Sometimes we the gamer can get so wrapped up in narrative, technical advancements, online specs, social approval and how much battery life is left in the controller that we forget why we’re playing games in the first place. We’re playing, we’re having fun, goofing in a jungle gym. Swinging from the bars, jumping from medium heights, and throwing pebbles when no one is looking. As a follow up to Eidos’ cult sandbox title Just Cause, Just Cause 2 hopes to pile drive the franchise into the spotlight. With an infinite amount of parachutes, grappling hooks, gas tanks to be toyed with on one of the largest landscapes in video game history, there is good cause to free fall into Just Cause 2.
Die hard super agent Rico Rodriguez is back. He arrives at the fictional South Asian island of Panau under orders to track down a missing operative who his handlers think may have gone rogue. The island is under strict military regime, specifically the control of the Kim Jong like ego-tripper Baby Panay, and the social stability of this scenic paradise is well into the red. In order to gather intel, Rodriguez goes under the alias of a mercenary, Scorpio, dealing with the island’s three feuding gangs in exchange for information. The story isn’t too inspiring, the characters, all uncanny copies of pop culture parallels, aren’t original, the voice acting is awful, oy, the voice acting is awful, but the plot knows to quickly circle the reason for the season. Chaos. In order to expose the ploys of Panay’s corruption, Rodriguez is heavily encouraged to induce as much chaos and instability as possible. So how does one go about getting with that chaos thing, exactly? Well…
While the guns, cars and grenades aren’t too unconventional, Rico is manned with a few simple gizmos that can add a dash of spice to your violent permutations. First you have a magical backpack, which tailored from the same store Mary Poppins shops at seems to store an infinite amount of parachutes, which can be used to stop a free fall from any insane height or more dramatically exit an exploding vehicle. The second, brand new and far more flexible gadget is Rico’s grappling hook. The hook shot can clamp on to any surface, and while it’s most basic function is to zip Rodriguez around the surface of the island, there are plenty more options for the creative types. Yes, you could just latch on to some higher ground assailant and take him down a few (or a dozen) levels. Orrrrr… You could latch on to some jerk, latch the other end to a moving vehicle, or, oooh, oooh, I know, latch him to a rocketing gas tank. Yeah, that ought to wipe the smug look off his pixelated face.
There are plenty of things to go kaboom. Each needs little encouragement to be triggered into a heated display of fluffy jagged yellow-red. Every location (and there are a lot) can be ‘liberated’ from Panay’s influence by taking out the sinister infrastructure of gas lines, satellite dishes and protective missile launchers. No, not by deactivating them, that would be boring. Blow them up! Out of ammo? No worries, if there isn’t a near by restock chest, you can always cause enough trouble, lure in a military chopper and just hijack it. Hell, you can order one with your PDA in a black market meets eBay exchange.
You’ll notice I keep coming back to words that are similes or close enough to destruction. Frankly there isn’t much else to talk about. The world map is massive, possibly the biggest I’ve ever seen, and while there are some unique locations, the bulk of it is water or empty forest. There are also plenty of missions between the three gang factions, though often, despite having three different end goals, they seem to pit you with very similar tasks. Parachuting around can be slow and zip lining can be monotonous, but driving leaves you the most vulnerable. There is no way to defend yourself while behind the wheel, making certain tasks or even casual strolls a daunting mission. It’s much safer to get around by crawling over the top and sides of the car while someone else drives, a la a YouTube jackass. No, not because it looks so implausible. No, not because you can toss C4 bombs on enemy jeeps. Yeaahhh, it’s totally because you can hook shot cars to the ground behind them and watch where physics will send them next.
I honestly don’t know how to feel about Just Cause 2, in the end. On one hand, a lot of it is awful and uninspired. There isn’t much to formally do and what there is can tiresome or is simply done better in other games. Yet despite the kind of flaws that would ravage so many other titles, none of that really intrudes on the guilty pleasures of blowing up an entire military base, oil tanks and all, with the press of a single triggered explosion. Or mowing down a harbour with the force of combat chopper’s infinite turrets. Or jumping off your burning motorcycle to watch it launch into the faces of your foes. Or linking two spinning gas tanks together to watch them dance around the air in deadly pleasure. Or shooting wildly with whatever you have while free falling from wherever. The best elements outweigh the worst in Just Cause 2. And in the end, all you’re really doing is playing.
Originally posted on SPACECAST.COM by my doppelganger so you can see that this is complicated.
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