STAFF REVIEW of Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360)

Friday, April 2, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Just Cause 2 Box art The sequel to Just Cause brings back Rico Rodriguez into the chaotic mix this time on an imaginary tropical island in South East Asia called Panau. You are given an absolutely huge open world sandbox (ala GTA) to play in and can go about doing any mission in any way you see fit (most of the time).

Just Cause 2 (JC2) is all about causing chaos, destruction, and overthrowing the evil dictator; how you do all of this is completely up to you. Of course though, being Rico, you need to do things in spectacular fashion though as you definitely need to impress the virtual on-lookers because doing it the ?standard? way would be too boring for Rico.

Panau is a very dangerous place; gangs rule the streets and the whole mass is ruled by an evil dictator named Baby Panay. He does anything to further his wealth and power without regard for the island?s inhabitants and is so corrupt that he?s beyond saving.

Your mission is to find and locate your former friend and mentor; Tom Sheldon. He seemed to have stolen some top secret intelligence along with millions in Agency cash, and you being the Agency?s most dangerous weapon, is set out to find him. Doing so will obviously not be easy and you will have to help others just to get bits and pieces of information on Sheldon.

Rico?s other mission is to also create as much havoc and chaos as possible on Panau in order to overthrow the ruthless dictator. Doing so isn?t as easy as simply blowing everything up in sight (though that greatly helps), you are also going to have to assist the rival rebel factions on the island to gain their trust while earning chaos and money along the way.

While there is a story present, after a few missions you won?t really care about it due to it not being told in a very fluent way. Sometimes the amount of time you spend not doing missions, you might completely forget what your objective was in the first place anyways. Due to the open sand-box nature of JC2, the lack of story can be overlooked as I can almost guarantee most of your play time will be spent not even doing missions.

Rico has two secret tricks up his sleeve that makes him such an effective agent; aside from his lack of fear and huge ?guts?. Rico has a grapple hook attached to his arm that is going to be the main equipment you use throughout the game. With this hook you are able to pull yourself instantly onto any idea you shoot it at within a hundred yards. You are able to traverse up buildings or cliffs with repeated use of this or can even pull yourself onto a passing vehicle quickly.

Used on an enemy will pull them off their feet and stun them for a short time. This works great on perched snipers as yanking them off from a tall height will kill them when they hit the ground; that or you can shoot them during their fall for some juggling action.

The other interesting way you can use your grapple hook is that you can use it to attach two items together in any way you can think of. You could hook an enemy then hang him from a building, or how about trying to hook him then attaching it to a car that?s driving by. The possibilities are endless; but my favorite so far is tethering an enemy to an upright propane canister, shooting the tank of gas, and then watching the bad guy get shot up in the air along with the rocket-like canister. You can almost do anything you can think of but there are some slight limitations such as the wire not always being able to hold up with the tension on the line (like trying to drag a building with a car simply won?t work for example). Much of the time you?ll try something to see if it works and a lot of the time it does which is so fun to experiment with.

The other secret weapon in Rico?s repertoire is his stunt parachute. Any time you are zip lining with your hook you can open your parachute to gain some altitude. The same goes for driving a car, anytime you want to bail (not the on ground), you can instantly open the door and open your chute to float away safely.

Combine your stunt parachute and your grapple hook though and you can come up with some very interesting combinations. Walking on foot is slow and if there are no vehicles around to hijack then you can traverse very quickly by combining your parachute, then reeling yourself in by hooking to the ground; rinse and repeat and you can even climb mountains with this method.

Rico would be the ideal Hollywood stuntman because at any time you can hijack vehicles, jump from plane to plane midair, base jump off deathly cliffs, skydive, hang from helicopters, shooting up command bases and even more. He?s the ultimate action hero that can do anything and what?s more important is that it really is fun to do.

The amount of vehicles in the game is quite astounding. You have everything from a tiny Vespa to a tricked out race car, speed boats, Boeing 747?s, attack choppers with mounted missiles and turrets, and everything in between. Any vehicle you see can be hijacked and driven or flown and makes for a very interesting way of getting around the massive island any way you wish.

The same goes for the available weapons to Rico (though not nearly as many) and can range from pistols to machine guns all the way up to sniper rifles and rocket launchers. Eventually you will have access to the Black Market and can call in ?backup? in the form of weapons, vehicles, or even extractions to any other previously discovered area.

If you are stuck in the desert and want to get out of there quickly simple call the Black Market dealer to drop you off the vehicle of your choosing (provided you can afford it with your accumulated wealth) and drive away. The same goes for weapons if you are out of ammo or simply need to get out of the area quickly. Most of the time though you won?t even think about using the dealer as finding weapons and vehicles isn?t terribly hard to do. The dealer will also upgrade weapons and vehicles for you if you?ve found enough of the hidden upgrade parts and can drastically increase the items in any order you wish.

Missions are unlocked based on how much Chaos you?ve created around the island; destroying government properly like vehicles, buildings, radio towers and more will quickly build up your Chaos which in turn will unlock more missions. Not only will you unlock more missions to complete, but you?ll also be working towards unlocking new weapons and vehicles you can purchase in the Black Market which will help you create chaos easier.

The Agency missions relates and pushed the main story plot along and the side missions for the factions help them grow their territories and unlock more side missions for you to do which in turn helps you gain more Chaos to unlock more Agency missions. It?s a cycle that keeps repeating itself to keep you progressing towards new missions.

For the Faction missions you will meet the leaders that have the cliché ?I?m the leader of this clan, we need your help with this, will you help us?? introductions. Every side mission you decide to take on as well will almost always start with them driving up to you, telling you what you need to do, then leaving you on your own to go complete it (though they are nice enough to give you a weapon and vehicle most of the time).

While there is some variety to the missions, most of the time you will be sent to destroy or take over a certain area though it does sometime switch it up with escort missions and other fun types of missions to complete. While the hundreds of missions can be completed in any way or order you choose, the missions themselves can become quite bland and repetitive and frustrating.

For one, infantry will respawn indefinitely until the whole base or area is taken over. This means you need to get in to do what you need to do and get out or else you?ll be overwhelmed or simply run out of ammo. Secondly, while some missions do have checkpoints, you better hope you reach it before you die because if you don?t you might be restarting the whole mission over again; this also means the 20 minute travel time to the starting area sometimes. With the island being larder than 400 square miles, sometimes simply getting back to a mission?s area can be daunting (provided you don?t use the Black Market extractions).

If there is one thing that JC2 needs to be commended for, it is its draw distance and depth of field. Somehow the whole island is viewable from any point where you are and doesn?t use that ?fog? those other games do to keep down the draw distance. It?s really impressive considering it doesn?t affect any slowdown in gameplay at all either.

If you are a completionist, you are going to have your hands full for many hours trying to find all the hidden upgrades and secrets. I?ve simply just traveled around for hours trying to find upgrades and trying to see how far I could travel up the mountains and it never got dull. Just Cause 2 is as fun as it looks, simple as that.

While the game is nowhere near perfect and has many bugs, you?ll have so much fun the rest of the time that you?ll simply forget about these nuances. While I suspect very few will complete the main story, many will enjoy hours upon hours of fun entertainment just fooling around doing whatever they want. I?ve honestly not had this much fun doing ?nothing? since GTA first came out, that?s how enjoyable it is just to run, fly, drive, grapple and parachute around and do whatever you want.

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.9 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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