Review: Just Cause 2

Set on the fictional island of Panau, Just Cause 2 places you in the role of Rico Rodriguez, a CIA operative tasked with overthrowing the newly established dictator “Baby” Panay.  As the game opens, you are forced to parachute out of your helicopter and a short tutorial introduces you to various game mechanics such as shooting, running, using your parachute, and the all important grappling hook.  The grappling hook is one of the best weapons in your inventory allowing you to traverse terrain quickly, latch onto vehicles, most notably helicopters for a quick hijack, pull enemies out of watch towers, attach enemies to vehicles for a dragging death, and in some missions, pull certain items to complete a mission.  Used with the unlimited supply of parachutes, the grappling hook also allows you climb mountains; move treetop to treetop without worrying about a long fall to your untimely death.

Panau is simply put, a beautifully large island worth exploring.  As sandbox games go, this island is one that is worth exploring as you kill time between missions.  Deserts, islands, endless ocean, rivers, mountain ranges, miles of highway, small villages, and cities contribute to the feeling of a real country.  It is easy to ignore the main storyline, explore, and liberate the various locations as you play through.  Each area you discover has a combination of pickups; cash, weapon, vehicle, and health upgrades that count toward the total completion percentage.  To make up the other half, sabotage plays a key role.  Throughout the game, your goal is to cause Chaos, thereby unlocking new Faction and Agency.  Targets include, but are not limited to, generators, water towers, propaganda trailers, statues of Baby Panay, and dock cranes.  This is by no means a complete list, but items to sabotage are marked with a Panuan star. Chaos also earns money, allowing access to the Black Market, who offers guns and vehicles for further mischief.  In the Black Market, it is also possible to upgrade each weapon and vehicle and increase firepower and speed.

When you tire of exploration, and have upped Chaos, there are the main story missions.  Missions involve assassinations, rescues, escorts, sabotage, and Stronghold takeovers that serve as spawn points when you die.  The storyline in this game is weak, plagued by the same animations with different characters, cheesy dialogue, and just unbelievable missions at times.  Rico balancing on nuclear missiles as you attempt to disarm them while battling enemies immediately comes to mind.  Fortunately, after you complete the story line missions, you are still able to play in Chaos Mode, no missions, just exploration, and the chance to finish liberating all the cities.

Each of the three factions in the game also has hidden packages scattered throughout the island, denoted on a much needed map by a green dot.  These include drug drops, weapon caches, and tribal markers.  Challenges are also included in racing time challenges, airplane races, and even parachute time challenges.  There is something for everyone, and the 50+ hours I have played have left me at a 76% completion.  With all these options available, the game doesn’t avoid a feeling of being repetitive, after liberating five villages, I often found myself wandering aimlessly, or turning the game off for the day.

The enemy AI seemed to be unbalanced, while offering a decent challenge, the enemy calls in air support, takes cover, and attempts to outflank your position; it had a very inconsistent feel.  While liberating a small village with only four items to find for completion, several waves of helicopters would be sent after my agent.  After succumbing to a ridiculous amount of firepower and dying, I would spawn, head out to a new area to invade.  In this case, a military base and not a single helicopter gunship or a helicopter to disembark troops would be sent my way.  It just leads to a feeling of disbelief in the functioning of an otherwise intelligent island.

Just Cause 2 offers an amazing island waiting to be explored.  Given the open world of sandbox style play, it doesn’t really offer anything new or groundbreaking, with the possible exception of the grappling hook.  For the Empty Wallet Gamer, it can be found at Game Stop pre-owned for $26.99.  A decent game to kill some time in, I would recommend it for the gamer who is obsessed with upping their Gamer Score with achievements, as Just Cause 2 offers a good amount.

Verdict- 80%

Steven Jackson