Game Review: Just Cause 2
Release: March 23, 2010 (NA), March 26, 2010 (EU)
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Available Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
MSRP: $49.99 (PC), $59.99 (PS3, Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence
Welcome to the lovely island nation of Panau! Well, I guess the ‘welcome’ could have been a bit less bullet-riddled, but still, get used to this lovely Southeast Asian island paradise because it will be your home away from home for the next few days (maybe even weeks). As in Just Cause, you reprise the role of Agency asset Rico Rodriguez, the suave lady-killer who seems to be as able to get himself into trouble just as easily as he can get himself out of it. This talent will prove extraordinarily useful this time around as well. You are dropped into another impossible situation where you are tasked with tracking down and eliminating your mentor, Tom Sheldon, who the Agency believes has gone rogue.
If you had the pleasure of playing Just Cause, as I did, you will be very familiar with what is asked of you in Just Cause 2. Avalanche Studios stuck with what worked and ramped it up a hundred fold. Basically, in order to advance the story, faction missions, and unlock Black Market items, you have to cause CHAOS. Throughout the island, there are thousands of military and government stations, bases, depots, etc, that you need to blow to smithereens. And BOY is it fun! You have a plethora of ‘tools’ at your disposal from the typical frag grenades and triggered charges to rocket- and grenade-launchers. The one thing that they left out (not exactly realistic, mind you) is a nuclear weapon. The set of islands makes up roughly 400 square miles of fun in the sun, so get ready to work on that tan, people.
In order to cause additional chaos and get some much-needed intel regarding your target, you will need to get in deep with the three local factions: the Roaches (Panau’s version of the Mafia), the Reapers (Panau’s grassroots rebel group, a la Che Guevara), and the Ular Boys (Panau’s native sons who believe that the island is rightfully theirs). You’ll have ‘stronghold’ missions which are used to establish bases of operations for the factions as well as faction missions that will gain you favor within the factions, as well as give you the opportunity to accumulate even more chaos. If you haven’t noticed, CHAOS is a big deal here.
There are quite a few enjoyable parts of the game. The sheer beauty of the landscape stands out in my mind for starters. If you thought San Esperito (Just Cause) was beautiful, be ready for some truly gorgeous views. My favorite view is standing at the tallest point on the island (that’s an achievement, by the way–‘Top of the World’) amidst the snow drifts and looking down the mountain to see dense jungle and, further down, white sandy beaches. Simply breathtaking, let me tell you. Another enjoyable experience was the gameplay itself. From using the grappling hook for specialty kills to hijacking boats, cars, and choppers, Avalanche managed to improve on the controls from the first, although not much tweaking was needed, in my opinion. While the story certainly won’t win any awards, it feels well-incorporated into the side missions, making them partially necessary in order to unlock future story missions and higher-grade weapons.
All of the pros aside, there are a few things that could use work. I personally enjoy an over-the-top story accompanied by over-the-top and cliche-riddled voice-acting, but it’s certainly not for everyone. While well-incorporated into the game, the story isn’t very original. If you’ve seen Bond movies, then you won’t be surprised by anything that Just Cause 2 throws at you. Of course, I’m in the school of thought that feels that originality in writing and story-telling is now the exception rather than the rule. I play video games to be entertained, and Just Cause 2 is an entertaining experience; thus, this isn’t a big deal for me. I did, however, stumble on to a couple of bugs that caused some dialogue to replay at random points throughout the game. Again, not a major problem for me. Of course, I’m a very easy-going individual, so it may annoy some of you. Here’s a hint: don’t start a game, then realize you should have started at a lower difficulty level. I think that’s what triggered it for me.
Patrick’s Final Say: Overall, Just Cause 2 is a great game that will easily entertain me for a few weeks. It’s extremely easy to pick up between plays of other titles, as there is always something to do around the island. I can’t say that it’s worth the $59.99 price tag, but once it hits $29.99, this is a must-buy. If you want instant gratification, however, it’s definitely worth a rental. The story can be finished in a few days. Getting 100% will take a few hours, though, so have patience, young Jedi.