Just Cause 2 Review

Just Cause was a game that was plagued by awkwardness. It was released during the tail end of the last console generation and received a port to Xbox 360 strictly out of necessity as most gamers were migrating to Microsoft’s new console. The game sported a wide-open tropical paradise that, while impressive, was sparsely populated and was more about the verticality that your character could achieve and the crazy stunts he could pull off. It was a game without a real identity, but a solid idea in place.

Its sequel, however, is a completely different beast. It’s a game that takes the core concept of Just Cause, a high-flying, stunt-filled game, and creates a fully realized experience that takes the notion of an open world game to the next level. Just Cause 2 is a lot of things, but most importantly, it’s fun.

Skydiving in the snowy mountains

Just Cause 2 once again places you in the shoes of mercenary Rico Rodriguez. Rico’s latest mission has brought him to the island nation of Panau, a place of civil unrest and shady undercurrents after the most recent president took power. This new president doesn’t want to play nice with the U.S., though, and it’s up to you to amplify the high tensions and cause some chaos.

While the story synopsis sounds like it will deliver plot full of political tension and fast-paced action, the game’s delivery of its own story is poor and paper thin. Cutscenes are plagued with horrible voice acting and bad writing and the same scenes are used multiple times with different dialogue spliced in. I found myself skipping a lot of them as they just weren’t interesting enough and became obstacles to the gameplay which I desperately wanted to get back to. Additionally, while Rico’s animations and movements are well produced, his cohorts and enemies are stiff and robotic at times, this being especially pronounced in cutscenes.

The game’s main goal is to cause as much chaos as you possibly can. You’ll do this by destroying various government installations that you will encounter by exploring and doing faction and story missions. As you complete these tasks you gain chaos, which is used to unlock the next black market item, stronghold faction mission, or story mission. It’s a great way to get you exploring the various settlements and military bases around Panau to gain more chaos. As your meters go up and you get closer to earning your next unlockable, it drives you forward to do more crazy things and blow more stuff up so you can reach that goal.

Of course, all of this would be moot if the game didn’t play well, but Just Cause 2 makes even the smallest parts of open-world games fun. Transportation, for example, becomes much more than finding a vehicle and then driving to your next destination. Can’t find a car? Use your new grappling hook, open your parachute, and parasail to your destination. Maybe you found a super-fast car speeding along as you float in the air. Stunt jump to it, jack it, and drive off. Or sometimes you come across a military jet that you just have to have, you hijack it, and you take off. Gravity and physics are arbitrary forces in the Just Cause 2 world, so all these things are possible in an instant. In one mission, I took off from a military compound with an experimental jet I found, was shot down by harrier jets, skydived into the ocean, stole a military speedboat, and drove off as I blasted helicopters out of the air.

This kind of craziness plays a part in combat, as well. Your grappling hook, which can be used for almost anything, such as hijacking vehicles or climbing buildings, also allows you to grab enemies off of towers or hook them to any part of the environment. Feel like attaching them to a propane tank and shooting the tank? Go ahead. Want to hook them to the back of your car as you drive off, dragging them behind you? It’s possible. You may even want to hook speeding cars to the road and watch as they stall and flip. I was still finding new combat options as I played through the game, whether I was attaching enemies to the ceiling and then blasting away or attaching pursuing cars to civilian vehicles as they sped off.

This is a normal day in Just Cause 2

Outside of combat and stealing jet planes, the island of Panau is an expansive paradise full of things to do. The usual staples of racing missions are present and each settlement that you discover has a completion percentage associated with it. As you find hidden armor, weapon, and vehicle parts, which are used to upgrade your items, and destroy military buildings, this percentage goes up. Trying to reach 100 percent will keep some gamers busy for months. There are also drug drops to find and a special Easter egg for Lost fans. Getting lost in Just Cause 2 is easy and tempting.

To truly admire the grandeur of Just Cause 2, though, you’ll want to take a plane or helicopter high above the map; you can ascend for a very long time, and look down at the entire area. The island looks like a giant continent you would see in a satellite image. Skydiving back down to the island is a thrilling experience that showcases the game’s graphical prowess. The environment looks alive and lush, where one moment you’ll be driving through the snowy mountains, only to arrive in a harsh jungle. It looks like a real island should and less like a videogame environment. Instead of a world that entices you to play a certain way, Just Cause 2‘s world encourages you to play the way you want to… and still feels like a real environment.

Just Cause 2 does what so many other open-world games try to and usually end up missing the target. It’s pure fun, distilled down to its very essence and shot directly into your eyeballs for maximum enjoyment. Its huge world, insane gameplay, and amazing visuals will keep you blowing stuff up into the wee hours of the morning and not even blinking an eye.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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