings makes for a hasty and effective mode of transportation. You can open the parachute either in the middle of a grapple or while free falling, so the freedom is there to experience as much as you like. The syncing of both into the gameplay is great and a lot of fun. You’ll have an absolute blast moving from one location to another, and their inclusions really reduce any sense of respectability you have when on the ground.
And yet, even if you take those two great aspects out, you still have a very solid and enjoyable offering waiting for you. There’s a large amount of weapons at your disposable, including the standards machine guns, shotguns and rocket launchers, as well as over 100 vehicles, including planes and helicopters. You can call in for new weapons and vehicles, thanks to a wonderfully implemented black-market system. As you progress and level up, more becomes available to you. You can upgrade weapons at will, and whenever you’re low on ammo, you need only call in for air support to get a refill (pending you have enough cash, of course).
The mission structure allows for you to play the game in any order you wish, with criminal factions and main story missions scattered throughout the land. With such a wide variation of transportation at your disposable, getting around the place is easy. However, it’s a little difficult to forget how easy it was to get around in a game like GTA IV thanks to its great taxi system. Moving from one end of Liberty City to the other was only a matter of whistling for a cab and choosing your desired location. Just Cause 2 really has nothing of the like, but considering how many missions and factions there are, it’s not that big an issue. Furthermore, you could set your waypoint at a mission on the other side of the island, but because there’s so much open to you right from the start, you might find yourself participating in a few faction missions before you reach your location.
Many of the missions have you doing some outrageous things, like jumping from one platform to another in a car, or blowing up buildings, while others are a little more placid and less explosive. There is a great balance between crazy action and more tactic-based missions, and the challenge offered in each mission normally feels pretty intone with the actual goal.
Unfortunately, it’s not all peaches and cream. The controls are anything but accessible, but this can be forgiven considering how many different gameplay mechanics there actually are. Changing weapons is just far too complex using the d-pad, and there doesn’t seem to be any consistent pattern in which direction you have to choose to change weapons. You can dual-wield with particular guns, which is great. However, ammunition runs out quickly and you’ll often find yourself in the middle of a mission with nothing to shoot at oncoming enemies. The save structure is disappointing, as missions don’t have anywhere near enough checkpoints considering how difficult some can be. You may find yourself dying frequently in a mission and having to start all over again from the start. A checkpoint system like that just doesn’t fly anymore in sandbox titles, especially in a game like this with a relatively steep learning curve.
With the large and streaming world also come a few presentational issues. Screen tearing and the occasional clipping issue can plague the gameplay, with audio often cutting out, making cutscenes sound awkward. A majority of the world is really well designed, but some objects, namely trees and the interiors of some buildings, lack the polish that makes other areas look so good. Still, it’s a gorgeous looking game in most parts, with some gorgeous lighting effects and fantastic sound effects.
Just Cause 2 aims to be crazy and over-the-top, and that’s exactly what it is. It doesn’t want to be realistic; instead, it wants to offer a memorable and explosive experience that keeps you coming back. The campaign is lengthy and challenging, with plenty of weapons, vehicles and missions to keep you busy for hours. The controls can take a while to get used to, but it’s worth it considering the amount of things you have to explore and experiment with.
8.7 The aiming system is simple, although the hand-to-hand combat needed a bit of polish. There’s plenty of challenge waiting for you, and the world is a lot of fun to explore
9.2 The world of Panau is absolutely stunning. Character design looks OK, with the most attention given to Rico.
8.0 There is the occasional sound glitch, with dialogue cutting off midway through a cutscene. The music is good though, as are the sound effects.
9.8 If you rush through the game, it’s going to take you anywhere between 15-20 hours. If you want to finish the game 100%, you’re looking at close to 50 hours. No multiplayer is a major letdown, though.
8.9 A score between 8.5 and 8.9 represents a game that offers great value for money and has great gameplay but has some noteworthy issues on any of the four fronts.