REVIEWS -- Just Cause 2 -- PC
‘Just Cause 2’ does its predecessor justice
by Lazare Gvimradze
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Rent
Continuing the trend of decent sequels, ‘Just Cause 2’ makes you feel the very concept of large-scale chaos, which never runs out of variation or compelling gameplay situations.
Creating the ultimate sandbox experience has become something of a legendary feat awaiting its incarnation since the much anticipated Crysis failed miserably back in 2007. A lot of diverse variations have been made, ranging from good-old GTA clones to unusual experimental products like Assassin’s Creed. And yet capturing the thrill of a scripted adventure in a world living by its own rules was never really accomplished, and with good reason.
The main problem was always the same: eventual boredom occurring either from repetitiveness, or an overall lack of content. Games like Prototype and infamous tried fixing this by making the characters overpowered, but the concept was primitive at best. I’m not really leading to the fact that Just Cause 2 suddenly came out with a perfect and diverse experience, but the sequel to a mediocre game developed by Square Enix got pretty close.
The game revolves around Rico Rodriguez, returning as the protagonist from the original game. The story takes him to the fictional islands of Panau in the Pacific. The situation is bad: after losing their president, corruption erupts when multiple gangs begin fighting for control over the lands, and soon an unavoidable anarchy erupts. However, for a guy like Rico, bad means business.
There’s really no objectively reinforced pretension to how the game handles its story -- the predictable, mediocre plot is fueled by stereotypical characters portrayed in obvious references to some of our history’s most infamous leaders and dictators. While stupid, the game does a great job of not choking itself in exaggerated seriousness and delivers the plot in the best traditions of B-grade action movies. Translation: it tries, and fails at justifying the mayhem taking place on-screen.
The gameplay in Just Cause was hard to comprehend. The complex mechanics and a more or less successful sandbox environment definitely had potential, but it catastrophically lacked polish and that damned variety. After the game was handed to Square Enix, however, all that potential was realized to its fullest, and then some.
A decent sandbox!
The mechanics are simple at their basics; Rico controls easily and regards shooting everything that moves as his primary goal in life. He hijacks cars, boats, choppers and planes to move around the gigantic area available for free exploration practically from the very start. He’ll eventually team up and fight alongside different merc groups to cause even more chaos. That’s what you’ll be doing too, and while it sounds monotone, the methods of execution really deliver.
Shooting in Just Cause 2 may prove to be fun to some extent, and exploring the island can really impress, especially since there are dozens and dozens of settlements, towns and military bases just waiting to be discovered and blown up. And that, coupled with absolutely Hollywood-ish physics and the hilarious grappling hook system, is one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises this year.
Because the sandbox in JC2 actually WORKS. The grappling hook, coupled with the infinite amount of parachutes Rico magically grows from his spine provide lots of fun ways to move around the island or take down enemies. The physics funhouse works at its peak: the hook allows you to attach any two objects with one another and gleefully see what happens. A Chopper to a school bus, an airborne fighter jet to a nearby mountain ledge, an unlucky NPC to a ruptured gas tank getting ready to rocket in the air, you name it. There is no Mercenaries 2-esque “total destruction,” but you’ll never feel its lack.
Overall, when you think of it, the main reason some of the freeroam games failed was because you either had to create fun yourself, or had no fun at all. In Just Cause 2, you don’t create, you cause: the fun always finds you, and is guaranteed to take you halfway across the map where you’ll be base jumping from exploding Boeing planes, shooting up pursuers from a roof of a driverless car, or just chuting from a quad bike just before it crashes into a fuel station. Just for the hell of it.
And while the learning curve for all these advanced tricks may prove to be a bit steep, it’s worth getting over, because apart from being a mini-Hulk, there’s no real value to the actual gameplay, no real depth. The cars and NPCs move around and react in unnatural ways, and you’ll be surprised at the unusual lack of details for a modern game, like the absence of stoplights and no real-time ecosystem, despite that the story is entirely focused on warring factions. There’s also a sad letdown regarding zero kinds of online play.
Justly adapted for PC
It’s somewhat compensated by the presentation though. Just Cause 2 looks gorgeous, with striking texture clarity and professional work with post-effects: the sun rays, particles, shader-generated smoke and the lush HDR work flawlessly, along with the GPU-simulated water which is simply astounding, probably best in industry to date. And the last thing we expect from a third-person sandbox is a genuinely great art direction. You’d think you can’t do much with tropical islands, but Just Cause 2 brings immense variety to them, complete with muddy jungles, snowy peaks, gorgeous sunsets and breathtaking urban views. If you’ve ever modded Crysis with that 3rd person camera view, you’ll pretty much have a vision of what Just Cause 2 has accomplished.
And if we overlook the DirectX 10-exclusivity (which means Just Cause 2 won’t run on Windows XP), the optimization is quite the miracle, as well. The game generally runs swiftly on middle-end systems at over FPS 30, not even trying to stutter on explosions and action-heavy scenarios. The rest of the porting is done on the same level -- the fully implemented keyboard/mouse support is configured decently and lets you switch to an Xbox 360 controller whenever you like, just in case.
The audio side might let you down though. There’s no big deal with the crappy music crying out “B-movie” all over again, but the actors were either really determined to fail or simply too bored to try. The heavy accents and high-pitched voices may seem labored upon, but there’s no real depth given to the characters, and the main hero drastically lacks charisma, which is, you know, bad.
Nevertheless, the poor acting along with the confusing plot are easily overlooked in favor of the chaos and destruction on-screen. This year definitely proves itself a year of sequels, and Just Cause 2 stands proud on the list. No sandbox game has ever achieved this much in not only diversifying your gameplay experience, but returning to the roots of the concept of video-games: they are supposed to be fun, without a compromise, and with dozens of surprisingly satisfying explosions.
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Review Date: 12-04-2010
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
From the immense scale and beauty to the surprising attention to detail, Just Cause 2 looks just as great as it plays, even maintaining a stable state of optimization.
The chaotic mayhem and a thousand different ways to cause it give you plenty of methods to have sheer destructive fun. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll be grappling together stuff.
The cliché handling of the game’s script was not entirely unforeseen, but the governmental paranoia present in the story is still disturbing, fueled furthermore by stereotypical characters.
While it’s always good to hear the full force of the explosion you just triggered, a few things like decent music or bearable voice acting could have been even better.
Looking over the numerous flaws in production, Just Cause 2 does a great leap from its predecessor and creates a genuinely fun open-world environment, something truly unheard of lately.