Review by Zerothma

"The more you play, the more you recognize the flaws and potential."

Just Cause 2 is an action game that came out in March of 2010. It was developed my Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive, and published by Square Enix. It's a sandbox style third-person shooter, much like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. The game is set in a fictional island named Panau that is supposed to be in Southeast Asia.

Storyline: 5/10
You play as Rico Rodriguez who is a United States agent of sorts. The basic premise is that Panau was once a US ally, but has recently been taken over by a dictator named Baby Panay. Your job is to find him and take him down so that someone who is more US friendly can take his place. Now before you get your panties in a bunch, this game was made by Swedish developers. But anyway, you have to go through a series of missions in order to get to the end of the storyline. This includes helping these different factions (of which there are three) gain power throughout the island. Once enough chaos is raised, you unlock the next missions. You can get chaos points through a number of ways that will be discussed later.

Yes, the story is pretty short and simplistic, but being as this is a sandbox game, they probably didn't want to tie you down to a lengthy in-depth story. The story basically does its job, which is to give you a reason to be there in the first place.

Gameplay: 7/10
I had a ton of fun playing this game when I first got it. But the very day I wrote this review was the very day I finished the game. I ended with 97% completion, $10,000,000, every marked location visited, every faction item found, every vehicle and weapon fully upgraded, every mission completed, with a total of 70+ hours of gameplay. I'm telling you this because (aside from credibility) I had nothing better to do than play this game this summer. While playing the game I could think of plenty of flaws and things they could improve in Just Cause 3. But for you to understand this, I should first tell you about what the gameplay is like.

Rico's main weapon is his grapple hook. He basically has a batman-like hook that can be used at all times for transportation and combat. You can whip people with it, hang people with it, attach people and objects to moving vehicles, etc. The grapple hook is the one true defining feature of this game. If you think the grapple hook can do it, it probably can. Besides the grapple hook, however, Rico is equipped with an infinite amount of parachutes that come out of his backpack. Thus, you can fly around and keep constant momentum with the combination of hook and parachute.

The other weaponry that Rico must scavenge for is guns. There is a rather small arsenal of weapons at your disposal, though they are able to be upgraded via weapon parts found throughout the game world. If you want to buy weapons or vehicles, you can call the black market. You can call the black market at almost any location and use it to buy or upgrade weapons or vehicles. When you first start, many weapons and vehicles will be locked, but you can unlock them through the gain of chaos points. There is even a transport service that will warp you to any settlement that you have already visited. You can buy more weapons and vehicles through the downloadable content (DLC) using Microsoft Points.

So now I'll move on to the complaints that this game generally receives by new players. People say you don't get enough ammunition. I thought the same thing too when I first played, but when you upgrade your weapons you end up picking up more ammo for that weapon each time it's found. At the end of the game I would find myself with over 100 shotgun shells in my shotgun and I would almost never run out. Though the same can't be said for every gun, since some weapons are harder to find off of the bodies of your enemies. Another complaint is money. At the beginning, you might feel like everything is too expensive. But bear in mind, you get money for destroying any piece of government property. And you'll spend most of the game doing so. You also never need to really buy anything, as everything is provided to you if you look long enough.

The main missions, faction missions, and races are the only time you do not have free roam. In my honest opinion, these are the most fun things in the game. Main storyline missions (also known as Agency Missions) and faction missions sometimes have buildings and objects that do not appear in any other part of the game. Sometimes they will require you to do things like base jump off of a massive cliff, land on a moving vehicle, hijack the vehicle, and drive it to a safe place while fighting off hoards of enemy vehicles. Other times you will just have to do stupid stuff like blow up a boat and it will take you around 2 minutes to accomplish.

So generally, you are playing a single player game with no online options aside from DLC. Your goal is to raise chaos by destroying government objects that are found throughout the whole world. This unlocks weapons, vehicles, missions, and stronghold take-overs. That's about it. You'll spend a lot of time in the world's diverse environments simply looking for stuff to pick up and for stuff to destroy.

Sound Effects, Voice Acting, and Music: 7/10
The sound effects in Just Cause 2 seem mostly like stock sound effects. This isn't really a problem at all, since they generally fit in well. I think they did a fine job on the sound effects. Music, however, is very scarce. Though when it does play, it has a sort of James Bond feel to it that fits in really well. Other times, particularly after a stronghold take-over, some sort of victory music will play. It seems kind of out of place. But generally, you will be listening to no music at all. In all seriousness, you should probably put the subtitles on and listen to music if you are not fond of silence.

I could not factor the voice acting into my scoring system. The reason is because the voice acting on every character who is not Rico or the woman from the very beginning, stinks. Let me clarify… the voice acting is so amazingly bad that it is comical. It's like a train wreck, you can't help but stare. For that reason alone, it's worth listening to for at least for a brief period of time. The reason I can't factor the voice acting into my scoring system is because I can't tell if the terrible acting is intentional or not. If it was intentional, then the voice acting is a masterpiece of sorts. If it wasn't, then it still has the train wreck factor and is entertaining for the soul purpose of its awfulness.

Controls: 8/10
For the most part, the controls are great. All of the movement, running, shooting, and so forth seem to work fluidly. I have a few complaints though. Sometimes Rico will go into a falling animation when you don't want him to. This is most commonly a problem on oil platforms or buildings with multiple layers. You try to jump down a level but Rico flings himself far off the platforms and it makes your controls just plain wonky for a moment. The other thing is that sometimes you will press B to do a stunt jump (which makes Rico jump and lock into place on top of a vehicle), but he'll go to the wrong vehicle. The same thing goes for when you press Y, sometimes you'll enter the wrong vehicle, or you'll be calling the black market, but you'll enter a vehicle instead.

I am also not a fan of the D-pad, especially in this game. Rico can hold two sub weapons, a primary weapon, grenades, and plastic explosive. You can dual wield the sub weapons if you wish as well. The problem is, all of this is done through the D-pad. I think the Xbox 360 D-pad is just shoddy in the first place. The D-pad controls feel slow, and sometimes the game will display the wrong weapons after you've used the D-pad. I've wasted many grenades when it has displayed a pistol. I've shot a sub-machine gun while it shows a shotgun. Something is wrong with the D-pad and switching weapons.

Another thing is that some vehicles over-steer. You can use a certain vehicle the whole game and get really good at using it. Yet, sometimes when you pick up that same vehicle, it will have steering problems. No matter how light I tap left or right, the vehicle will swerve suddenly. Things like the D-pad problems and over steering seem to come and go. I think it's best to save your game and reset it the problems become incessant.

Graphics: 9/10
The graphics in this game are amazing. The transition between day and night is like looking at a series of photographs. The landscaping is beautiful, diverse, and well thought out. One of my favorite things to do in this game is just drive. Sure, I could teleport of any location, but I just love driving to look at the scenery so much. Character models could have used a little more work. I would have enjoyed more diverse buildings and buildings with a much more Asian influence as well. Things eventually look all the same when you play it for as long as I have. I think they should have added maybe 30% more non-player character models. For instance, there are no fat people or children. I understand the children part because they would inevitably get hurt or killed. If you killed a child in a video game, some countries would ban it, thus narrowing the target market. That's why they are left out of video games like Oblivion, or are invincible, like in Fallout 3. This game is too light-hearted in nature for that sort of thing regardless.

You will do a ton of travelling in this game. But unlike The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, you'll have plenty of beautiful landscape to look at, goodies to grab, jumps to go off of, and traffic to dodge. I think that the landscape probably had the most effort put into it out of anything everything else in this game. And lucky for you, you can just grab any civilian vehicle you want and the military (who act like cops in this game) won't care.

Summary:
This game has its share of glitches. It has its share of flaws. But yet, it has just a few features that act like a light in the darkness: graphics and replayability. The upgrade system is a rather dull upgrade system, but if you are someone who want to get 100% on everything, it will take you until you hit around 96% completion before you have every weapon maxed. Almost everything in this game could be improved. A more in depth weapon and vehicle system would be nice. A personal hide-out for Rico, where he could store vehicles would be appreciated. Possibly upgrades for Rico as well, be it physical (swimming comes to mind), or involving the grapple hook (length, strength). Even character customization or alternate costumes could be added. I see a semi-boring game when I see Just Cause 2. There are tons of areas to be explored for sure. But I also see massive potential for Just Cause 3. If this game was released with two player splitscreen or otherwise, it would be an automatic 9/10. Too many times have I been in a vehicle with an empty turret on the back.

But out of anything I hope they fix the next time around, is the reward. This is by far the biggest flaw the game has. Today I finished finding all 100 ancestral skulls for one of the faction leaders. You can imagine the look on my face when he said, “Soon you will have found them all”. And later when I finished finding all 300 faction items scattered throughout the vast Just Cause universe and got not even a single “Good job”. If you ever end up playing as much as I did, don't expect anything when you finally complete destroying all 1200 fuel silos. They should take a lesson from Saints Row. When you finish hours of grueling missions and collectables, at least give the player a small permanent reward. And also, what am I supposed to do with all the health upgrades that do nothing? Your health gets maxed out once you've found 200 health boxes. I have found around 360, yet the game has just stopped rewarding me for the last 160. And that's what it will do to you on every account of collectables. What a let down.

Overall Score: 7.2/10
Should you buy this game? If you love exploring vast game worlds and you love the action genre, then I suggest looking in the bargain bin or buying this game used. I wouldn't buy it for more than $45. If you intend to rent it, then by all means, go ahead. Just know that you won't be able to complete everything in this game. It's far too long of a game for a rental.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/20/10

Game Release: Just Cause 2 (US, 03/23/10)


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