Pros: Graphics are lush and wonderfully detailed. World traversal via grappling hook and parachute is fun and creative
Cons: A game world too big for its own good. Repetitive Missions. A story that doesn't quite achieve "so bad it's good" status
At this point, Just Cause 2 has been out for a few years. You can easily find it for both XBox 360 and PS3 at a good price, and if you're a PC gamer, you'll often find the game on Steam for $5 (or even lower). Perhaps you've only put a couple minutes into the game, or perhaps it's one of those games that has always been on your radar. The question is: Is this game really all it's built up to be, or does it fall on its face (likely from falling from a helicopter)?
I've found that the answer lies somewhere in between. In this game by developer Avalanche Studios (published and distributed by Eidos Interactive and Square Enix, respectively), players take control of Rico Rodriguez, the star of the original Just Cause. In this game, Rico is tasked with exploring the sprawling islands of Panau, a fictional country off the coast of Southeast Asia. Panau is run by the cruel, childish, oppressive dictator Baby Panay, who brings about thoughts of several real life despots. In addition to that, several criminal factions work behind the scenes on Panau, leaving the citizens under the threat of constant violence.
The goal of the game is simple - create chaos around the island in order to smoke out the bad guys, as well as build allegiances with the local crime factions. Over time, you'll be in their good graces enough to help topple Baby Panay.
In typical third person shooter fashion, the player can create chaos by...well, blowing stuff up. Blowing lots of stuff up. Water towers, generators, broadcast towers, and other environmental accouterments are fodder for your bullets and vehicles. Not only that, but Rico is equipped with both a grappling hook and parachute, making it somewhat easy to get to traverse nearby locations.
The grappling hook and parachute are a wonderful combination, allowing the player a type of freedom that other third person shooters do not offer. You can scale buildings, hop on cars, or simply soar through the trees. There is a lot of versatility in the way the game lets you get around.
So, by all means, this sounds like it should be the best game ever? Right? Grappling hook, check. An endless supply of parachutes, check. A variety of guns and vehicles (land, air, and sea), check. A huge world to explore. Check.
Indeed, Just Cause 2 sounds like an amazing game....on paper. In reality, this game winds up being much shallower and more repetitive than one would hope for, given such an awesome premise..
As Rico starts to do missions for the local criminal organizations, Just Cause 2's system of progression becomes painfully obvious. Do a few missions for each of the three crime factions, do an "Agent Mission" (the "main" missions that progress the story). Do a few more missions for the crime factions, do an agent mission. This process goes on and on and on. The problem comes in when you look at the mission variety. It truly does feel like you're doing the same few missions over and over again. Not only that, but you tend to do these missions in areas that look remarkably similar to one another. Refineries all have the same basic layout. Military bases seem mostly identical. While there are a few standout missions in the game, there simply aren't enough of them. Most of them have the same objectives, which vary from "don't let this guy die" missions, "pick someone up in a car" missions, or "get to this computer and hit some buttons" missions.
Truth be told, if you play this game for a couple hours, you've essentially done everything there is to do in Just Cause 2.. The rest of the game is you doing that stuff over and over and over again. It's a problem that plagues a lot of sandbox games, and unfortunately, Just Cause 2 is no different. It feels too big for its own good, and the campaign feels artificially padded to add to the game's length.
It may sound like I didn't have any fun with the game, but I assure you I did - just not as much as I would've hoped for. This game is gorgeous. It is one of the few games out there that really makes you feel like you're soaring above the clouds, looking at the world below. It looks excellent whether you're in the middle of a city, or piloting a helicopter above the ocean. The only visual oddities in the game come from the game's animations. Bad guys often act as bullet sponges, as your bullets don't seem to affect them the way you'd like (and some of these guys take a LOT of damage before they die).Similarly, there are some pretty lazily done "rag doll" animations in the game. When Rico gets blown away by an explosion, expect to see his body flop around like a lifeless fish.
Again, traversing the world is fun. Soaring around on the parachute is Super Mario World meets Spider-Man. It's just fun to jet around the world and not have to run or drive everywhere. I love when any kind of game has a unique movement system like this.
The sound design is very good as well. Explosions have a lot of "oomph" to them, and that's definitely a good thing, because you'll be hearing a LOT of them. My only issue with the sound is that the music winds up being repetitive after a while. That, and the voice acting is incredibly over the top. Obviously, this game doesn't take its story seriously, but the voice acting never really comes off as charming or fun.
The weapons are all standard fare and are fun to use. I especially had fun with the Triggered Explosives, which are great for taking out just about anything. By collecting weapon parts, you can upgrade your weapons so that they are much more effective at the end of the game.
Speaking of which....this game seems almost endless. While I beat the campaign in just under 20 hours, I beat it with a whopping 28% completion rate. That means that there is still 72% of the game I have yet to complete. This all comes in the form of hidden weapons parts, vehicle parts, and other collectables found using the game's built in radar (which one could totally miss if they're not looking for it). If you have a ton of free time, you can get a LOT out of this game. For me, that 72% will remain untouched. It could likely take upwards of a hundred hours complete everything in this game.
All in all, I'd say this game is above average, but winds up being held back by its own sheer length and ambition. Just Cause 2's game world is massive. TOO massive. The game feels padded out in many ways, bringing about the old adage that bigger isn't necessarily better.
If you can find this game at a low price, I'd say it's worth picking up. Chances are, you can at least get a couple hours out of the game. Those first couple hours are absolutely where you'll find the most fun with this game. The rest of the game just doesn't have that same novelty found during the game's first few minutes.
It's easy to make a sandbox game where a player initially has fun. Keeping the player's attention throughout a 20 hour campaign? That's another thing, and it's something I don't think Just Cause 2 does particularly well.