Review: Just Cause 2 (PS3)

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Title: Just Cause 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Avalanche Studios / Eidos Interactive
Price: $59.99

Sandbox games are a dime a dozen these days with developers having a tough time distinguishing themselves from the pack. Open world, check. Main story missions, check. Side missions, check. Variety of weapons, vehicles, ability to tackle the game however you want, check, check, check. Can Just Cause 2 rise above the noise and deliver a compelling experience even without the requisite multiplayer? Read on to find out.

Story:
Back from the first Just Cause, you’ll play as Rico Rodriguez, an Agency operative sent to the fictional island country of Panau located in Southeast Asia. The leader and longtime U.S. ally, Papa Panay, has died under mysterious circumstances and been replaced by his son Baby Panay who immediately cuts all ties with the U.S. You’re initially sent in to look for Tom Sheldon, a former Agency operative who has apparently gone rogue after the death of Papa Panay. Along the way, you’ll need to hook up with various factions who are all fighting to destabilize the government to further their own agendas. There are a number of twists and turns which I won’t spoil here but the story, while fun and interesting, tends to take a back seat to the spectacle and action of the game much like a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

Gameplay:
The first Just Cause suffered from a limited use of the grappling hook (attaching to vehicles only), a number of bugs and uninspired side missions. With Just Cause 2, developer Avalanche has stepped up their game in a big way. When I say big, I really mean BIG. With no multiplayer mode, the single player experience needs to be more than enough and boy is it ever. The Panau island chains encompass about 400 square kilometers with more than 300 locations to discover, over 2000 parts for building vehicle and weapon upgrades, more than 1000 different activities to cause chaos and much, much more. You’ll be able to track it all with the detailed statistics that the game keeps as you move through it. You can also log-in to http://justcause.com and track your stats against other players in the game.

Arguably, the most fun in the granddaddy of sandbox games, Grand Theft Auto, can be had by just running around and causing chaos until the cops (and eventually the military) come along. Just Cause 2 takes this concept and runs with it. The whole thrust of the game is to destabilize the Government of Panay and you’ll do that by, you guessed it, causing chaos. This is usually by destroying government property which is basically anything with a big white star on it. The reward for doing this is the opening up of new story missions, faction missions and black market items.

What really sets this game apart from other sandbox style games, other than the sheer size of it, is the grappling hook and parachute combination. You can now use the grappling hook to grab just about anything and you’ll be doing it a lot. For example you can pull enemies off ledges, hook them to vehicles and drag them, climb any building or mountain in the game, open the parachute and grapple/glide your way across the terrain, even grapple up to that pesky helicopter that’s shooting at you and hijack it. It’s really only limited by your own imagination.

The enemy AI is solid if not spectacular but it’s also adaptive. As you cause more chaos and complete more faction and agency missions, the AI gets tougher and will respond with more force. It’s a nice way to let the game difficulty build with your experience in the game.

Between causing chaos in general, exploring Panay, taking on a good variety of side missions for the three factions and moving the story along with the Agency missions, boredom is never an issue with this game.

One of the coolest features (exclusive to the PS3) is the ability to record video of the game as you play and save it to the XMB or upload it directly to YouTube. Now you can show your friends the crazy stunt you pulled or the insane kill you got without having to describe it.

Visuals:
Just Cause 2 takes full advantage of the beefed up hardware in the PS3 with really beautiful lighting, water and weather effects across the varied topography of Panau. From the lush jungles and tropical waters to the hazy deserts, up into the snowy mountaintops and the urban landscapes in between, everything comes together to give you a real feeling of being in a real place. While there is some pop in from time to time and the cutscenes tend to be the worst looking parts of the game, these can easily be overlooked as you make your way through the beautiful landscapes that Panau has to offer.

With a game this size though you’d expect to see some short cuts but, having discovered over 120 of the 300 plus locations so far, I can tell you that a lot of effort was put into making each location feel unique. Sure, you’ll see a lot of the same architecture in military bases and such, but they’re each laid out in a unique way based on the geography of the location they’re in. Basically, you won’t ever get annoyed with seeing the same places copied across the landscape because it just doesn’t happen in this game.

Audio:
While the voice acting is solid, there aren’t any stand out performances here. The variety of accents works well to immerse you in the game and the faction fighters chanting your name as you take down waves of enemies can be a lot of fun too.

Surround sound comes into play nicely as you can hear enemies shouting and gunshots with direction clearly indicated. Explosions sound more muffled at a distance and up close have a nice throaty boom. Each of the vehicles and weapons has a unique and appropriate sound to them as well. Civilians talk about the unrest in the country while soldiers tell you to move along. You’ll even hear some hilarious Government broadcasts which poorly attempt to explain away the chaos you’re causing throughout the game.

In general, the sound effects are really a high point in the game.

Conclusion:
If it hasn’t come across already, this is by far the best sandbox style action game I’ve ever played. As of this writing, I’m over 30 hours into the game and I still haven’t traveled to half of the islands. If you like this type of game, you’re going to love Just Cause 2. This is a game that will keep you busy for months and even years to come as you travel across the landscape trying to bring down Baby Panay one explosion at a time.

Score:
9.5

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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  • Simon1234567891011

    Nice review, look forward to seeing more 😉

    Don't agree with the “voice acting being solid”. It's more hilariously bad that it's almost good.

  • icecreamsoup

    haha yes i have to agree the voice acting is rather amusing at times (and not in a good way).

  • madeup6

    First official review eh? It's good. The game sounds great.

  • PJF, first you abandon Warhawk Wednesdays; now you give Just Cuz 2 (borecast.libsyn.com) a good review?! You're gonna make Sirius's sh*t list buddy. 🙂

  • josh_langford

    Alright I could agree with amusing, but compared to some other recent games, I think all the voices fit the characters and the accents were good and varied without being too stereotypical. Some of the line reads may have been a bit over the top, but that all fits with the Bruckheimer-esque action extravaganza that defines this game. =)

  • Simon1234567891011

    Yeah it does fit the style. The game doesn't take itself too seriously.

  • Heh heh, he's already upset that I haven't been back to Warhawk in months….

  • You don't bring mines to my base anymore
    You don't curse my name when I shoot you down
    You hardly play Warhawk with me anymore
    When you come through the door
    At the end of the day

  • Played some of Glenn's copy this weekend and even though I didn't get into the meat of the game I can see why everyone is buzzing about it. Think I'm going to watch the Sunday flyers and grab JC2 when I find a good deal.

  • You don't bring mines to my base anymore
    You don't curse my name when I shoot you down
    You hardly play Warhawk with me anymore
    When you come through the door
    At the end of the day

  • Played some of Glenn's copy this weekend and even though I didn't get into the meat of the game I can see why everyone is buzzing about it. Think I'm going to watch the Sunday flyers and grab JC2 when I find a good deal.

  • Anonymous

    Each time I play this game I find my self liking it even more. The review is spot on, nice one Josh.

    It’s a shame this game seems to be forgotten by alot of people and they dismiss it too quickly when I tell them about it. I like most game types and will try any game which looks even half good.

    Sadly I passed on this game after playing the demo ages ago, but after hearing Josh go on about it on the podcast I decided to give it another try..  

    …I’m very glad I did. Everyone who passed on this game should pick up a copy, it’s cheap now and you’ll get a massive amount of game time out of this.

    PSN ID: ChazzH69

  • Anonymous

    Just Cause 3 under development as I you read this (18th Dec 2011).

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