Just Cause 2 Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

PlayStation 3
Release date:
Eidos Interactive
Avalanche Studios

Just Cause 2

Great carnage, terrible accents.

Review by Stew Shearer (Email)
May 5th 2010

Just Cause 2, or as I like to call it, Mercenaries 3: People With Poorly Acted Accents, is not by any means this generation's most original game. If you have enjoyed any of the Mercenaries games, then in all likelihood you'll like this as well. Since what it lacks in originality, it makes up for with quality. Built around solid action, and providing one of the best looking open worlds in recent memory, Just Cause2 rises well above its shortcomings.

Though the story is barely fleshed out, and amounts to little more then cliched rubbish, it's almost worth it to introduce you to the chaos. You play as Rico, an American special ops soldier who is dropped into to the fictional country of Panau to track down an agent suspected of going rogue. This baloons into a bigger conspiracy, but unless you're a fan of poor writing chances are you're going to be ignoring the majority of the plot.

What Just Cause 2 is really about is chaos. Panua is a country full of problems, and your job is to make them worse. Your biggest task throughout the game is the disruption of the government's infrastructure, which you do by blowing stuff up, like military installations, construction sites, fuel refineries. Hell, even gas stations. You'll spend an inordinate amount of time just trotting around the countryside, nuking anything you can get your hands on.

This can be a bit of a problem. I am a fan of games filled with random acts of violence. I have pointlessly mowed down just as many pedestrians as the next guy across countless video games. That said, I like to be able to choose when I do this, and for the most part Just Cause 2 requires you to go on fits of carnage. Unlocking missions, items, and just advancing the game requires you to raise Panau's chaos levels to a certain point. While you're bound to rile things up a bit while on missions, this can often mean hours of wandering around blowing stuff up. It may not sound too bad, but it can get tedious. Moreover, the missions you unlock aren't much to write home about. Most are brief, simple, and based around a few repeated themes. Go somewhere, and blow something up. Rescue so and so from the government. Protect this sap while he performs some task for us. Despite having a ton of faction missions, and several longer story missions, very few of them are actually interesting.

The game only really shines because its actual gameplay is really good. There are a few hiccups; the enemy AI is barely about drone level. Nonetheless, the action is well executed and made at least a bit unique by its focus on stunts. Rather than adhering to any sort of realism, Just Cause 2 shirks the laws of nature in favor of the laws of cool. Rico can stand on top of moving cars during gunfights without problem. He can leap from motorcycles without suffering injury. Rico is basically the walking definition of smooth.

Moreover, the game's Bionic Commando style grappling hook, which allows you to propel yourself onto literally any nearby surface, allows for a lot of experimentation. Want to scale a skyscraper? Go right ahead. Jump off while you're at it. Rico has a parachute he can deploy at any time to make sure such falls aren't fatal. It's not just a cliché to say here that the sky is the limit. Visually, this is one of the best looking open world games around. The colors are bright and lush, really pulling together the look of a tropical island. The character models aren't the best, but you'd be picky to complain. The sound, comparatively, is a bit weak. The music and sound effects are fine, but the voice acting is preposterously bad. Every character is a poorly played out cliché. The Panauans sound less like an oriental people and more like a walking stereotype. Not a single character is either written or performed in a way that makes them appealing.

Despite its flaws, Just Cause 2 is a worthwhile game. It's not perfect, but the problems are minor enough that they don't detract from the overall package in any significant way. It is by no means the most intelligent game around, but if what you want is a simple thrill ride where the focus is finding new and exciting ways to make things go boom, then this is a good ticket to invest in.

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