Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360)
Posted by Kuang on Thu, 02 Sep 2010.
I might be able to save some of you a bit of time here before we start – if you played the original Just Cause on the 360 or PS3 (not the horrendous PS2 version) and liked it then you’ll like the sequel too – it’s exactly the same but with a bit more icing on everything.
For the rest of you, Just Cause 2 is a free-roaming sandbox action game based on the fictional country of Panau, which feels like a blend of Thailand and North Korea mixed with Cuban politics. You play Rico, a US secret agent who’s been sent to the island in order to track down his ex-trainer Sheldon who appears to have gone rogue.
Panau is in a bit of a mess when you arrive. The military are in command under the charge of self-serving dictator Babay Panay, and there are three rival revolutionary factions all attempting to gain control of the islands for their own reasons. The state of martial law effectively means that you can expect trouble just about everywhere you go so Rico has the ability to carry one large weapon and two small ones, both of which can be dual wielded. He also has a rather handy and highly manoeuvrable parachute that can be deployed and reeled in at a moments notice, and a cabled harpoon gun on his right wrist than can serve as a climbing tool, temporary shackle, and weapon.
You’ll explore the whole island chain, all of which is open to you from the start, from a third person perspective. Because the game world is surprisingly large, you can access over a hundred different vehicles to get you around as well as requesting free extraction to previously discovered locations from your local friendly black market arms dealer.
Your job is to work secretly with each of the revolutionary groups in order to dig up information that might reveal Sheldon’s location and activities, and you’ll do this by carrying out missions in an order of your choosing. These range from taking over strongholds, which you can then use as a base, to increase the influence of the faction, to kidnapping high profile politicians. Once you’ve caused enough of a stir, an agency mission will open up so you can progress through the storyline. There are only seven of these so the game isn’t huge, but you do have to work to unlock them.
So, how does it play? Very well as it happens. The attractions of the Just Cause series is in the completely open, and extremely pretty game world. Travelling around Panau is a joy in itself, with the occasional pause to destroy an airbase or sabotage a radar station serving as a pleasant distraction. The missions are fairly samey but it’s up to you to decide how to tackle them, so there’s a sense of treating the environment as an experimental playground – sneak up stealthily on foot with a pocketful of grenades, or cause a fuss, wait for the inevitable helicopter gunship to arrive, hijack it and charge in like an extra from Apocalypse Now. Your call. Should you get bored of blowing things up there are thousands of collectible items to track down, many of which allow you to upgrade your weapons and vehicles, and a series of race challenges in different types of vehicles. On top of that you have a huge range of strange and entertaining achievements that’ll take a fair bit of skill to win.
Downsides then.. well, there really aren’t any deal breakers. It looks brilliant, sounds great, handles well, has plenty to keep you entertained and gives you the freedom to play things as you see fit. The lack of variety and contrived storyline might be an issue for some, but it’s no worse than anything else out there, and the pick up and play nature of the game makes it easy to overlook these inadequacies. The only complaint I have, which is something that’ll be noticed more by veterans of the series, is that the black market mechanism really doesn’t work. In the first game you could summon up free drops of agency vehicles and weapons, depending on the level you’d achieved. In this game you have to buy each thing every time you want it, and you can’t store vehicles for later. Given that the most basic pistol, the one carried by many of the military, costs $20,000 it seems stupidly expensive. You will amass a lot of cash throughout the game, but most of the things you need can be picked up or stolen anyway, so all it really does it cut down a bit on the freedom of exploration that comes from having an appropriate vehicle on hand at all times.
Overall then, Just Cause 2 is worth a shot if you enjoy wandering around in your own time and blowing things up when the needs takes you.