Just Cause 2 - PC - Review
The original Just Cause was a sandbox-style action game that had a lot of really cool elements to it. Unfortunately, the game also had its fair share of issues, keeping it from being the revolutionary experience that it should’ve been. Now, Square-Enix and developer Avalanche Studios are unleashing the sequel, Just Cause 2, and for the most part delivers a sequel that outshines its predecessor. While there are still some issues both from a technical and gameplay standpoint, the action is very intense, the world is huge, and the destruction and chaos are great, making for a sequel that action fans can get behind.
Just Cause 2 follows the protagonist of the first game, Rico Rodriguez, as he heads to the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia shortly after the country’s president has been assassinated in a coup by his son. The whole region is thrown into disarray, with various factions locked in a civil war against the new government, vying for power and control of the island. Rico must infiltrate the country to look for a friend and mentor who is suspected of having gone rogue, while fighting the government with the aid of guerilla factions to bring down its infrastructure.
The island of Panau is a gigantic place, and a fantastic environment filled with a variety of different terrain types. There are snowy mountain regions to explore, as well as dense jungles and water, as well as small villages and towns. The game’s scope is very impressive, and flying over the terrain in a helicopter really gives you an idea that the island truly has an epic scope and is just as fun to explore as it is to complete the missions.
As opposed to completing the game’s story-based missions, you can also align yourself with one of the many guerilla factions littered throughout the world. Each has its own mission sets, and when you assist them, you’ll increase their control over parts of the island and weaken the government’s hold. Helping these factions also nets you some personal boons as well, as the guerillas will assist you as you fight other factions and give you use of their assets and soldiers. However, it’s a double-edged sword, as fighting missions for one faction will weaken your relations with the others, on top of having the government on your tail.
Unfortunately, these missions (and many of the missions in the game) can become far too repetitive quickly. You’ll do a fair amount of babysitting missions, where you’ll have to guide a group of combatants into an enemy stronghold, gaining entry and taking out any enemy that stands in your way. You’ll use strategically placed heavy artillery to take down helicopters and other foes, then wait for a technician to hack into the enemy’s computer system, usually while sitting behind a stationary machine gun embankment; rinse, lather, repeat. While the combat never feels dull and taking out hordes of enemies and destroying buildings is fun, the mission design could use a little more creativity.
An important element in Just Cause 2 is creating wanton destruction, and the game delivers this in spades. You’re able to use heavy weaponry to bring down radio towers, destroy fuel reserves, and gain Chaos points by obliterating anything that stands in your way. Creating this kind of destruction is essential to breaking down the government’s power, and it is pretty fun to pull off as well. Blowing stuff up and getting Chaos points has different implications as well, unlocking new missions and story elements.
One of the coolest things about the original Just Cause was the fact that it allowed you to explore the map in just about any way you saw fit, be it through the air, water, or traversing land, and Just Cause 2 ups the ante even further. One of the main gameplay elements in Just Cause 2 is the new grappling hook. The grappling hook is an essential element to the game, allowing you to not only scale buildings and cliffs, but also boasts some combat applications and even allows you to interact with the environment in some pretty cool new ways. Using the grappling hook as a means of transportation lets you slingshot around the map, allowing you to use it in tandem with your parachute to pull off some awesome stunts, which makes just going from one point to another fun and exciting.
You can use the hook to latch onto enemies and pull them over ledges, drag them behind vehicles, and perform melee attacks by getting up close and personal, knocking them around with it. You can also use it to tether onto objects like statues or use it as a hitch to pull vehicles out of areas, which is a great touch that adds to the game’s destruction engine.
Aside from the grappling hook, there are still plenty of ways to get around. There are plenty of vehicles littered throughout Palau, including cars, trucks, helicopters, boats, motorcycles and so on. Rico still has the ability to do Stunt Jumps, allowing him to get on top of a vehicle (a la Teen Wolf) and shoot away at enemies, jump onto enemy vehicles to hijack them, and even parachute out of them when they’re still moving to open fire from above.
One of the main beefs that people had with the original was general bugginess, and while there are some technical issues in the sequel, these have been cleaned up a bit. I had the retail version crash on me a couple of times, and there were a few instances when the sound would be hang up, but generally the game performs a lot more solidly than its predecessor did. The framerate seldom bogs down, even when the action gets intense, and the whole look of the game has a higher degree of polish to it.
An added perk for PlayStation 3 owners is the ability to capture your own videos. You’re able to record sections of your progress and any cool moves or intense explosions that you’ve pulled off and upload them to the XMB or YouTube, letting other players check them out.
Graphically, the game looks pretty good, but the environment looks fantastic. The huge, sprawling map boasts a great about of detail and a huge draw distance, letting you see the whole island if you’re at a great height. The character models also look pretty solid, although the lead characters seem to have gotten most of the attention, as the standard enemies look pretty average and repetitious. The explosion effects are very well done, with the carnage looking fantastic when you bring down buildings. While it’s not quite as universal as, say, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, it’s still executed to great effect.
The game’s sound presentation is also very well done, with excellent gunfire effects and explosion sounds. Gunfire echoes differently in different areas, like when you’re shooting in a canyon as opposed to the middle of a town, which is fantastic and adds to the ambiance. The music is also well done. The only problem is the voice acting, which isn’t up to par with the rest of the game’s sound department. The accents are way over the top, and the dialogue and delivery can be groan-inducing at times.
Just Cause 2 is definitely an improvement over the original game, capitalizing on its predecessor’s strengths by bringing more wild stunts and awesome destruction to the table. While it’s not a runaway success and there are still some technical issues and tepid missions, this is still a great fix for those looking for an action game with a huge scope and an enormous world to explore.