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April 26, 2010 | by  | in Games |
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Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2, from Sweden’s Avalance Studios, is the sequel to an ‘open-world’ action-adventure game from 2006. Featuring 1012 square kilometres of terrain to explore and over 300 missions to complete, Just Cause promised months of enjoyment. That is, if you could stomach 1012 square kilometres of almost-identical jungle, repeating 6 or 7 side missions 300 times, and flat-out boring gameplay. Even gimmicks like a grappling hook and probably the first Latin American videogame protagonist couldn’t pull it above being just another dull Far Cry wannabee. I’d like to think that the decision of naming the game after the US invasion of Panama would have something to do with its suckiness, but probably not.

Just Cause 2 is, like Mass Effect 2, an example of developers accepting criticism and improving the sequel. The game throws this at you in the very first mission, where you’re required to retrieve several memory sticks from a snow-swept military base, then parachute into a verdant tropical paradise. Pretty bold move considering that Avalance are using their own in-house game engine. And it looks good—there’s virtually no texture popping, even over three-kilometre free-falls out of the back of a supersonic jet fighter. The visuals are just garish enough to suck you into the comic-book action without going over the top. You might as well just be re-watching Commando. Again.

There’s a storyline here, something about a puppet regime in the South Pacific and warring factions. All you really need to know is that your character, Rico Rodriguez, is sent to investigate the disappearance of an American agent on the tiny (but politically unstable) dictatorship of Panau. Upon arriving, you’re told to cause as much chaos as possible.

That’s it.

Want to try to track down your contact on Panau, and uncover the secrets of the island hidden deep within its rivers, deserts, rainforests, beaches and mountains? Sure, you can do that. Or if you’d be happier working for one of the three criminal syndicates to cripple the corrupt government forces, you can do that too. Or if you’d rather be an unstoppable one-man force of destruction, storming military bases armed with nothing but a pair of pistols and grenades, go right ahead! Whether you’re playing for ten minutes or five hours, you’ll be having fun. Not smart fun—but when’s the last time smart fun had a grappling hook, parachute and a hammy accent?

The quality of both the faction and the overall story missions is consistently high. You’re very seldom required to do anything which feels like filler. Finishing assignments rewards you with a certain amount of cash (buy things that blow things up), vehicle/weapon/armor parts (make things blow other things up better), and Chaos (which unlocks new assignments). Action nerds (like myself) will notice the many overt references to cinema and TV. There’s a GoldenEye level which is probably the best 007 experience I’ve had since the whole summer holidays I spent finishing the Nintendo 64 classic. Then there’s the stuff completely out of left field—like the Japanese weather-changing station maintained by 100-year-old Imperial Army leftovers.

The thing that strikes me most about Just Cause 2 is that over 20 hours in, I’m still liberating oppressed villages and assaulting more military bases because it’s just that much fun. There’s a rigid structure to these mini-missions, and if Just Cause 2 falls down, this is where it does. The repetitive nature of the sub-missions shows up in several hours of consistent play, but the game doesn’t suffer you to sit through them unless you want to. That’s not to say you won’t want to sit through them—the locations are consistently rich and varied, and you have boundless options to approach them, but they still boil down to shooting things with a white star and collecting glowing boxes.

I’d recommend this game to any fan of the action genre, but if you’re expecting an experience like tinyurl.com/ydacb3r, look elsewhere. If you’re the sort of deviant who wonders what it’d be like if you attached a hapless soldier to an attack helicopter and crashed it into a waterfall while cracking wise, then this is the game for you. If you’re unsure, check out the hundreds of videos that people have exported to YouTube from their PS3 or PC directly from the game (sadly, there’s no chance of this feature getting Xbox compatibility anytime soon).

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About the Author ()

Lewis has been playing videogames since his family's PC Direct "workstation" in early 1996. He spends his spare time reading political blogs, working and welcoming complaints and suggestions.

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