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Review

Just Cause 2 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

Crazy stunts, a huge gameworld, and a playful attitude help Just Cause 2 overcome its annoyances.

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.

A good rule of thumb: If you see it, blow it up.

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.

There's more to traveling around this gargantuan isle than just parachutes and rickshaws, however. There are more than 100 different vehicles to drive and pilot, from sedans and double-decker buses to commuter aircraft and speedboats. The physics are loose and wild, which lets you pull off some crazy stunt jumps off of ramps and cliffs. It's always fun, too, to get some good speed in a motorcycle and parachute away and then watch the bike zoom off without a driver. Often, it will even explode for no apparent reason other than the obvious thrill of it all, as if you're supposed to believe you ejected just in time. The loose handling of most of these vehicles suits the chaotic nature of the game rather well, and assuming you're not trying to do anything too specific, random wipeouts are to be expected and are even rather enjoyable when they occur. (You might get a chance to perform a daring and unplanned escape as you go careening over a cliff, after all.) If you're taking part in one of Just Cause 2's racing challenges, however, the lively physics don't always work to your benefit. A race in a speedboat, for example, might send you over a thin stretch of land. This could lead to a superfun sequence of tumbles and spins before you zoom away on the other side. But it could also lead to a frustrating sequence of tumbles and spins that deposits you directly on the beach and keeps you from completing the challenge. Aircraft challenges can also be exasperating because you don't have the ability to yaw (that is, move from side to side), and the relaxed controls make it easy to overshoot the ring you're meant to fly through.

Panau is an impressive place to explore. Tall snow-covered mountains cradle ski resorts and military based between them. Beachside shacks dot the ocean shores. The capital city shows off a beautiful nighttime skyline. Should you plummet below the ocean waves, you'll admire the striking underwater views, which feature tropical fish and colorful coral reefs. Just Cause 2 is an attractive game and provides an excellent variety of vistas to marvel at, and the draw distance lets you take in a lot at once. If you look more closely, you'll notice seams between texture maps, and the lack of lip movement when characters talk outside of the pixelated cutscenes, but it still makes a good visual impression. The audio doesn't meet the same standard, but it does what it needs to do, with lots of energy if not much nuance. The booms of shotguns always have a lot of reverb as if you are shooting them in a tunnel, even when you aren't in one. An American friend speaks with a big yee-haw accent and gang leaders deliver their banal lines in a weird, halting manner and with unidentifiable inflections. Explosions look big and sound loud. It's all about broad strokes and big noise, and while not every aspect of the audio makes a good impression, the overall effect is fitting given Just Cause 2's over-the-top inclinations.

The game gives you plenty of reasons to visit all of these varied locations. The many villages dotting the geography harbor rewards like gas tanks to blow up and weapon and vehicle parts to collect. Those parts can be used to enhance the effectiveness of your guns and rides--you just need to call up the black market dealer and choose how you want to apply them. You can also call the dealer if you want him to drop off a weapon or vehicle or to quickly travel to a location you've already visited. The implementation of this mechanic could have used some tweaking. For example, you can't order up more than one item at a time (if you want both a shotgun and a chopper, you need to make two calls). But considering how easy it is to find weapons and how much fun it is to parachute around, you won't need the black market contact all that frequently. Even if you aren't apt to collect the scattered treasures, there's intrinsic joy in seeking out and blowing up propaganda stations and demolishing the statues of island dictator Baby Panay. Maybe that's because you can grapple one of those statues to a fire truck, hop behind the wheel, and pull the false idol down.

Here's another thing you blow up.

Amid all this free-form gameplay are loads of faction missions to perform for the three gangs you work with, as well as some longer agency missions that progress the story. Some of these missions are fun and varied, such as one in which you must defuse a series of bombs by stunt jumping from one vehicle to another. Most of them combine Just Cause 2's various mechanics in interesting ways, having you fly an aircraft, infiltrate guarded fortresses, and destroy specific objects in the course of a single assignment. But even when flaunting this kind of variety, some missions aren't very enjoyable because they magnify the small issues that barely register during your free-form travels. For example, the waypoint arrow gets confused with high altitudes, which is rarely an issue when you are just traveling to your chosen destination, but it's a bigger annoyance when a time limit is pushing you to find an exact spot. Heavily scripted escort missions saddle you with AI companions who think nothing of wandering into fire. And stronghold takeovers get monotonous because they play out more or less the same way every time. The game's loose mechanics make for freewheeling fun when you choose your own actions, but they can sometimes lead to irritations when the game pushes you down a specific path.

These aren't game-breaking flaws, however; certainly not in light of the huge world Just Cause 2 places at your fingertips. Even the glitches you encounter--Rico's limbs getting stuck in place, physics-related oddities like towers bending themselves back into position--aren't likely to be too bothersome. But Just Cause 2 stands out more for its joys than its blemishes. After all, you can grapple to a gas canister, shoot it, and fly into the air like a rocket. And if that sounds like fun to you, it's time for a vacation to the island paradise of Panau.

The Good
Enormous, varied island to explore with lots of things to do
More than 100 vehicles to drive and pilot
You pull off all sorts of crazy stunts
Stuff blows up in lots of awesome ways
Using the grapple hook and parachute to move around is great fun
The Bad
Broken targeting can make gunplay a pain
Some of the missions are more frustrating than fun
Various glitches and other scattered annoyances
8
Great
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GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

11 comments
jagcivtec
jagcivtec

the ps3 version deserves a 6 max...objects and textures popping in and out right in front of you is unacceptable...resolution and geometry is horrible unless the object is 5ft away...I played the 360 version and its much superior.

TheMangler92
TheMangler92

@jagcivtec Something had to be wrong with your PS3 then, because I've never experienced any issues when I play. Also, I have played the XBOX 360 version, and it isn't any better than the PS3. They're both the same.

the_bi99man
the_bi99man

 @jagcivtec I've been playing the PS3 version for about 2 weeks now. Haven't seen that. I think there's been one or two times I've seen a texture pop-in, and it wasn't too jarring. Haven't seen any significant object pop-in. And the resolution and geometry is fine. Probably the best looking game I've played on the PS3 in a while (I'm sure there's better; I don't play PS3 often). That said, I played the hell out of the PC version months ago, and it's definitely the best. As good as the graphics are for this game in general, the PC version maxed out is a huge leap over both other versions. And the aiming is waaaaaaay better. I haven't been too bothered by the PS3 aiming, though. Having played the PC version, I definitely see what the reviewers are talking about with the "broken" aiming, but it's not really all that bad. Not enough to make me stop playing.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

 @jagcivtec I just finished on the PS3 version. Didn't see any of that. Keep your potty mouthed 360 to yourself instead of spreading lies.

Venom_Raptor
Venom_Raptor

@jagcivtec Thats rubbish, when I played it there was no object pop-in whatsoever, and the game deserves an 8 at least

jagcivtec
jagcivtec

 @the_bi99man I agree the PC version looks much better.  But my contrast is for the 2 console versions.  You will not notice it if you are not playing both.  An example: Look for one of those Panau military vehicles parked and walk towards it then away while looking at the wheels, watch how the geometry of the wheels changes with distance, in PS3 it will turn into an octagon shape and loose all the detail very close to you, while the 360 version changes in a much less noticeable way, and further away when the object is smaller.  You have to play both versions to notice, and it happens with most shapes and textures, its very noticeable.  Try both versions and you will notice it.

jagcivtec
jagcivtec

 @Gamer_4_Fun  What a jerk.  There's no point in saying what you didn't see. It's relative.  If you did not play the 360 version for some time before playing the PS3 version you can't judge my point.  I have both consoles and made a real contrast.  BTW I love my PS3 and 360.  Just look for other toe to toe comparisons on this game then talk sony fanboy.

jagcivtec
jagcivtec

 @Venom_Raptor BS, play the 360 and PS3 versions side by side and you will see they did a horrible job porting it to the PS3.   The 360 version looks noticeably better, and I'm not comparing consoles, just the game which was poorly adapted to PS3 format.

knixxx
knixxx

@jagcivtec @Gamer_4_Fun :Screen shot please showing what you claim to be experiencing. If we can't see it, there is no point saying what you saw.

slainta
slainta

@dead888 @jagcivtec I know it is an old discussion, but try to look for an helicopter. The heli bases are empty and they the helicopters pop in just once we are close to. But that is that thing that bothers me the less. I can't stand the AI spamming and shooting every 1/10th of a second.

dead888
dead888

 @jagcivtec  

I played the PS3 version and I didn't notice any game breaking bugs or glitches. 

Just Cause 2 More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Rico heads to the South Pacific island of Panau for his latest parachuting adventure.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 6261 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Just Cause 2
    Developed by:
    Avalanche Studios
    Published by:
    Square Enix
    Genres:
    Adventure, Action, 3D, Open-World
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence