Time to set the world ablaze
It’s good to see that a phrase I adorned during my Ocarina Of Time years still lives on today. If you want to get a job done, at least do it with a hookshot. Need to zip out of enemy fire? Hookshot. Need to tear the testes out of an enemy without a molestation lawsuit? Hookshot. Need to deal with that seagull squarking next to your bedroom window? Flaming hookshot. Why save the world on foot when you can do it in swinging style? The gadget is a unique selling point which never seems to get old, and a cherry on top of Just Cause 2’s absolutely massive cake.
Returning from the of the original, Rico plans for the same fates to befall the delicate islands of Panau. Beneath the lush jungles, harsh deserts and frozen mountains hides the signs of a government regime that threatens the political hot spot and possibly the rest of the world. With the citizens slowly becoming more constricted and other countries soon becoming hot under the collar as relations become fragile, it’s up to Rico to put his degree in ‘Saving the World the Steven Seagal Way’ to good use and blowing up anything that brandishes the logo of the savage dictators.
It’s an interesting set-up, but the plot gets about as in depth as a manual for a pencil. A minor seven story missions are vastly padded out by the typical sandbox activities. Stronghold missions allow you to take over parts of the island, faction missions raise your noriety with the military and trademark races and collectables are all important in the grand scheme of things. Setting government property ablaze, however, is by far the simplest and most astonishingly effective way of making a name for yourself and drawing out the powers that be. Each mission completed, each race one, each vendetta against a petrol station fulfilled earns a fiery currency known as ‘Chaos’. The more ‘Chaos’ accumulated, the more story missions unlock, and though these repetitive tasks entangled with poor narrative aren’t essentially worth fighting for, the joys of tearing apart the islands’ industrial heart never fade.
The ability to detonate practically anything and everything is entertaining enough to keep you on board from beginning to end
To say Just Cause 2 is trying to woo you with dynamic story telling is foolish when you take into account the massive sandbox left for you to explore and destroy. Standing upon the highest points of Panau, its beauty in desert, jungle and snow torn environments is stretched to near enough the ends of the Earth. Over 300 locations await to be liberated by hand-grenade rain, and there’s enough money lying about the place in thousands of collectables to pay for your tools of destruction. Though beautiful to look at from a high altitude, however, a vast majority of the locations in the game lack a lot of soul. It’s a tall order to ask a studio to make locations in their hundreds particularly unique, but just a few visits of villages and military bases makes everything feel too copy and pasted for its own good. Only one locale really stood out in my mind as overly impressive, even the islands’ trademark massive city was nothing but slabs upon slabs of concrete Lego forced together by motorway.
On ground, nothing looks all that impressive, so it’s lucky that your primary mode of transport propels you into the air when used wisely. The grapple-hook/parachute combo allows Rico to latch onto practically any surface imaginable, and flicking out one of his infinite parachutes allows fast airborne travel anytime, providing used wisely. You can be extracted to any known location on the map provided there’s no one hunting for you, but when it comes to exploring new areas, nothing quite beats growing a pair of wings and drifting over the next territory to take over. More so than nabbing yourself a vehicle.
The gentleman that provides you with transport to previously visited areas can also deal you weapons and vehicles, yet dealings are strangely only initiated after a lengthy cutscene watching the bloke drop off the goods one by one, a task which soon becomes somewhat excruciating to watch over time. When you finally get hold of a vehicle, luck seems to dictate its handling. If it’s steady, it’s most like too slow to get you anywhere at a decent pace. If it’s quick, every tree seems magnetic to it. A middle ground is often very hard to find, and the only reason I ever chose a helicopter for transport was due to Rico not having built-in rockets and gatling gun. Parachuting your way through the tree is so much more satisfying, and also less likely to stall if the military are close to mowing you down. Even jumping on your vehicle and darting around the outside of it to pick off the authorities is more fun than being in the bloody thing.
The soundtrack is almost non-existent, although when it kicks in it’s suitably impressive, with effective Asian nods making it unique. Less can be said with the voiceovers, all easily distinguishable, but all exceptionally bizarre. Everyone sounds like they’re trying to swallow a piece of chicken that’s still alive, and perhaps it’s to suit the game dark sense of humour, but it only serves to promote the mute feature.
Just Cause 2 forces you in for the long haul, and enough exploration uncovers a slight repetitive and glitchy nature. However, even though these flaws deter the game from becoming an explosive thrill ride, the fantastic free flowing gameplay and the ability to detonate practically anything and everything is entertaining enough to keep you on board from beginning to end, whether the end being the story finale or a fabled 100% completion.
The Bad: Strange vehicle dynamics, Unusual voiceovers, Locations can sometimes feel incredibly similar to each other
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