Just Cause 2 is ridiculous in the best possible way. In the space of a few moments, you can grapple to a hovering helicopter; beat up the pilot and hijack the chopper; blow up a cluster of fuel tanks; put the chopper on a collision course with an enormous antenna; jump out at the last moment; and watch the resulting explosion as you parachute to the ground below. But in the life of Rico Rodriguez, such events are just another day at the office, though in this case, the office is the gigantic island nation of Panau, where three gangs vie to wrestle control from a corrupt government. This is a big game that gives you a lot to do and a lot of crazy ways to do it. When Just Cause 2 gives you the freedom to do the things you want in the way you want, it shines in all its preposterousness and good humor. When missions and challenges shoehorn you into specific actions, however, the same loose mechanics that make the open-world exploration such a joy become a frustrating burden. Nevertheless, this open-world action game surmounts its conspicuous issues with liberal doses of ludicrousness; well, that, and the ability to attach corrupted cops to a buggy with your grappling hook and drag them around.
There's a story tying all of the craziness together, but it's about as believable as the crazy stunts you pull. As in the original Just Cause, you play as Rico, a member of a US agency called, appropriately enough, The Agency. The story is all silly fluff, standing out more for its so-excruciating-it's-almost-good voice acting and broad ethnic caricatures than for any intricate plot developments. (Don't bother looking: There aren't any.) You'll probably have more fun trying to figure out where different characters are from based on their insane accents than you will working out what exactly is going on or why you should care, but the tale still works well in light of the game's screwy attitude. Contradictory updates from the government-run news agency will have you giggling precisely because they're so crazy; Rico offhandedly dismisses the insane, supernatural events that occur after an eventful flight into a Bermuda Triangle-type region. Most importantly, the tale provides oh-so-implausible excuses to blow up gas stations, radar installations, and offshore oil platforms.
That's a very good thing because you'll be blowing up a lot of stuff. Causing explosions leads to chaos, which functions as a type of currency in Just Cause 2. To unlock new story missions and other goodies, you need to wreak as much havoc as you can, and you get lots of different, preposterous ways to do it. If you see a grouping of fuel tanks, you could just run in and shoot them with a machine gun, but that is one of the less dramatic ways to do it and will use up ammo besides. (And early on, the game is a bit too stingy with ammo, given the focus on making things go boom.) But why approach things in such a pedestrian manner? Instead, you could hijack a passenger jet, put it on a destructive path, and jump out at the last minute. Or you could steal a hulking tank, drive it to a central location, and unleash its cannon on everything that looks like it might erupt in a ball of flames. The dramatic approach can take a bit more time, but it usually leads to a good deal of entertainment. Yet, even if you do things the easy way and use a dinky pistol, the explosions are perfectly loud, big, bright, and obnoxious.
Of course, such noisy endeavors will get the attention of the local authorities. It's amazing just how quickly swarms of militants will descend on you. (You might actually see soldiers fade into view directly in front of you.) The most obvious way of handling them is to fill them with lead, and when you're surrounded by enemies, Just Cause 2's loose shooting mechanics work well enough. The ultraforgiving autotargeting makes it easy to run about spraying fire, though you can zoom in if you need a bit more precision, like if you are taking out a military colonel and need to land a headshot. During other activities, however, that same autotargeting becomes a liability. It's awesome that you can jump onto a moving vehicle and shoot at the dude hanging out the door. However, it's not so awesome that you can aim directly at the guy's head and unload clip after clip without doing any damage to him. The lack of impact animations can also make it momentarily unclear if your bullets are having any effect in these circumstances, which exacerbates the issue. Just Cause 2 is one of the few games that punishes you when you have good aim and rewards you when you don't.
When you're surrounded by a dozen armed baddies and bombarded by a hovering helicopter, however, making a quick getaway may be the best option. Rico's grappling hook is a real life saver in these circumstances. You might attach it to a nearby building and fling yourself onto a roof or grapple the ground and pull yourself out of harm's way. Better yet, you can pull off a sort of inverted Spider-Man routine by grappling the ground, hurling yourself into the air, and opening your handy parachute before you hit the ground. Once airborne, you can repeat the move over and over, flinging yourself around using the grapple hook like Spidey would use his webbing. From the air, you can perform some satisfyingly silly stunts. For example, if you'd rather travel around in a motorized rickshaw, you can grapple on to one, pull yourself onto its roof, and evict the driver, who will be undoubtedly vocal about his or her displeasure. Or perhaps that chopper is still dogging you. In that case, grapple onto it, chuck the pilot out, and take it for your own. But it's plenty satisfying just to travel using your hook and parachute. It takes a few tries to get used to the rhythm of taking off, but once you're accustomed to it, there's nothing like soaring above Panau's snow-capped mountains or taking in a beautiful sunset while floating slowly toward the beach.