Just Cause 2 Review

Posted by Grey Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair!"
And chaos sure as hell can make for more than fairly good gameplay.

Just Cause 2
Developed by: Avalanche Studios, Eidos Interactive
Published by: Square Enix
Platforms available on: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Released Date: March 23, 2010
Genre: Action Adventure, Sandbox
Rating content: ESRB: M / PEGI: 18
Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, ViolenceBlood, Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence

"The only thing that can destabilize this island is chaos. And nobody does that better than you." With that we kick off the rip-roaring wild ride tearing up the fictional tropical island of Panau in an unexpectedly ridculous yet fun way that in its sublimely little ways reinvent the sub-genre of Sandbox gaming forever.

Since including "Just Cause 2" in the "Lucky Seven To-Watch-For List" to the Top Thirteen Most Anticipated Games Of 2010, we have featured the well-made "Just Cause 2 - Anatomy Of A Stunt" Trailer series on two occasion, running all seven of the previously released trailers. That said, let's take a look at the latest entry to the brilliant trailer series.

For those wondering if this is one of those instances where the game doesn't live up to the promise of its trailer, we here can jolly assure you that Just Cause 2, plays every bit as good as it looks. Despite few notable annoyance, this is one of the best sandbox games we have ever played.

Its predecessor, Just Cause, was released in 2006 to mediocre reviews despite its attempt at reinventing sandbox gaming. Set on a fictional Caribbean tropical island called "San Esperito", players followed the adventures of black ops agent Rico Rodrigues in a guerrilla war to overthrow the island's dictator, Salvador Mendoza, who is conspicuously suspected of possession of weapons of mass destruction. The name (and premise) was drawn from the real-life event of the invasion of Panama by the United States, code-named "Operation Just Cause", which involved United States military action to overthrow military leader Manuel Noriega. While the gameplay was frankly nothing to write home about, the game is a mixed bag of decent ideas and awkward gameplay (due to some unforgivable technical bugs).

Just Cause 2 picked up the very same setup and firmly thread the same ground, albeit employing the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the game engine used in the first game. Set on yet another fictional locale, the tropical island of Panau in Southeast Asia, we see the return of the ruggedly dashing Rico Rodriguez as the protagonist. A special agent for the American agency called... the Agency, Rico is sent to the exotic island of Panau in search of his friend and mentor, Tom Sheldon, who had went missing. Needless to say, the objective soon turned on its head as Rico takes on one job that he is exceptionally talented at: To cause as much chaos as possible on the island in a quest to overthrow the evil dictator, Pandak "Baby" Panay. In the process, Rico soon find himself working with multiple rebel factions intent on taking down the regime themselves. But of course, there are more twists and turns along the ride but in an intriguing way, "Just Cause 2" spin a new definition on the quote, "Happiness isn't a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling."

While the plot and all its associated obligatory twists are frankly, straight out from the B-movie fodder, the game basks in glory in all its ridiculousness and twisted humor while spiting right in the face to conventional action thriller. If you are looking for a convoluted action adventure plot a'la Metal Gear Solid 4, you have come to the wrong game. Avalanche Studios boldly values cheap visceral thrills over the need of a morale or a motivation of the character. And guess what? That, is a good thing.

With this game, we have finally come to a crossroad of sandbox gaming. For the uninitiated, sandbox gaming is often a sub-genre of Action Adventure games, but employs a non-linear gameplay and a level design concept where a player can freely roam a virtual world. The most notable game of this genre would of course be the Grand Theft Auto series. However, while we enjoyed immensely in Niko Bellic's downward spiral in Grand Theft Auto IV, following his trials and tribulations, Rico Rodriguez's misadventures proved to be particularly singular and repetitive. That is until you let loose on the tremendously huge playground of Panau.

Fully utilizing the loose mechanics that constitutes a sandbox game, the open-world exploration never dulls as players can always find something new and interesting to knock themselves out. While completing missions and following through the plots are the standard procedure in action-oriented games as such, Avalanche Studios seemed to be inclining to encourage players to add more spice in their usual quests, with the help of possibly the in-game gadgets of the year - Rico's trusty grappling hook and stunt parachute. While at first glance a standard action adventure shooter, the two gadgets provided the game with an unique gaming mechanics that fundamentally set apart the Just Cause 2 from all the run-of-the-mill sandbox games.

Rico's grappling hook miraculously allows Rico to not only zip around all surface and hang from ceilings, pull all objects, living or dead towards him, but also capable of hitching a ride by striking at a vehicle, any vehicle including an airplane that is flying by. What's even more awesome is the fact that the grappling hook can also be used to tether two objects together, providing players with intriguing tactical options. For example, you can attach that obnoxious looking security guard to a speedboat passing by, or attached your car to a helicopter. The possibilities is endless. You can attached your enemy to a propane tank before you ignite it. You can stop a motorbike that is hot in pursuit on you by attaching it to the floor or the side of the road and see the rider fly. In summary, this is like a far-enhanced version of the Spider-man games that we have seen.

The other astonishing item would be the 're-loadable' stunt parachute. Conveniently providing you with an amazing quick escape from whatever height you are plummeting to, and adding some gliding fun along the way, the stunt parachute is always ready to be deployed, even if it had been deployed and discarded only moments before, and can be opened in mid grapple or when free-falling.

Combine both the grappling hook and the stunt parachute, and the party is on. Using the grappling hook on the ground in front of you and deploying the stunt parachute while you are in motion will provide you with an immediate lift and forward momentum. This will enable you to slingshot your way through the air, providing a great way to escape whenever you are in the midst of a battle and is low on health, or whenever you need a quick getaway. You can easily hijack anything within your grappling distance, be it a speeding car, a speedboat, a fighter jet.

With both grappling hook and stunt parachute at hand as your basic inventory, Just Cause 2 certainly provides all the open-world fun you can imagine. Couple that with the numerous types of weapons available (the standard issue detachable mounted minigun, rocket launcher with laser-controlled rockets, one-handed grenade launcher, remote-triggered C4, etc.), and more than 100 different vehicles (bikes, bus, Boeing 737, speedboat, etc.), the potential explosive action sequences that you are capable of creating are endless. For those keen on showing off how they pull off their crazy stunts, the PlayStation 3 version of the game allows the user to capture video of their gameplay and either export it to the XMB or upload it to YouTube from within the game.

Say you want to travel to another end of the island and you don't know how to get there. There are tons of alternatives at your disposal. Should you be hijacking an innocent bystander's vehicle or cling on to a passing-by helicopter and flew your way and make a grand entrance?

Say you are going to take out a certain area filled with soldiers. Should you arrange for an aerial death to rain on them by dropping a double-decker bus on them or charge in guns-ablazing? It's your call.

Should you ever find yourself short on ammo or in need of a lift, you can call on a black-market dealer who will airdrop guns and vehicles, or just take you where you want to go. Upgrade of weapons and vehicles are also conducted through this dealer, utilizing supplies that you earned through missions.

Chaos points, serving as the underlying currency of progress in the game will be earned via the destruction that you create in the mission. New story missions and many other goodies will be unlocked by blowing more stuffs and wreaking more havoc, a blatant message from the developers to remind you to indulge in all the fun by not adopting the conventional shoot-em-up methods.

As cool as it all sounds, Just Cause 2 has its fair share of annoyance. The incredibly forgiving auto-targeting system are in many ways a cause for uneven gameplay. When going out in a blaze of glory spray firing at multiple targets, it worked perfectly well. Okay, a little too perfect in a way. However, you might find the auto aim a hassle when taking specific shot. The audio aspect is also conspicuously inferior when compared to the other much established elements of the game. While the playful attitude of the game have no doubt affected the overall tone of the voice-acting (resulting in some probable unintentionally fun dialogue), some of the voice actors just fall short and sounded sloppy. One common flaw of modern sandbox game also managed to show itself here: The game save feature is flawed as player have to restart the entire mission whenever they got obliterated (which occurred more often than you might thought), and the checkpoints are only for the longer missions. This issue added more frustration for the already monotonous missions.

Nevertheless, these flaws are ultimately minor blemishes that are unlikely to ruin the overall freewheeling experience that Just Cause 2 provides. After all, when in doubt or if you're just feeling down, there are always new and exhilarating elaborate way to massacre obnoxious-looking goons while making that ultra-cool quick escape.


The Rundown
Despite having its fair share of problems and suffering from a lack of originality, Just Cause 2 cleverly put together a myriad of interesting gameplay into one cohesive action adventure of a massive summer blockbuster proportion.

An absolute must-play game for adrenaline junkies who enjoyed over-the-top action sequences, Just Cause 2 is quite possibly the best sandbox game since Grand Theft Auto IV.

The Good
- Stunts, stunt, and more crazy-assed stunts. This game put that Stuntman game to shame. PlayStation owners can even show off their stunt by posting on youtube online
- The gorgeously rendered island of Panau proved to be an insanely enormous playground
- The ultimate combination of both the grapple hook and the stunt parachute single-handledly elevate the 'fun' factor
- Great replayability with tons of items to unlock

The Bad
- The voice-acting can get a little lackluster at times
- Despite the blockbuster quality of the action sequences, the graphic still experience occasional clipping and animation issues
- Several missions are rather monotonous, resulting in some repetitive gameplay
- Room for improvement for the auto-targeting gunplay

And The Pink Ice Cream Van?
Yes, the first DLC is here and it's for free!
Developer Avalanche Studio has just release a pink ice cream van - Chevalier Ice Breaker - on April 8th, available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC for free, as a compliment to the players.

Looks all out-of-place yet nifty, isn't it?


For a more transparent understanding on the Game Reviews here in The Daily Zombies, please check out "The Daily Zombie Rating System And Review Policy for Gaming".


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