Just Cause 2 Review
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On 04/27/2010 at 07:31 PM by Nick DiMola
A grappling hook and parachute should spell success for this sandbox game, right?
For those looking for the latest entry in the sandbox game genre.
I can't seem to sort out Just Cause 2. On one hand, it's frantic fun, with a bunch of unique gameplay elements that differentiate it from the massive number of sandbox games out there. On the other, its execution is so subpar that I can't help but dislike it. In other words, when Just Cause 2 is good, it's great, but when it's bad, it's really bad.
Just Cause 2 centers around Rico Rodriguez, an operative working to both defeat the dictator of Panau, and reconnect with his mentor, Tom Sheldon, who is suspected to be in cahoots with the dictator. Like most sandbox-style games, this plot is merely a means to kill enemies, and conquer territory. Falling in line with the originator of the genre, Grand Theft Auto, players have access to a variety of vehicles, weaponry, and collectibles, as well as a clear cut enemy, in this case, the Panuan military.
What sets Just Cause 2 apart from the crowd is Rico's grappling hook and infinitely-spawning parachute. Both can be used in conjunction with one another to perform moves like the slingshot, which allows for quicker travel about the environment. The grappling hook can be used to pull Rico to certain locations, or to grab and attack enemies. Additionally, players can use the hook to tether two objects together, providing for some great opportunities to cause destruction.
With access to infinite parachutes, as you might expect, the game places players in many situations that allow use of it. It's not odd for players to find themselves rocketing toward the ground on a regular basis, needing to take use of the parachute in order to propel themselves in the proper direction, or to just soften their fall.
Aside from these capabilities, Just Cause 2 also encourages players to cause "Chaos" by destroying government equipment. Most bases held by the establishment are packed with objects to destroy, as well as enemies by the plenty to defeat.
Clearly Just Cause 2 has enough to set itself apart, unfortunately players rarely get to take compelling use of any of their abilities as they progress through the game. The typical progression for players is entering a new base to overtake, either on their own, or with a militant group, and destroy some set of foes to obtain control. While players get to take use of their grappling hook to perform the sub-tasks within these bases, there's not much that makes these experiences compelling.
The poor enemy AI doesn't help this situation either. While playing on Normal settings, most enemies were flat out moronic, often times ignoring me in favor of shooting at my comrades when I was standing directly next to them. Other times, while taking cover, enemies looking at me wouldn't bother to rush me or even shoot at me, even though I was standing right there. I understand that I'm not playing the game on a harder setting, but I suspect that most players will choose the default Normal difficulty. Given that, it's disappointing that the enemies seemed to be so bad at performing their main purpose.
Given both the one-dimensional tasks and the poor enemy AI, having to constantly retread similar objectives grew old quickly. This tedium was augmented by Just Cause 2's unbelievably enormous world. On the surface, the expansive world seems like a fantastic feature, but in execution, it's obnoxious. Traversing the island is extremely slow, even with the slingshot maneuever, or a vehicle for that matter. Once the ability is unlocked, players will find themselves simply calling for an extraction to get around quicker. What's worse, is that though the island is large, most of it offers absolutely nothing to do aside from appreciating the scenery.
While I don't usually like to mention presentation, Just Cause 2's is so frustratingly bad that it can't be avoided. After investing enough time into the game, it's obvious that it doesn't take itself very seriously, but it certainly charades as a serious game most of the time. This is annoying because it feels very non-commital. If it didn't intend on being serious, it should've embraced its over-the-top nature and ran with it. The horrible dialog and voice acting are also annoying - the accents are ridiculous, and the emotion and delivery are just completely off key.
Though the game is often unenjoyable, playing with the grappling hook and parachute can be quite fun. Diving off of a mountain top, or grappling up large buildings is always a sure hit. Dual grappling can also produce some very funny results. It's these moments that make Just Cause 2's bland parts so much worse. The abilites are innately fun, which makes them feel squandered in the larger context of the game.
Just Cause 2 is a game begging to be enjoyable, but its mediocre execution bars it from being such most of the time. As much as I want to love Just Cause 2, it prevents me from doing so each and every time I try.