The lights are on
Grand Theft Auto defined the sandbox genre, but everyone else looking to hop on the band-wagon just tries to replicate that formula, usually producing nothing but mediocrity. I couldn't stand Crackdown. Saints Row never sparked even the slightest trace of interest. Driver, Scrapland, Godfather, Scarface, yada-yada, yawn. Just Cause 2, however, took adventure and exploration to the next level.
Honestly, this genre is just done. I'm over it. I don't even know if a new GTA interests me at this point. I never played Red Dead Redemption. Heresy? Whatever, man. How many times can I really put 30-40 hours in to the same open-world formula before I realize it's no different than a Madden update every year. I would think maybe a ridiculously solid story would be the reason I might finally show interest, but where does that leave Godfather and Scarface? Maybe it was just time for some fresh, well executed mechanics to be installed in a stale shell. Just Cause 2 does just that.
So let's talk bout this grappling hook, parachute deal. It's interesting. Is it perfectly executed? Absolutely not. I ended up hanging in a few awkward positions that forced me to fall from a 50 story building and die, or I got shot to death while swaying from a helicopter when I was trying to hi-jack it. There's also some issues with response of the hook latching to targets and whatnot, but are you kidding me? Did you even read what I said? I grappled my way up a freaking skyscraper! I attached myself to a military chopper trying to gun me down, threw the pilot out, and shot him with missiles! That is AWESOME!!
This game is loaded with moments just like that. And for all the inconsistencies and annoyances I encountered trying to complete stronghold and military base takeovers, factions missions, and campaign agency missions, I would do something I'd never seen before in a game that just blew my mind. There are some real frustrations when enemies (on an island, I might add) just keep appearing to pour from random orifices, and the only ammo drops they leave behind aren't for the weapon I've spent so much time upgrading. But, then I remember this isn't a typical game, so I go grab a turret, dismount it Halo-style, and start mowing those replicating ass holes down. Destroying government property never gets old, and the game is relatively good at saving progress so that no one throws a controller threw a flimsy apartment wall like I sometimes want to do with NBA 2K12.
That being said, the biggest issues with the way this game functions, is the save system. On most of the campaign missions, checkpoints will be initiated. On random chaos-causing fun time, however, the main character gets dropped back at the nearest stronghold upon death. That can sometimes be 15 or so miles from whatever destination I decided to pillage. Progress is saved, but that doesn't keep me from being slightly pissed off that there's no helicopter on this base, and 15 miles is a LONG way to drive in a video game. The vast and varied scenery is beautiful, beyond beautiful even, but that does not mean I want to see it for 30 minutes just to get to the place I last died. Luckily, there's usually a military base or airport nearby that quicker transport can be discovered.
At the end of the day, I was totally impressed. Sure, there were things I disliked, but the room for discovery (there's an island that is full of Lost references!) is so huge, that I was not surprised when I saw I had completed 10% of the game in 25 hours. I put 38 hours in to the game total. Had I happened across Just Cause 2 in my younger years, I don't imagine I would have ever needed another game to keep my lust for gaming at bay. Simple fun, with an edge of complexity, and most importantly, it feels like an extension of the fingertips. I don't think anyone would be disappointed.
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