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The first Just Cause is an okay game. It’s repetitive and a bit unpolished but it introduces some neat ideas. It shows potential and, ultimately, feels like a framework for the sequel. I say that because I played Just Cause 2 before. It’s the game that introduced me to the series and as I was playing Just Cause, it wasn’t hard to see how some of the ideas and mechanics were greatly improved in the sequel. Developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Eidos Interactive, Just Cause 2 was released for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in March, 2010. For this review, I played the PC version.
The game does have a pretty big modding community and you can find all kinds of cool stuff out there. A multiplayer mod was developed and was successful enough to be recognized by the developers and approved as an add-on. I did consult the game’s PCGamingWiki page before playing and learned of some issues that can easily be rectified. For example, some unpatched bugs render it impossible to attain one hundred percent completion but fans have created a mod that fixes this.
Just Cause 2 puts the player back into the shoes of operative Rico Rodriguez who works for the Agency. Rico is deployed to the fictional country of Panau to locate his former handler who is suspected of working with the country’s dictator and he allies himself with three factions that are secretly backed by different superpowers around the world, all vying for a valuable resource. I can’t say the plot is great and much like the first game, I feel a lot of the humor falls flat. The story is clearly just a setup for the gameplay – an excuse to drop the player into a massive world ripe for destruction because that’s the real meat of the game. Everything but the plot.
Just Cause 2 is similar to its predecessor. A lot of the mechanics have been carried over and refined. Just Cause 2 is a repetitive game but because of the refined and improved mechanics, the action can become addictive. The gunplay, for example, is vastly improved. Just Cause 2 features a lot of different weapons that look, sound, and feel great to fire. Best of all, getting around is a lot more enjoyable. Rico can hijack any vehicles, boats and aircraft he comes across and even climb around the outside of vehicles. Rico can shoot while riding motorcycles but he still can’t shoot at enemies while driving cars, like a drive-by, but I didn’t spend as much time in vehicles as I did in the previous game so it didn’t bother me as much this time around.
The grappling hook returns and has been significantly improved. You can grapple onto various surfaces and structures, tether objects together, and use it to quickly get around the world. Rico can launch himself into the air and deploy a parachute and you can use the grappling hook to continuously gain momentum, a technique called “slingshotting”. I spent most of my travel time off the ground because it’s quicker and a lot more fun. Despite the quicker and more enjoyable ways to get around than that of the last game, Panau is still huge and getting from one end of the map to the other can take a considerable amount of time. Luckily, you can call for an extraction to any discovered location on the map. All you have to do is visit or go near a new location and it’s revealed and immediately becomes an extraction or fast travel point.
Scattered throughout the world are weapon, vehicle, and armor parts. Weapon and vehicle parts can be spent to upgrade weapons and vehicles and collecting enough armor parts increases your maximum health. Rico can contact the Black Market at any time. This is where he can spend money on weapons and vehicles to be delivered to his location. It’s also where he can purchase upgrades. The only thing I don’t like about the Black Market is that you can’t request multiple items at once.
Earning money is never a problem because it’s earned by causing chaos and earning chaos points which are rewarded to you for doing almost anything, by basically playing the game. You can also find cash stashes in the world. There’s hundreds of locations in the world and each one can be “completed”. This means finding all the parts and destroying everything, among some other things. Chaos points progress the game. The more Chaos you cause, the more shit you unlock. That includes Black Market items, missions, strongholds to take over, and higher heat levels. Causing Chaos attracts the Panau Military to your presence, otherwise known as Heat. And the higher the Heat level, the more aggressive their response. Just like in the previous game, it’s very easy to attract Heat but I also found it easier to lose Heat in Just Cause 2 and I feel like that’s because it’s easier to get away from danger and enemies thanks primarily to the improved and fun grappling mechanics.
When compared to San Esperito, Panau is a much more diverse world. From beaches to snowy mountains to deserts, each region is distinct and the world is full of settlements, cities, military bases, outposts, and airports. Granted, a lot of these locations feel very similar and some have more things to do than others but there’s certainly no shortage of shit to destroy and enemies to blow away. The world also features a ton of collectibles to find including skulls, black boxes, and drug drops. After you complete the story, you unlock Mercenary Mode which doesn’t really mean anything other than all the story missions are complete. The game is simply encouraging you to do everything else.
Just Cause 2 is a game that gives you plenty to do and a lot of it is repetitive. Much of the game has you shooting people, destroying things and collecting items. There’s also plenty of races to complete and colonels to assassinate. As for the missions, there’s actually not many agency or story missions. In fact, there’s less than ten and the only reason it takes several hours to beat the story is because you’ll spend most of the time causing Chaos to unlock the missions. Each faction comes with their own set of missions and as you complete them, you’ll increase their influence around the country and unlock new strongholds to take over. Much like the previous game, the process for taking over a stronghold is always the same but there’s nowhere near as many as there is in San Esperito.
There’s a lot more faction missions than there are agency missions and, unfortunately, they are one of the game’s sore points. The faction missions are not only repetitive but a lot of them ended up feeling more like busy work. Like things I was only doing just to easily increase my Chaos points to unlock more shit. I had a lot more fun exploring and causing chaos on my own. It’s not so much that the faction missions are badly designed, it’s just that most of them are very mundane, simple and straightforward. They rarely showcase anything exciting that you couldn’t see or do on your own. You’ll have to hijack vehicles, download data, kill people, rescue people, and escort people. It doesn’t matter what faction you decide to work for, they all task you with similar objectives.
It quickly becomes obvious that the world and freedom are the real highlights here. That said, not every mission is dull. The agency missions are often more interesting and exciting than the faction missions. However, some faction missions do put you in cool situations. You’ll have to defend a boat, hang from a helicopter and then jump to a vehicle holding a witness and hijack it, and disarm bombs on moving vehicles. Stuff like this is pretty cool. But a lot of missions are more mundane. For example, go to a location and download data from a laptop or pick a person up and drop them off somewhere or simply kill someone or blow up a vehicle. Just typical stuff with no flash.
I actually bought this game for Xbox 360 shortly after it released and remember thinking it looked gorgeous at the time and I still think it looks pretty great. It’s a very colorful game with good visual variety and effects. Some parts of the presentation definitely show their age now but, overall, it’s still very pleasing on the eyes. As for the audio, I know the soundtrack features a lot of intense tunes that kick in during certain sequences but other than that, nothing really stands out to me about the music. In fact, I think the soundtrack in the first game is better and that’s the only thing about that game that I like better. On the technical side, the game ran pretty smooth. I did encounter several crashes and tried several things to prevent it and it was only after turning off the decals did the crashing stop.
I love Just Cause 2. It’s not perfect but it’s a great game for a lot of reasons. It’s an open world game, it’s an action game, it’s a destruction sandbox, it’s a collectathon, and it’s a zone out game. By that I mean it’s the kind of game that you can get lost in for hours. I found myself frequently zoning out as I would navigate around shooting people, blowing shit up, collecting items, and unlocking things. Best of all, you’re not restricted in any way. I would frequently get sidetracked on my way to the next mission because there’s something to collect, shoot, or destroy everywhere you look. You can ignore almost every mission in the game not only have fun but also invest tons of hours into it. You are completely free to go anywhere and do whatever the hell you want whenever you want. It’s the kind of game that can be enjoyed in short bursts or long sessions. You don’t even have to know what’s going on to have fun. You can jump into it at any point and mess around and have fun. The gameplay can become repetitive but the action and destruction becomes addictive.
I would absolutely recommend Just Cause 2 to anyone. I would even say skip the first game and jump right into this. It’s the definition fun. If you go into it expecting some kind of amazing story, you might be disappointed. But if you go into it expecting a ton of action with plenty to do, you’ll be in for a great time. It has its quirks but the country of Panau makes for an incredible sandbox that should satisfy action junkies for a long time. Definitely check it out.