You’re dropped onto a tropical island playground with a reusable parachute, a grappling claw, and the ability to take thirty bullets to the face and survive. What do you do? Well, if you’re Rico Rodriguez, the protagonist of Avalanche Studio’s open world adventure Just Cause 2, you blow stuff up. I mean, sure, you can collect resource crates, hijack a variety of vehicles and earn some cash on the side, but the main objective of Just Cause 2 is to make things explode.
More than any other open world game out there, Just Cause 2 is about freedom, and it isn’t about to let silly things like a coherent narrative and tasteful voice acting get in the way. No, from the minute you’re dropped onto the island until the moment you actually bother to take on an assigned mission, you can pretty much do whatever the heck you want. Unlike a lot of other sandbox games, which shoe-horn you into a ridged progression before you’re allowed to access the cool stuff, you can hop into a jet and lay waste to military bases within the first half-hour of Just Cause 2’s campaign. But is the game worth a purchase?
My answer is yes, but let’s dig into this a little bit. The first point the game has in its favour is that the environment is absolutely gorgeous. You can stand on a small atoll in the middle of the ocean and look up to the highest mountain on the island nation of Panau, and it looks crisp and perfect. If you manage to snag a helicopter and decide to fly all the way to the top of that mountain, the game is going to maintain the same level of graphical fidelity the entire way. Unlike a lot of other games with a huge draw distance, Just Cause 2 has almost no texture pop in, and you can seamlessly travel from one side of Panau to the other.
Besides being horizontally massive, the vertical ceiling of Just Cause 2 is almost nonexistent; one time I grabbed a fighter jet and rocketed up as high as I could just to see if the game would stop me. I got bored long before then and, after leaping onto the roof of my plane via a stunt jump, I tumbled all the way to sea level and deployed my parachute, gliding onto an island in a flawless landing before doing it all again. My fall, all the way from the hull of my jet to the island, took me maybe about five minutes of just watching Rico soar through cloud layers towards the earth below.
Even if you don’t have access to some military hardware at any exact moment, you can still navigate the various towns, cities and military bases quickly and with ease thanks to Rico’s retractable grapple hook and parachute combo. If you latch onto a building with Rico’s claw and pull yourself in, you can pop the chute and fly through the air. While surfing the thermals, you can grab on to the ground, or any hard surface that’s close to you, and slingshot over the terrain. When you need a quick escape, this maneuver is invaluable.
Of course, all the base-jumping and helicopter-hijacking in the world doesn’t help the game’s story which, besides Borderlands, ranks among the worst in gaming. In the opening two missions, which are required before you can romp around the island, you’re informed that Rico’s former mentor from the original Just Cause has gone rogue. As is the way with shadowy organizations, you’re tasked with taking him down before he does any serious damage to good old Uncle Sam’s reputation. To track down your mentor, you have to make nice with three militant factions on Panau who are opposing the government, and who, by some strange coincidence, are lead by three brain-dead individuals. I don’t know where the developers found the voice actors for these clowns, but this is some of the worst voice work I have ever heard. The most egregious offender is Bolo Santosi, the leader of the Che Guevera-esq “Reaper” faction. Just listening to her talk makes me want to put a power drill through my skull; that might sound excessive, but I defy those of you who have played the game to contradict me.
Full disclosure here, I still have not finished the game’s campaign. While I believe that most games do warrant a full playthrough before a review can be made, the fun of Just Cause 2 does not lie in the mission structure. The basic gist of the story is that you do missions for the three sides to build up Chaos which is the currency that allows you to unlock more missions and items from the Black Market. Getting Chaos is very simple in that all you have to do is cause havoc for the Panauan military. Anything with the white Panauan star on it can be blown sky high, and there are a lot of hidden installations and monuments to the corrupt President around for you to wreck. It’s just so much fun to trundle around the island nation and ruin people’s days that I wish I could just turn off Rico’s radio and stop listening to my Agency superiors constantly reminding me about the job I have to do.
This is a game I can see myself coming back to a few months down the line after I’ve absorbed the remainder of this year’s early titles; something that can occupy me for a few hours while I track down weapon crates or fly aimlessly around the island, taking in the scenery. The ease of the controls and the freedom the game gives you would make this the premier open world titles of this generation; as it is, it’s simply a fantastic piece of art stapled to an unnecessary campaign.
Well, that’s what I thought of Just Cause 2. Anyone else playing this? What do you think of the game?
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