Review: Just Cause 2
Let’s start off by saying what Just Cause 2 is like. It’s a lot like GTA, it’s a lot like a James Bond movie, it’s a lot like Prototype and it’s a lot like nothing else I’ve ever seen before. I must admit that I have not finished the game in the true sense but it is not the kind of game where the story is all that important but we’ll get back to that later.
- Worth The Time?
- Things LovedFast-paced action and a massive open-world filled with things to do make the game wholesomely entertaining and great fun. Over the top stunts make it even more of a joy. An abundance of Easter eggs make exploring interesting.
- Things HatedUnlocking story missions requires plenty of grinding and tedium while the faction missions which accumulate Chaos points are repetitive. Despite the massive open-world, mission structure is limited and there's often a lack of driving motivation to keep going.
- RecommendationIt's not a must-buy title for sure but it is hellishly entertaining and will be loved by anyone with a passion for exploring sandbox environments.
- Name: Just Cause 2
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Avalanche Studios & Eidos Interactive
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Price: R400 (PC), R700 (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
First, let’s get some introductions out of the way. Just Cause 2 is the sequel to Just Cause which was released around 2006 for the PS2. You play as Rico Rodriguez who is an Agency agent as well as the protagonist from the first game. It seems that whenever a people can’t come up with a cool enough name for something, they simply call it what it is: The Island, The Company, The Agency. I’m proud of Rico because he is not white like most protagonists but all he shows for it is the occasional bit of Spanish profanity.
The game takes place on the fictional island of Panau which is in the general area of Malaysia and much like said country is made up of one main island with a host of smaller ones surrounding it. Panau is ruled by Baby Panay, a rabid dictator who looks like he just stepped out of Miami Vice. Think ‘Malema’ and you have this guy dead to rights. The amalgamated group of islands feature three different environs: alpine, desert and tropical as well as being around 1000km² big.
Rico is sent in to find his mentor, Tom Sheldon, who is believed to have gone rogue. He ends up aligning himself with three different factions in order to try and gain intel about Sheldon’s whereabouts. I will not spoil it for those who care for the story but up to the point the where I currently am, there were gun-toting ninjas who teleported around a heli-pad, a race across an ice-lake in a Humvee-type vehicle and skydiving to retrieve a PDA from a dead man who was also falling. Certainly no lack of action there.
Just Cause 2 is a sandbox game and like in GTA, you will probably spend most of your time screwing around and blowing stuff up. The game is quite good at this with a ton of things for you to do. You can choose from races to base jumping events to blowing stuff up or even checking out all the random Easter eggs. There is just so much to do in this game. Hijack anything from a car to a fighter jet, destroy anything from a fuel tank to a military facility. Or you can do some of the amazing stunts that the game allows you to pull off. The game just gives you so much freedom to do what you want and for everything that blow-up or destroy, you earn points in the form of Chaos.
What limits your freedom is the missions. There are Agency missions which drive the story and Faction missions which earn you Chaos and money. There are three factions that you aid: The Roaches, The Ular Boys and The Reapers. All three are vying to overthrow the government and take control. Faction missions are constantly available but Agency missions require you to build up a certain amount of Chaos before you can unlock them. This seemed like a great idea from the outset because it showed that the developers knew gamers would end up screwing around anyway; so they made it part of the gameplay mechanics.
What brings the system way, way down though is just how much Chaos you have to earn before unlocking your next Agency mission. After a while it becomes rather tedious. You have to do maybe a dozen faction missions, which may take a couple of hours, just to unlock one mission. The Agency missions are long though and can take up to an hour to complete but they just aren’t worth all the effort. It might have been acceptable if the Faction missions were enjoyable or at least interesting but they are all very much alike so that in the end there are only really a few mission types. It is very much limited to A: go to point Z pick up X and drive X to Y or B: Find and kill X. There are also stronghold takeovers where you lead a team from the respective faction into a military compound and seize control of it. The problem with these is that they are all structured in exactly the same way.
You cannot leave the mission area in most cases and this really limits things because you suddenly go from having the whole world at your fingertips to being confined in a matchbox. There is really no feeling of the massive world you are playing in when in a mission. There are some exceptions where you have to chase and gun down a helicopter or something similar but these are as rare as good voice acting in the game. There was one mission where I was required to rescue someone and all you heard out of him as you approach the spot where he was being attacked by the military was: “Help me, please save me,” in the laconic and bored voice of a secretary.
Right, so this is not a game for those who are interested in the missions but what else is there? To name a few, there is a race track, The Island (from LOST), a strip club on an airship, barmen with shotguns, jets, need I say more? Follow this link to see all the Easter eggs which can be found in the game. There is also a very useful feature on the PS3 where you can video-capture anything that you do and upload it directly to YouTube. This comes in handy when you have done a really awesome stunt and wish to show off to the world. I apologise for my redundancy but this really is a game with everything, it’s like GTA IV but where all the boring stuff that we could do in real life is swapped out for materialised awesome. More on this later.
On some of the more technical aspects of the game; it is not a difficult game but then again few are these days. It does have a constant difficulty curve but you can just run-‘n-gun your way through most conflicts so never really gets challenging. As a third-person shooter, it actually does rather well. There is no cover system but there is no real need for it because of the above mentioned reason although it would nice to have for those times when you’re waiting for you health to regenerate. It only regenerates to a certain point though, to get back to full health you have to seek out a medical kit. The guns are rather well-balanced, although once you get hold of a mounted-gun and detach it, you’re pretty much invincible. You can hold two small weapons and are able to duel-wield them at the touch of a button as well as one bigger weapon. One glitch that kept coming up is that I would shoot somebody but they would not take any damage, this happened only a handful of times but is still exceptionally annoying when it does happen.
What most people probably want to know about is the grappling-hook. It is really a lot of fun but very limited at times. The grappling-hook is permanently attached to Rico’s arm, unlike in the first game, and is double-sided so you can grapple two things together. You can grapple onto almost anything and grapple almost anything together, even people (I’ll let your imagination do the rest). It is sometimes limited in its range and it is no fun at all to grapple up a tall building as you have to do it in stages, working your slowly up. In addition to this, you also have a permanent parachute which allows you to base-jump anytime, anywhere. You can also use the grappling-hook to slingshot around while parachuting.
You can also buy vehicles and weapons from your black-market contact in addition to being able to upgrade them. This prevents you from having to scrounge around for ammo or a ride. There is also the option to be airdropped into any previously discovered settlement or area. You unlock more and more black-market items as you progress through the game and this too is driven by Chaos points. The upgrades cost a certain amount of weapon or vehicle parts. These can be found around the entire island.
I must say that the game is visually stunning. It is the most beautiful open-world game that I have perhaps ever seen, which is surprising considering that you can roam around the entire map without a single load-screen or that the map is just so big. There are some areas where the details are just a little rough or things don’t look quite so polished but the weather effects, especially the lightning, make up for this. There is also a constant day-night cycle. Getting around the islands is often a mission on its own unless you have a helicopter or jet. It is also worth mentioning that every one of hundred-odd vehicles available in Just Cause 2 feels different. Even if two bikes look almost identical, you can feel the difference.
There is simply not enough scope to this game. Sure, you continue to unlock items on the black-market as the game progresses but you never really need any of it once you’ve unlocked the triggered explosives and jet. You can also upgrade the weapons and vehicles but will never need to as I got as far as I did without ever upgrading a single weapon. The only reason to really do missions is to earn more cash to fuel your tom-foolery.
Just Cause 2 is a game that is meant to simply be cool and amazing and big. Big explosions, big guns, big island. In true South-east Asian tradition, it tries to give you more bang for your buck but just runs out of time steam long before it’s even over. Everything is drenched in a James Bond-esque feeling so that it all feels action-packed and cool and it certainly does just not inside of missions. This is certainly a game that I would recommend for those who are big fans of sandbox games and the freedom that they offer because this is certainly one of the best games if that’s what you’re looking for. I have definitely had some memorable moments with this game, but there is just not enough to keep you going until the end. It quickly becomes redundant and tedious.