2nd April 2010 - Developed by Swedish developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive, Just Cause 2 is the latest sandbox adventure to hit the 360. The first garnered mixed reviews, with some critics praising the large, open world and many ways to approach any situation, but many citing the games bland gameplay and repetitive mission structure as its weak points. It gathered good enough commercial success to warrant a sequel, and this is the result; Just Cause 2, a game that looks to best everything that made the first good, and make up for that which didn’t. Huge map, lush tropical scenery, tons of combat options, and the good old parachute… What’s not to love?
Just Cause 2 sees the originals hero, Rico Rodriguez, return to yet another beautiful tropical island to overthrow the tyrannical dictator, and this time, track down his former boss and mentor, who is thought to have gone rouge. Take Rico on a massive adventure and assist local factions to get your way on this hostile island.
The game has attempted to take a slightly more personal approach than the last, having Rico confront his friend and mentor as well as help the needing country get free from the grip of the dictating leader. This is a welcome change and adds a far greater feel to the overall story and how you look at Rico’s mission, but although personal, the games story isn’t enough to pull you in and hold on tight. This isn’t because of the script (which although decent, is full or corny one-liners and bad accents), but rather the pacing of how it is delivered. The game has a new ‘Chaos’ system, which means you have to cause a certain amount of destruction and chaos (to the bad guys anyway) before future missions and weaponry become available. Ill talk about said system in a moment, but right now, think about how this affects the story. After each mission, just when you’re really aching to know what will happen next, you have to stop, and cause chaos. This may be fun on its own, but when your playing through a personal story like this, the break, which can sometimes be quite long, becomes agony. Its like a chore, and fast becomes a story-destroying factor, leaving you playing the game for no other reason than the fun of causing chaos, the very thing that brings down the games story in the first place.
In Just Cause 2, chaos is your business. And in a land of potential, thriving jungle, and an ongoing war between 4 factions (one of which is the government); business is good! The Chaos system as such; the more destruction you cause, the more the world gets thrown into chaos. You’re trying to really rile up the opposition here, so take hold of a rocket launcher, some C4 and maybe even a fighter jet and strap yourself in, because you’re about to get busy. The massive, fictional island of Panau is full of ways to disrupt the peace, from going on a killing spree to sabotaging a pipeline to blow, and how ever you choose to go about it, you’re sure to be in for a great time and some fond memories. Seeing as the story has its pacing issues, this is where the real gameplay makes its stand. Why? Because in Just Cause 2, the downright most enjoyable thing to do is to blow stuff -and people- up.
Another improvement over the last effort is the core gameplay. In this, everything has undergone a complete makeover, and as soon as you get yourself into a hot gun blazing battle of fury, you will notice. The gunplay and action in this game is amazing, and is far more enjoyable than most Sandbox-style games these days. Its fast, furious and full of lead. And to change things up a little, the grappling hook has made a welcome return and this too has had itself a makeover. Not only have the physics and style of the hook improved, but you can now hook together two things at once. Man and fast moving car? Check. Man and ceiling (piñata, anyone?)? Check. Man and pressurized gas canister? Check. Man and other man? Check. That’s right, you can now do pretty much anything you can think of with this little baby, and its great! Just another way to add to the colossal fun that comes packaged with this game.
Furthermore, one thing that plagues most 3rd person shooters is driving. GTA IV managed to get this down pat, but from Mercenaries to Saints Row practically none other have succeeded. Just Cause 1 added to the failure list, but the second redeems its good name. Not just driving, but all manner of vehicle operation has vastly improved in this sequel, whether its flying a jet fighter, taking a spin on a dirt bike or heck, even flying yourself a Boeing 737. And bringing the grappling hook into the question again, you can still grapple yourself a helicopter mid-flight, which can make for some impressive getaways. This is all just yet another example of how Just Cause 2 has untold amounts of fun to be had at every corner.
As with the gameplay, Just Cause 2’s graphics have been heavily updated from the originals. To start with, the games animation, both in game and pre-rendered, is superb. Characters move with such grace and realism usually only reserved for range-top realistic adventure games, not outgoingly unrealistic action romps. But it works ever-so-well with the games crazy action it almost feels wrong. Also, their speech animation has greatly improved, and even fits in with the rest of the games animation quality.
Moving on from the animation, the island of Panau is the most beautiful aspect of the game itself, with thousands of individual and stunning trees, bushes, and everything in-between. As you traverse through the islands mountains, beaches, jungles and even sprawling cities, you will see that everything is just as detailed as the last and every gamer knows that blowing something up is always made better when it looks so damn good to start with. And topping it off with an amazing draw distance that really brings out the environment and scenery you have one of the best game worlds we’ve ever seen and played.
I touched on the games script earlier, mentioning the characters accents and one-liners. To expand upon this, think about those bad action movies which although have a lot of pretty explosions, have a handful of main characters constantly spurting out thoughtless one-lines and bad catch phrases which the movie makers hope will make it into the history books with the classic ‘Ill be back’s and ‘Yippie ki yay’s (think every Michael Bay movie the latest Die Hard). Think of those and you have a good idea of Just Cause 2’s script and characters. Now imagine those bad lines all delivered in such a horribly forced accent. The developers much have been going for ‘authentic’, but it seems to have failed something fierce, resulting in nothing but laughable actors and bad voice work. It’s a shame that a game as enjoyable as this had to under come such a fate, but seeing as you’ll likely not care for the story much, it shouldn’t be too bad for you.
The musical side of things however, managed to escape the same fate as the voice talent. This is one part of the game that really is ‘authentic’. Just Cause 2 has a very tropical and pacific musical score that really suit’s the setting well, making free roaming (which you’ll be doing a LOT of) all the more fun and immersive.
Just Cause 2 will give any action/adventure fan one heck of a lot of hours of pointless fun in running around engaging in frantic firefights and scaling the massive mountains and scenery hoping to find some of the many little secrets and hidden items that lay scattered under and around every second hut and billabong. Its great to see some games still giving players such a large amount of enjoyable playtime, but if you want a game that will really pull you in with thoughtful characters and a great story, than Just Cause 2 will let you down on that front. Be careful what you come into this game wanting and expecting, or it may just be unforgiving, but rest soundly all you action fans.
An unprecedented sense of scale, psychotic and mind-boggling stunts and high flying vehicular combat carry this gem of a game, but it isn’t without its flaws. Just Cause 2 really reinvents the young series, and brings the mediocre rating of the first up a few notches. But ultimately some pretty major pacing issues and some bad voice work stop the game from being a sandbox masterpiece. Nether less, Just Cause 2 is one of the most enjoyable shooting and adventure experiences on the 360 and one for every crazed adrenaline junkie wanting a virtual rush.
AAG SCORE: 8.7/10
+ Unparalleled high-octane action fun on a beautiful tropical island
+ Huge and varying island landscape with many ways to overcome challenges
+ Countless hours of fun from traversing the map however you see fit
- Under par voice work and B-grade script bring the game down
- Pacing issues within the games main story line and mission structure
- Can become repetitive if you stick to doing missions too much
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott