Just Cause 2 is a sequel to a game I never heard of or played, but due to its crafty physics engine and open world to end all open worlds, I thought I’d best see what all the fuss was about.
Well, I won’t deny that 20 hours in, I’ve had a substantial amount of fun with the game. It’s an almost meta-version of sandbox game, where f*cking around isn’t just a bonus, it’s literally the goal of the game, as the central plot involves trying to destabilize and South Asian island nation’s government by blowing shit up countrywide.
Why exactly is the government so evil? Because they shoot at me when I demolish their communications towers and steal their jets to blow up their oil rigs? Because the gang leaders I work for say the military is interfering with their ability to deal drugs, steal gasoline and effectively murder people? I can’t say I exactly blame the establishment for frowning up on such things, but hey, they have giant statues of the president all over the place, so they MUST be evil, right?
There is a great deal of this going on.
There is no plot to this game to speak of. You’re a mercenary named Rico Rodriguez, whose voice actor does the world’s worst Al Pacino impression, who is told to work for three different gang leaders who will give you info about your “main assignment” in the country, though what exactly that is, I have yet to discover in twenty hours. The missions are all variants of “escort this friend,” “shoot this enemy,” “blow up this base.” Every single mission involves the gang leader pulling up to you in a truck, saying two words about whatever it is you’re supposed to destroy, and unloading a crate of weapons for you to use. It’s this same animation every single time. I guess animation costs were going over budget as the team instead spent all their funds creating the largest open world map in human history.
There’s no real way to accurately describe how massive this world is. I think it takes the crown from Oblivion in terms of unnecessarily large universes, but holy shit, this thing is ridiculous. There are mountains, deserts, jungles and everything in between. It’s so huge in fact, that the only way to effectively get anywhere is by plane. If I had driven to any of my destinations, I’d still be on like mission three.
Populating this map is a series of military bases, airports, docks, communication centers, cities, towns and villages, each of which contain a certain amount of upgrades to hunt down and pieces of government property to blow up. I must admit it is rather fun to try and 100% a town, tearing down statues and locating upgrades using the signal strength locator. I actually enjoyed it a lot the first 20 or 30 times. But as I began to fatigue from the process, I took at a look at the “locations found counter” which tells me that there are three HUNDRED and sixty four locations total, ninety percent of which never have anything to do with the actual plot, and are merely a collection of copy/pasted buildings and vehicles placed there to make sure this giant map has enough crap to fill it.
Helicopter piloting: You’re doing it wrong.
This massive scale is a completionist’s wet dream, but there’s not enough to the game to make me want to keep playing for 100 hours. Games like Fallout 3 and Oblivion feature new and interesting sidequests and have massive character customization options, whereas Just Cause 2 has neither of those. There are no skill sets or custom character building of any kind. You are a guy, you have some cars, planes, guns and a grappling hook, that’s it. You can make your cars faster or your bullets hurt more, but that’s as in-depth as things get.
Much ado has been made about the grappling hook your character has that is far and away what this entire game is based around. It essentially makes you Spider-man in real life and your character can zip around the map and its cities, pulling parachutes out of his ass whenever he seems so inclined. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty intuitive, and I will admit that it’s a really great concept, executed quite well.
The fun really picks up when you realize you can tether things together. As in, I can attach an enemy to my car and drag him down the road, I can tie two enemy cars together and watch the careen out of control, I can attach a bystander to a propane tank, shoot it, and watch him blast into the sky.
This game would make a great movie, if they managed to unearth a plot.
All of this is quite amusing to say the least, but the problem is, in combat, the game does everything in its power to make the grappling hook your last weapon of choice. When surrounded by soldiers unloading submachine guns into my face, would I love to grapple them to a jet, then fly the plane into a building? Sure I would, but in two seconds I’m about to be dead, so I better just unload MY submachine into their faces.
Outside of the grappling gun, the game plays like a less fluid version of Grand Theft Auto, with better plane and helicopter controls, but driving consistently feels like your sliding on ice on almost any surface. The ability to car surf (stand on various parts of your vehicle) and shoot bad guys as they approach replaces the ability to do drivebys out the window of a car, and it’s much more fun, but the game usually has YOU driving everywhere, so you risk running yourself off the road if you’re up there more than a few seconds at a time.
When it comes down to it, Just Cause 2 is undeniably fun, which made possibly by the parachute/hookshot combo, and the ability to hang ten on top of a fighter jet or humvee. But with the weakest plot of nearly any game I’ve played in recent memory, a map that’s way too big for its own good, and repetitive bunch of towns and army bases, it’s just not nearly as good as it could be. The game just feels unfinished, like the developers undertook a project that was too big to finish correctly. I hope they do finish it next time, because that’s a game I’d happy sink 100 hours into.
3 out of 5 stars
The TL:DR version of my review: BAM BOOM BANG POW!