Let me be completely honest: The original Just Cause was not a good game. This early generation Xbox 360 game (also released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC) had a lot of great ideas. It was set in a beautiful location, had over-the-top Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox action and introduced us to a cool (albeit cheesy) new character. But all this was marred by clumsy controls, a terrible presentation and an unrewarding story. Beneath all of the problems, Just Cause had a lot of untapped potential. Four years later Eidos has gone back to the drawing board and has managed to give us a sequel that goes a long way to make up for the imperfections of the original. Could it be that we finally have a Just Cause game worth playing?
Just Cause 2 doesn't stray far from the original game's formula. You CIA black ops agent Rico Rodriguez, the daredevil alpha male who sounds like a cross between Al Pacino in Scarface and the Taco Bell Chihuahua. This time around you've traded the fake tropical island of San Esperito for the fictional tropical islands of Panau. This is a game built around using your Bionic Commando-style grappling hook and your ever ready parachute. Throw in a ridiculous story full of narrow escapes and top notch action sequences and you have one of the year's most exciting games. It's a flawed game, but it's definitely exciting.
Despite being the umpteenth Xbox 360 game to feature a wide-open sandbox world to explore, Just Cause 2 proves that there's still room in this crowded genre for some fresh ideas. Not enough can be said about the country of Panau, a group of islands that are equal parts violent and beautiful. Don't be fooled by the short name, Panau is absolutely gigantic. In fact, the area is so large that gigantic doesn't even begin to do it justice. I haven't gone in and measured it, but this feels like the largest area I've had the pleasure of exploring in an open-world sandbox game. The massive size is punctuated with diversity. It's not just a tropical setting, there are huge cities to explore, a full-on desert, snowy mountains and even a mysterious island with a hatch that will crash your airplane if you get too close to it.
While I'm a huge fan of city-based sandbox games (as can be proven by my reviews of games like Grand Theft Auto IV
), dealing with traffic, obnoxious pedestrians and gangs can really send my blood pressure through the roof. Sometimes you need a vacation from the city. And in a funny way, Just Cause 2 reminded me why I liked Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas so much. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day struggle of a metropolis, it's always fun to get out of town and explore the world that surrounds it. This is a game that wants you to get out of town and find every inch of the fictional islands. It wants you to have a scenic experience. But most importantly, Just Cause 2 wants you to blow stuff up.
If you're a fan of huge Michael Bay-style explosions, then there is no better game than Just Cause 2. This is a game that pushes you to blow as much stuff up as possible, all while giving you money and points that go towards unlocking new missions and weapons. The is a game that teaches you right from the start that if you see a large tower, you will shoot it until it falls to the ground impaling enemy soldiers. If you see a large gas tank, you should throw plastic explosives at it and send it to the moon. And what do you do when you see a gas pipeline? Well, in that case you hack it with your super computer skills and then run away as fast as you can while it explodes behind you. Every town has things to blow up, and if you plan on earning all of the missions you better get to throwing grenades.
Just Cause 2 is split into a couple different types of missions. For the most part you'll be going around running missions for the various factions in Panau. Many of the missions will have you doing the same sort of things you find in other open world games, such as swooping into a training camp and killing a specified target or delivering a bunch of boxes to a set destination. The missions do a good job of introducing you to a lot of different types of vehicles and weapons, most of which you will have more fun with when you're not in a mission. Before long you'll realize that all of these missions are adding up to something greater, they all have a central theme that suggests that you're about to pull off something truly epic.
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