It feels somewhat appropriate to have this game be the big title to come after Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. Heavy Rain tries to take gaming to a new direction by providing a story and allowing the player to have more interactivity in how the story goes. Just Cause 2 tries to take gaming to a new direction by finding new ways to blow stuff up.
Of course, blowing stuff up has been as much a part of gaming as polygons, mascots and console breakdowns but there is something about Avalanche Studio’s sequel that makes the experience much more enjoyable and fun.
Now I’ll be the first to admit, I know next to nothing about the first Just Cause game. Not sure whether it was because things were getting hectic in my life or I just wasn’t too bothered I just don’t remember, but my knowledge is slim at best so I apologise if I’m just clarifying things that people already knew from Just Cause. From what people told me, it was a game with potential but was never really able to live up to it due to its major faults when it came out for the PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360 in 2006 and as a result, got the game mixed reviews across the board.
What is good to know is that everything you need to know about this one can be explained with minimal continuity in one paragraph, like so;
You play as Rico Rodriguez, hired gun for the Agency, who has to travel to the fictional island of Panau in South East Asia to find and kill if necessary rogue agent and old friend Tom Sheldon. The island is under a dictatorship as well as having three gangs, the Roaches, the Reapers and the Ular Boys, fighting for control.
The story is simplistic in its telling and along with that, the voice acting varies from corny to, at points, confusing in what accents some of the characters are speaking in. But, in the same way as a good popcorn movie gives the audience what it wants, it takes a backseat to the controls, the moves and the absolutely insane things you get to do all around the island of Panau.
When I went into see the game, Peter Johansson was ready to let us know what the game would contain and talked us through the first two missions. The first mission of the game sees you collecting memory cards dropped out from the helicopter you are in by, of course, jumping out of the thing and gliding down to the base. If there was a better showcase of the game, I’d like to see it because you’re able to take advantage of every main way you can do things in the game. The developers travelled to every corner, taking advantages of torrents, C4, stealth positioning, grenades and anything else that they could pull down, blow up and hurl into the air to either shoot or let fall to their doom.
The biggest tool you have in your arsenal is the Grappling Hook from the first game. Remember that feeling in Batman Arkham Asylum when you were able to eventually grapple three guys at once and pull them to you? Now imagine the feeling of grappling some poor foe using the new Duel hook onto, say, a cylinder of hydrogen, shooting it with your gun and sending the guy flying across the screen then up in the air to certain explosive doom. Now add the possibility of using it to tie two soldiers together and then filling their heads with lead. Then to that, add the possibility of hanging him onto a statue of Panau’s dictator, then throwing a grenade to blow up said statue and crushing him under it. You can, of course, climb up the sides of walls, high buildings, helicopters, cars and other such things but whilst those are necessary, it’s not as much fun to imagine.
Actually, the climbing aspect of this game is something with unrivaled potential along with almost everything else you can do with the environment and your weaponry. Use the grapping hook to climb to the top of the tallest building, then jump off and open your parachute, then shoot some barrels to blow up a group of guards shooting towards you. You can also, when you climb on helicopters and cars, leap from one to the other and take down every person on it with the pilot consisting of a quick time button mash so you can fly it yourself.
The island of Panua is one vast and full of challenges. Every location you find has things to destroy and things to find to help you gain 100% on those locations and with very few load times except for cutscenes in the main missions, this allows for seamless sandbox travel across every location on the island. It’s a very nice, major touch that others have done before but with the destroyable environments on each of them being mission objectives, it feels alot more fun and has more longevity to it in the same way Crackdown had the hidden orbs that made gamers pull their hair in frustration finding every one. What the island also has going for it is how georgeous it looks and it is possibly the strongest point the game has. The details are full and graphically capable, the explosions look realistic and even the character models look sort of realistic, albeit as much as you would expect in a game designed in this manner.
What goes against the game is the controls at times. Not sure how wise it is to have the right analogue of the 360 controller be the direction for the camera when the camera can be sensitive at times and it distracted me on how I played certain parts of the game. The positioning on how you do certain things in terms of controls and camera gets some getting used to so you shouldn’t expect to pull of the combinations you want to straight out the gate. Along with that, the shooting isn’t perfect and so shots can go slightly varied depending on where and what you aim and shoot at. Finally, when enemies are hurled at you, you better have a great plan to get out of it if you’ve run out of ammo or grenades because it’s unmerciful
In a way, though, this game is like a big time Hollywood blockbuster. If you don’t like action with barely any substance, you shouldn’t give this game a shot. But if you were a fan of Crackdown, GTA IV and other sandbox adventure blast ’em ups, it’s worthwhile to give Just Cause 2 a shot at getting in your gaming library.
Just Cause 2 comes out March 23rd on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.