Just Cause 2 is a hugely entertaining game and whether you’re driving, flying or sailing through the game’s locale of Panau – a massive and beautiful place – it will repeatedly blow you away with how gorgeous it looks; from the frozen mountain peaks, to the deserts and the tropical jungles and beaches. Unless you’ve played the first game, it’s hard to convey quite how large the game world is, there’s literally hundreds of settlements, villages, cities and military bases to explore. The only real issue with how the game looks is a small, but noticeable one and it’s that the ‘pop-in’ is blatantly visible – cars materialise and trees switch from 2D sprites to full 3D models before your very eyes – but it’s nothing that gets in the way of the game or how drool-inducing it looks.
There’s also plenty to do and while there’s a disappointing number of story missions, there’s hundreds of side-missions on offer from the ‘friendly’ factions vying for control of Panau and also time-trial challenges with different types and classes of vehicle. A massive improvement over the original game is that these faction missions are no-way near as repetitive as before and even though there’s still plenty of “kill this guy”/”steal this car”/”blow up this target,” there’s a wide variation of these under differing conditions and also plenty more interesting and intricate missions, like using a fighter jet to destroy satellites mid-flight into orbit. There’s thousands of items of government property to destroy and collect (collectibles come in the form of parts that you can use in the Black Market to upgrade your weapons and vehicles), all of which causes ‘Chaos’ in Panau, this in turn increases the influence of the factions and increases their territory, unlocking more missions, challenges and gear available at the Black Market.
With all that space and things to do, you need vehicles right? Wrong! While there is over a hundred different land, sea and air vehicles to cause havoc or simply get around in, you’ll find your most useful method of transportation is a combination of your parachute and the grappling hook – you see, you can hit something in the distance with your grapple and while it’s reeling you in deploy your parachute to launch yourself into the air; then all you need to do is grapple the ground every now and again to keep your momentum and altitude and you’ve got yourself a versatile and instant method of transportation to cross distances that would be tedious on foot, or just to get out of trouble quickly.
The weapons of Just Cause 2 are the standard affair of a collection of pistols, shotguns, rifles and explosives but the star of the show is again the grappling hook – it’s not just a useful tool for getting around – you can now ‘tether’ objects and enemies together to dispatch them in a variety of frequently hilarious ways like tethering a solder to a passing car or even tethering an object to the back of your vehicle and using it as a wrecking ball! The other combat unfortunately lets the game down somewhat, the shooting is very loose, the hit detection can be at times awful and enemies soak up way too many bullets before going down, but at least the auto-aim on the grappling hook works fine and almost always hits what you intend it to. A smaller combat related complaint is that ammunition for some of the more exotic weapons is either extremely rare or doesn’t actually exist which means that once you’ve ran it dry, you need to call in your Black Market contact and shell out the full price of another gun, reducing their usefulness somewhat.
As I mentioned before, you’ll spend the majority of the game blowing stuff up and causing Chaos and this obviously isn’t consequence-free. Your wanted or ‘heat’ level is pretty standard, split into 5 levels ranging from enemies in range attacking on sight to sending attack choppers and elite troops after you but it’s not very balanced in terms of fun gameplay. Commit a minor infraction and you’ll receive a small amount of heat that will cause all government personnel to attack, but unfortunately because there’s so many of them around you’ll find you instantly have 10 or more solders shooting at you and killing them only makes things worse as that naturally causes your heat to rise and backup to be called. You can’t lose heat by hiding from enemies either, you have to move completely out of their radius to start losing it and this will frequently cause you to have to travel quite a distance away. Even worse, in a military installation enemies will continually spawn and this makes it impossible to attack a base, clear the enemies, lose your pursuers and go back to find all the collectibles without being constantly shot at and as such getting 100% in these areas very quickly feels like a chore.
The map and interface is clear, easy to use and looks the part but the GPS/SatNav system gets confused a lot – in Panau drivers drive on the right but the GPS frequently thinks they drive on the left and can give you some really confusing directions. The control of Rico has also seen a lot of improvement over the first game in that they’re tighter and more responsive – and thankfully they have got rid of the ‘stagger’ effect from close explosions, removing a lot of annoying ‘cheap’ deaths. The driving controls are mostly sound but still slightly off as it takes very little to send you into a slide – if you’re pushed for time this can be irritating – but the air and sea vehicles control perfectly fine, and let’s be honest, you’re going to be using these a hell of a lot more frequently than bikes, cars, trucks and tanks.
Just Cause 2 is a huge improvement on the original game and though it’s a great deal of fun, the experience is marred by a few gameplay issues that are unfortunately important enough to prevent it from being the masterpiece it should have been.
TGL Score 7/10
Format: Xbox 360 (reviewed) Playstation 3
Release date: March 26th
Developer: Avalance Studios/ Eidos Interactive