Published on April 7th, 2010 | by prime0
Just Cause 2 – Review
Summary: Avalanche Studios have created a game not a political statement, and it’s provided more fun than we ever expected
Games can be art, but Just Cause 2 is the furthest away from that ideal as is physically possible, and you know what? That’s what makes it so damn endearing. No concessions have been made to accommodate realism, leaving Rico free to grapple head-first into helicopters, survive falls from over 50 meters and, most importantly, blow up entire bases up without consequence or regret. Avalanche Studios have created a game not a political statement, and it’s provided more fun than we ever expected.
Straight from the off you’re granted the grapple ability and encouraged to shoot up buildings, attach unfortunate guards to walls and steal helicopters by zipping from the ground to the air. Even on normal difficulty, players aren’t unduly punished for dispatching enemies in a more imaginative way than a headshot. The gimmick even has practical, non-combative, uses – aircraft stuck in a ditch? Simply attach one hook to the plane by pressing the hook key, release when the reticule is over the vehicle and bingo, they’re both attached, so you can now tow your stricken craft out of trouble and into the skies. It’s very easy to use and much more so after you ditch the gamepad and go for mouse controls – you’ll be attaching soldiers to gas canisters in practically no time at all.
Weapons and vehicles can be modified, thanks to liberally spaced part caches
Gameplay gimmicks come and go but Just Cause 2’s grappling hook completely changes the way players will approach a multitude of scenarios. Even the simple act of traveling from A to B has been given a new leash of life by Rico’s grapple parachute combo, leaving you to reel yourself into your destination, gradually getting ever closely to that blimp on your HUD. Maybe it isn’t as quick as a jet, but it’s the style that the hook invokes which makes it so enjoyable.
The support ability from the original returns, conveniently providing weapons, vehicles and a handy transit service for when travel needs to be fast and without consequence. Weapons and vehicles can be modified, thanks to liberally spaced part caches which can be found over the entire island. Think of this as Just Causes answer to GTA’s hidden packages, but rather than being few and far between, they are everywhere. They may be an easy way to artificially lengthen the game’s lifespan, but they do inspire exploration and give more resonance to the expansive world. The sheer amount of artifacts to collect and geography to explore will easily keep most players entertained beyond the 25 hour mark, with the more obsessive compulsive players going on long past that.
Unfortunately, the story itself isn’t as well integrated, with repetitive cut-scenes which continually have contacts hanging outside trucks or repairing vehicles, and at times the sense of déjà vu is genuinely distracting. It’s hard to listen to someone for two minutes when you’re sure they haven’t moved in a few days.
It’s unclear whether Avalanche Studios knew the plot was hokum at the beginning or if they’d prefer for gamers to focus on the action, but these are some extremely forgettable characters. Only Rico and the despotic Baby Panay really stand out, but at least CIA agent Tom Shelden makes an appearance. The story is really just an excuse for players to feel vindicated for causing destruction on such a massive scale, but let’s face it, we don’t really need an excuse.
Pyromania aside, at its most basic level the open-world explode-‘em-up offers cash for any destruction caused, utilizing a similar model to what’s found in Mercenaries 2. Faction and campaign missions are unlocked as enemy bases are laid to waste – indicated by helpful bars whenever you explode something painted with the red symbol of the Panau government. Every area’s completion ratio is handily displayed in the corner, so players know how many targets are left to eviscerate. Every stat is tracked, including how many kilometers driven, how many bases destroyed, area traveled by parachute and how many enemies juggled. The sense of progression constantly wills you forward, so that even the briefest of play sessions wields positive results.
The stunning landscape of Panau Island is the real star of the show, which is even more beautiful when the game transitions between day and night.
Gamers will spot waterfalls, skyscrapers and what appears to be a giant airship. It’s a rich environment offering plenty of notable sights.
Just Cause 2 makes no apologies for its balls-out head-first approach, which should win over even the most pretentious of gamers. The lack of any real story holds it back from true greatness but the purity of the gameplay and the ludicrous amounts of fun it’ll provide will allow most gamers to forgive its few shortcomings.