|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Avalanche Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos / Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 23, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Just Cause 2 is all about running around and having fun with loads of toys and things that go boom. If you go into this game thinking you're going to get some seminal epic, you're in for a surprise. Just Cause 2 is a tongue-in-cheek look at espionage video games. This guerilla simulator lets players raise hell in an immense open-world practically any way they want, and the results are sure to bring a smile to your face.
Wherever you go, you'll find all sorts of things and people to destroy. Whether spitting death by launching rockets from a helicopter or grapple hooking a hapless enemy to a moving vehicle, you'll want to get creative in the ways you dispatch your foes. As such, this game is filled with hilarious combat most action gamers will really enjoy. Unfortunately, it also comes with its fair share of unpolished bits that the abundant humor simply can't cover up completely.
The first 15-30 minutes of Just Cause 2 is a clear example of how not to make a video game. The introduction is filled with lots of things that plague the title throughout. For starters, this is where you'll be introduced to the cliché characters and lowbrow plot; I don't think I've ever cared less about a game's story - something about 'The Agency' hunting down a dangerous American in a nationalistic tropical island rife with pretenders to the throne. Making matters worse, the poor narrative is exacerbated by the loathsome dialogue and painful delivery. Some may argue that the developers tried to make the game cheesy in these regards in order to accentuate the humoristic approach the gameplay takes, but I'm here to squash those claims - the story, characters, and voice acting utterly fail.
Thankfully, the run-and-gun action is often exceptionally fun. There are lots of different weapons to use, and delivering death in cruel and unusual ways soon becomes second nature. Perhaps the biggest reason for the off-the-wall combat is the dual grapple hook in Just Cause 2. Imagine romping through 3-D environments with Bionic Commando-like abilities. Now imagine pulling off grapple swings, hitching to vehicles, and zipping to locations that are over a hundred yards away! Moreover, pulling enemies out from behind turrets and immediately riddling them with bullets will not only net you special kills, but is ever so satisfying. Better yet, hooking two enemies together will produce kills that look like they were taken straight out of a Three Stooges short. My favorite type of kill is, what affectionately call, the dead man's rocket. That's when you hook a goon to a propane tank, shoot a hole in it, and watch the poor guy get launched 50 ft. in the air just to fall to his death - not surprisingly, it never seems to get old.
The dual grapple hook is also an excellent way to get around combat zones. Rather than simply running from place to place, you'll be better served by zipping from building to building like some kind of mutant monkey. You'll be able to get in and out of combat in a flash, and get yourself into advantageous positions simply by aiming for the building tops. Of course, the grapple hook is only one way to get around. You'll also have access to a parachute that can be engaged on the fly at almost any moment. If you're driving a car at full speed and want to ghost-ride it into a group of unsuspecting soldiers without getting hurt, go ahead and open up your chute and watch the carnage unfold. Need to hijack a VIP's limo stealthily? Try launching off a bridge with a motorcycle and gliding down on top of the vehicle. Between the grapple hook and the parachute, standard missions and mundane combat are made fresh and addictive.
As good and as game-changing as these gameplay workings are, combat is held back significantly by the poor shooting and cover mechanics. This game essentially does away with any of the technical shooting skills gamers have developed in FPS and TPS titles over the years in favor of a user-friendly, cinematic approach. As long as your gun is pointed in the vicinity of an enemy (or multiple enemies, for that matter), you'll turn him into Swiss cheese. While this forgiving tact makes pulling off aerial kills and other stunts a breeze, it also dumbs down the encounters. Additionally, the lack of any kind of sticky cover means you'll always take out enemies head-on and out in the open; there's no such thing as stealth kills or isolating opponents in Just Cause 2.
Another of the game's foibles is the difficulty in getting around the expansive world. As good as zipping around the combat zones can be, getting from one point of an island to another is extremely slow. This is due to a number of factors. First, the vehicles are cumbersome (even after upgrading them). Driving, flying, and boating around the hilly, overgrown, and obstacle-laden land, seas, and skies of Panau is painful. Second, the world is so big, you'll sometimes go nearly 10 kilometers (6 miles) to get to your next objective. Even in a chopper, this can take upwards of five minutes - in a quad, car, or rickshaw/golf cart you're looking at 20 minutes, minimum! Needless to say, you'll spend hours of your precious playing time just trying to navigate from one point to the next.