The lights are on
Just Cause 2 is not a serious game. It's not a game for high minded individuals who think games are art. This is a game built like the long gone days where PC games didn't actually have to have DRM, where writing was an afterthought, and ninjas were standard upgrades to the regular hired help.
I'm still not entirely sure how it manages to work though.
This review is for the PC version of the game.
Just Cause 2 is a fantastic terrible game. It fails to execute polish on so many fronts, has numerous glitches and bugs, is written worse than a ten year old's fan fiction, and has some of the most generic "kill everyone" missions you'll ever experience. And yet, I'm still just as strongly compelled to give it a high score. It's hard to put a score to it, all things considered.
In Just Cause 2, you are a member of "the Agency" who must find his mentor who is a spy who may have gone rogue. You must destabilize an island nation to stop a corrupt dictator who has a small animal resting on his shoulder and is unnaturally short. Everywhere you go and almost anything you do is either preparing to destroy something or destroying something so you can further prepare for even greater destruction. You have an entire set of islands to visit with oil rigs and military bases a plenty to assault, along with civilian areas.
Sounds like a James Bond meets GTA game, yes? Well, it actually plays and works a lot more like a low grade Saints Row. Some of the battle you participate in and the punishment some enemies put up with makes you think you're playing as and with members of Animaniacs. Not to mention there's the island from LOST (with smoke monster and bunker), a floating pleasure palace with some of the most painfully animated dancers you'll ever see, a fake shark, and mysterious lights in the water that suggest possibility of aliens. Just Cause 2 knows that it's premise is tepidly boring and unoriginal and tries to simply innovate through smiling crassly at the mess it is.
The shooting is average at best. Guns have a lot of kick to their shots (you will send enemies flying with your shotgun), but don't do as much damage as you'd think they would. Progression is tedious as it requires being lucky enough to find necessary upgrade boxes hidden throughout the environment (and unlike in Crackdown, they like to hide them here), whilst unlocking new missions in the story is very easy. You can proceed in the campaign however you please, just so long as you keep creating the Chaos (which is literally counted for progression) necessary to move forward. Chaos is stacking, so you can spend twenty hours just blowing things up randomly and still get all the campaign missions without more than one side mission completed.
The grappling hook ability you have has been drastically expanded since the last game. Instead of just being used for cars, it is fully useable on almost anything and anywhere. You can zip around like Batman, you can tie an enemy to your car and drag him until he's dead, you can send explosives careening into Panay's government hardware, or you can just hanging from a skyscraper and watch the view. I genuinely advise doing so -- while the game's characters are like stick figures at times, the environments look BEAUTIFUL at times. I mean, most actual places you do things are copied and pasted military bases and/or civilian housing, but considering just how large the world map is, I can't blame them here. It's not Skyrim, it's not trying to tell you this is real -- you know it's a game and it's happy to roll with that.
And somehow, that is how the game works. It just rolls with it. It doesn't care that many of its aspects are cheap or cheesy, just so long as you're having fun. The health system seems ignorant of this plan, but besides that -- this is basically a game about what people do in most sandbox games anyway, they've just made it the core aspect of every playable feature. Anything you do that is violent, generates Chaos and cash. Buying a tank with that earned cash means you can go on a rampage and generate more and more Chaos and cash. It's an endless cycle that can keep you playing for hours, one-upping yourself as you base jump off of buildings to drop a grenade and whip out your parachute at the last second, drive a tank off a cliff Dukes of Hazard style as the military police blaze behind you, and place remote bombs to destroy an offshore rig. There's even a set of silos that have multiple catwalks and can be set to self-detonate like out of every action film you've ever seen -- and there's more than ten across the entire map.
Completionists will be cutting themselves trying to get all that is available done. The only thing is... it does burn out of interest after a point. After a while you have to just set the game aside, but for me, that was after roughly fifty hours of gameplay, and I'm still tempted every now and then just to drop in and do a quick military base run or side mission. It's the great kind of sandbox game where you truly are free to work within the game's mechanics, much like EA's Saboteur.
As this is the PC port, I should note that developer Avalanche put their all into this game's port. You have controls over almost any aspect of the game's graphics, and there's a benchmarking tool. While the PS3 and Xbox 360 have seen fit to remove the demo for the game from their marketplaces, PC fans can still get the demo through Steam and test it out to see if it works well. I will warn you though -- this game can be more demanding than Crysis with all the shiny graphics turned up to max. There is also a PC-only multiplayer mod that can be downloaded and played, and it will also push your PC to the max. They're adding factions and the ability to change from playing as Rico in said mod, with over 1000 players per server. If you ever wanted to see something like GTA V, but without the restriction of sixteen players, now is your chance.
Just Cause 2 is borderline guilty pleasure material when it comes to how genuinely bad it is (although it begs the question if some aspects were intentional), but it is a terrific experience. I know I could go on for three pages about all that's wrong with it, but none of it matters when you're in a rocket launcher duel with a midget tyrant and his gecko compatriot.
Surprise! The twist was that I had this one ready anyway!Cheers,Paradigm
Next Up: RAGE (or Borderlands 2, or Bioshock 2)
To dinner, don't worry, we'll win him back from that hussy Jessica!
And later can go out for a bleeder burger and do some bowling, eh cousin?
You ***! You've weaponized Final Fantasy: Spirits from Within?!
Say that three times fast -- I DARE YOU!
HA! You fools! Helicopters don't use blades to fly! They're powered by magic!