The first Just Cause game was released about four years ago during the cross over to the current generation of consoles. It had somewhat of a cult following among gamers who played it and was generally well received by critics. Now Avalanche Studios has released an action-packed sequel that will have you doing everything you wish you could do in Grand Theft Auto IV. If you’re not familiar, Just Cause 2 is a third-person sandbox action game starring Agent Rico Rodriguez. It’s the action packed B-movie that you’ve seen in theaters so many times but now on your game console. Nobody would of ever expected there to be a sequel to Just Cause but there is. So now the question is, did Avalanche Studios make the improvements it needed to make in order to catch the eye of others? The answer is Yes.
The story of Just Cause 2 sees action hero/protagonist, Rico Rodriguez, making his way to the island of Panau. He’s there to look for his former boss/friend/mentor, Tom Sheldon, who has apparently gone rogue. But the island of Panau isn’t so innocent and beautiful as it seems, there are three factions (gangs) who want to take over the island from an evil dictator named, Baby Panay. You’ll go undercover and work for these factions in order to gain information about these factions and rid the island of the factions and the evil dictator. The plot is simplistic and it doesn’t sound bad but it is. The story just never seems like a concern to the actual game narrative or to the player. I almost felt like I could skip cutscenes and it really wouldn’t matter. But believe me when I say that you probably won’t be playing this game for the story. It is the weakest point of the game but definitely not the selling point.
Just Cause 2 is all about explosions. At almost every corner of Panau is a gas station, radio broadcast tower, propane tank, fuel depot, etc. just waiting for you to blow it up and start chaos, literally. Just Cause 2 keeps a universal score for all the chaos that you create, this being your Chaos Meter. Anything you choose to destroy will up the score and fill the meter which will eventually unlock a majority of things like agency missions, faction missions and black market upgrades. Speaking of upgrades, there are weapon and vehicles parts scattered over the huge landscape that is Panau, These will help upgrade vehicles and weapons and the great thing about upgrades is that you’ll actually need them. Armor upgrades can also be found, making you more resistant to damage but even when you’re hurt and near death, it seems like you’re always in need of a health kit which are hard to find when you actually are in need of one. Besides my grip with the health, there is alot to find and collect, and even more to destroy, guaranteeing you’ll have tons to do for a long time. I’ve spent more than 20 hours with Just Cause 2 and have only completed 16% of the game.
The highlight of Just Cause 2’s gameplay is without a doubt the grappling hook. We’ve seen grappling hooks done before but not quite like this. Nope, here in Just Cause 2 the grappling hook will entertain, make you laugh, and make you experiment. Just about everything you could think of doing with a grappling hook is possible in this game. Can I attach this guy to my car and drag him to death? Yes. Can I attach an enemy to a building and shoot him? Yes. The possibilities are almost endless. The only downside is that using the grappling hook might not be best suited for missions. It’s best if you just choose to shoot enemies during missions especially when dealing with a large number of enemies. The grappling hook will also serve good as a means of travel when using your parachute. You can hook yourself to the ground or building giving yourself more momentum to fly off to your destination. The grappling hook defies physics and defines fun in Just Cause 2.
As I mentioned before, Panau is a beautiful setting and it shows in the graphics. The island never really felt alive to me, but I seemed to ignore that as a gazed at some of the landmarks of Panau. The moment I jumped out the helicopter and fell from the sky as I made my arrival to the island, I admired the setting and the technicalities it took to make it. An island that is bigger than Liberty City and never once had a hiccup or something that didn’t render properly. I must say I was a little surprised by this. But one thing not so breath taking is the character models. The protagonist is fine, the enemies are ok, and the civilians are a little short ok. The island is amazing and the explosions are great, can’t tell you how many times I tried to walk away slowly from an explosion just to see it look cool.
The sound department lacks the same impressiveness that is found in the gameplay and in the graphics. Rico Rodriguez sounds like a cross between Antonia Banderas and Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. The rest of the voice work is just as bad. Almost every character in the game has some type of accent and none of which sound genuine. Sounds like Gary Swaby doing a James G impression. Yeah, that bad. The only saving grace is that the explosions sound like explosions.
Truth be told, Just Cause 2 probably didn’t deserve a sequel but it got one and Avalanche Studios made the most of it. The story is borderline witless but the gameplay is nothing but fun. Gameplay saves Just Cause 2 from being a mediocre game. If you enjoy just messing around or appreciate what Saints Row does in comparison to GTAIV, then Just Cause 2 is the game for you. Or if you played the first game and enjoyed it, then no questions asked, buy this game. Just Cause 2 is not meant to be taken seriously, hell they even have the island from Lost in the game. Just Cause 2 is simply about delivering a fun experience to those who pick the game up and play it.
[Quick Note: I played this on Xbox 360, I recommend the PS3 version due to it supporting video recording. You’ll be able to record up to 10 minutes of you just blowing shit up]