Just Cause 2 is the epitome of how to take a great idea and perfect it. When the original game landed back in 2006 it was chock full of great ideas that simply fell flat. The grappling hook and stunt mechanics were unrefined and overall the game simply just wasn’t that much fun. With the sequel the development team has spent time taking all of these elements and crafting them to perfection. What we end up with is an open-world game that manages to evolve the genre while at the same time bolstering nearly limitless amounts of fun thanks to these mechanics. Just Cause 2 is a subscriber to the game theory of creating 30 seconds of fun, and multiplying it throughout the entire experience.
For anyone who played the original game you will quickly recognize the returning protagonist. Rico Rodriguez is back and once again cheesier than you can imagine. The one area Just Cause 2 stumbles is the story. For the majority of the game you could care less why you are causing so much chaos. The story revolves around a conspiracy on the island that ends up reaching levels of ridiculous that make it more entertaining than it should be. This is further enforced thanks to the absolutely dreadful voice acting. Anyone who played the demo knows about Bolo Santosi, and I promise her dialogue only gets better (worse?) as you progress through the game.
Of course even with such an outlandish story behind it, it really fits with the theme of the game. Just Cause 2 never takes itself seriously, and that is evident in both gameplay and presentation. The premise here is bigger and more badass, and that is exactly what you get. The physics for enemy deaths is completely over-the-top, and flying a motorcycle off a cliff then free-falling on top of a flying strip club is entirely possible, and not to mention a hell of a lot of fun. That is the one thing that Just Cause 2 gets so right, the sheer amount of fun you will have while playing it.
The two main reasons that Just Cause 2 works so well are the grappling hook and parachute. These two items have been refined from the original game to make one of the most addictive and beneficial parts of the sequel. First the grappling hook; unlike the first game you can now grapple onto any surface by simply tapping the left trigger/bumper. This allows you to zip around the environment and escape enemy fire with ease. You can also tether objects together by holding down the button and selecting two targets. This leads to some insane and creative destruction methods. For instance in one of the opening sequences of the game I was being chased down by military convoys. Instead of wasting my bullets I started launching my grappling hook onto the hoods of the chasing cars and tethering the other end to the road in front of them. The ensuing chaos was incredibly satisfying to watch.
The second item, the parachute, is great for getting around when combined with the grappling hook. You see most open world games require you to obtain a vehicle to traverse the environments, but Just Cause 2 allows you to skim the world of Panau with just these two items. Once you get down the rhythm you can cover several kilometers in a matter of minutes. This makes getting in and out of trouble a snap, not to mention it is a great way to experience all of the areas of the island without viewing them from way up in the sky.
Just Cause 2 is one massive game. On my first play through of the story it took me nearly 17 hours just to complete the main missions, all of the side missions and the stronghold locations. This netted me a whopping 33% completion of the game. Once completed you enter a free-mode that lets you collect items, complete unfinished areas and of course cause massive amounts of chaos at your discretion. Chaos is how the progression in the game works. For every piece of military property you blow up or item you collect you earn chaos. These points are used to unlock new missions, black market upgrades and challenges. Doing things as small as blowing up exploding barrels earn you chaos, which means nearly every action you perform in the game garners a little bit of this stuff.
Speaking of things to do this game is jam-packed with things to divert your attention. As you move from one mission to the next it is impossible not to get sidetracked. The military propaganda is tagged with bright red markings, and seeing one just begs for you to blow it up. There are also challenges, which really should have been called races as that is all they are. Collecting items though will be your biggest endeavor. Throughout the world there are literally thousands of items to collect from weapon and vehicle parts to upgrade your gear, to faction items that earn you chaos, to health upgrades that make you more resilient to bullets. The sheer amount of things to find within the game is insane, not to mention 368 locations including some really cool areas such as the ski resort, the floating gentlemen’s club and even a hidden Japanese base from World War II.
If you are wondering which system you should pick the game up for it is quite simple. Both games perform roughly the same, but the PS3 version features a YouTube upload that allows you to record your gameplay segments and upload them to the web. This is the kind of game that screams for this option and if you have a choice I recommend going for that version. The controls don’t feel as fluid with the Dual Shock 3 and Trophies might not have the same appeal to most gamers that Achievements do, but the YouTube feature is definitely worth edging out the competition; that is of course if you plan on using it at all.
Now it is time for me to nitpick the small things that hold back an otherwise flawless experience. Early on in the game the guns feel grossly underpowered. You will unload entire clips into enemies before they finally go down. The controls definitely have a learning curve. It will take a solid hour to come to grips with the complexity of what you can do. I was really disappointed in the lack of variety, or should I say non existence in the challenge missions. Really you should have just called them races and been done with it. Outside of these minor annoyances my time spent with the game flew by which means I was really having a great time. In fact all I can think about after finishing it was hopping right back and continuing my strive for 100%, something I rarely do in games.
Visually I think it is easy to overlook just how fantastic this game looks. Considering the size and scope of the world, not to mention being void of any load times outside of reloading checkpoints or dying, this is one gorgeous game. The areas are all highly detailed and the particle effects and explosions are some of the best I have seen in a game this generation. Some of the character models are certainly not the most impressive, but the world itself is simply stunning to look at. Throw in night/day cycles and weather and you have a phenomenal looking game that also happens to span 400 square kilometers. The voice acting as I mentioned is abysmal at best, but that also makes it entertaining. The music is also lackluster and really will be forgotten after hearing one or two tracks.
Just Cause 2 is what I consider the Terminator 2 of videogames. A sequel that contained all that made the original so good, without all the boring and unrefined portions. If you played the original and thought it got old too quickly, you are not alone. But that is no reason not to pick up this amazing sequel. This is by far the most fun I have ever had with an open-world game, and one I will likely be spending plenty of time with for a while to come. My only hope is that maybe someday they can add in co-op or just give you the ability to thrown in another player for free-roam mode, as that could easily be the most fun you are allowed to have legally. 2010 delivers yet another must-own game, and thy name be Just Cause 2.
Review copy provided by publisher.