Blowing stuff up is intensely satisfying. I have no idea why but I think it’s intricately setting out your explosives and watching the cacophony of explosions and noise that follows. Of course, we here at Console Monster don’t endorse you going out to your nearest car park and blowing up a bunch of cars, but doing it in video games is totally fine. Just Cause 2 is pretty much a game of blowing stuff up. It has a story, kind of, but it also has a lot of guns and stuff waiting to be turned into balls of flames; and that’s where the fun comes from.
For those unfamiliar with Just Cause, it was a third person shooter which came out in 2006 in which you played an employee of The Agency known as Rico, fitting the Mexican stereotype in every single way possible. He is pretty much James Bond, John McClane, El Mariachi and Rambo all rolled into one. You had a grapple hook and a parachute and set about taking down the evil regime bestowed upon the fictional Central American island. Rico is back in Just Cause 2, this time having moved to the Asian island of Panau, which has been taken over by a Kim Jong-Il esque dictator with a love for himself. You’ve been sent to not only take down this evil regime as before, but also to confront your old mentor, Sheldon, who’s gone AWOL on the island.
It’s a pretty weak story. Sure, there are some twists and turns here and there but it’s all very “been-there-done-that”. Protagonist visits evil regime. Antagonist gets wind of their presence. Increases military. Good people turn bad. Bad people turn good. Blah. Blah. Blah. But the story feels mainly like a formality just so you can get to blowing stuff up. One of the main ways to unlock new stuff, be they missions, weapons or vehicles is to fill up the Chaos meter. To do this you need to, as you might have guessed, blow stuff up.
And there is plenty to blow up; the island of Panau is huge! That isn’t an exaggeration either, unlike those people in the gym casually boasting about the size of their penis. This island is massive. 400 square miles massive, and every single corner of the map is explorable. The island has it’s own ecosystem from the lush forests to the East, the snowy mountains in the centre, the harsh desert in the South and the sprawling urban districts to the West; every single section is beautiful. Flying over the snow peaked mountains as the sun sets is amazing, gliding through the big cities at night equally so. There’s so much to explore here, from hidden missile bases in the mountains, to an island that seems highly reminiscent of the island from Lost, with spontaneously exploding planes to a hatch deep in the jungle. It’s little things like that that make exploring Panau a real treat in itself.
The size of the island can be a bit of a drawback too. Getting from one end of the island to another is a huge pain. Driving takes forever, planes are few and far between and helicopters take quite a while, despite being able to go as the crow flies. Luckily, the Black Market resource has an extraction option which will take you to any place already discovered. Due to the size of the island, a number of missions also seem extremely long winded causing you to go all the way to one place to start the mission then go all the way to another place to actually do the mission, which is a huge pain at times, especially if you then fail it and have to go all the way to the start again, simply to come back. If you’re unable to find a boat and find yourself in the middle of the sea because of a silly slip from a cliff or a fall from your helicopter, you’ll have to swim for a good 5-10 minutes before you reach land. It’s minor annoyances like this that take away from the great exploration to be had on Panau.
Some of the most fun in the game, other than causing explosions which would make James Bond quake with fear, comes from the grapple hook. Something so simple is able to provide some great experimentation with the gameplay. Rico’s grapply hook is able to attach to anything, be it human, rock, metal, anything. From here Rico can either grapple to it, or grapple said object to him. When used in conjunction with the parachute it can make an effective way to get around, using the ground and grapple to pull you along. It can also be a useful way to scale tall buildings. It can also be useful for pulling enemies off of tall buildings. There are some real cool moments to be had here. Free-falling from a helicopter to then open your chute and grapple onto a nearby Tuk-tuk and speed away (as much as you can on a Tuk-tuk) is extremely fun. Not only that, but Rico’s upgraded grapple lets you stick stuff to other stuff. For instance, you can latch an enemy onto the back of your Humvee and drive away with them dragging behind you. Once you really get into the groove of the grapple you can pretty much turn into a Mexican Spider-Man dressed in leather chaps.
Despite me going on about how fun Just Cause 2 is there are some glaring problems. First of all the AI is rubbish. Absolutely terrible. They will run directly at you, even if it means jumping off a cliff to reach you. Individually, they couldn’t hit the side of a barn door but together, their collective efforts will somehow hit you a lot, it’s all very inconsistent. Secondly, the auto-aim is very forgiving and it takes what little fun with the gun-play there was. You can basically strafe a group of enemies and without even aiming, probably take out 85% of them. Thirdly, the voice acting is absolutely horrible. It’s so bad, in fact, it nearly comes full circle back around to being brilliant. The leader of The Reapers, whose nationality I’m not sure of, seems to speak with a Welsh accent whereas the Asian members of the cast speak in possibly the most stereotypically, almost racist, Asian accent I’ve ever heard.
Just Cause 2 is essentially the video games equivalent of Die Hard. The story is not that interesting but, by God, the explosions and fun you’ll have along the way are so worth it. Just Cause 2 is a delightful game through and through, but it’s not ground breaking in anyway shape or form. It’s just fun. If you need something to tide you over until Crackdown 2 arrives; Just Cause 2 is a worthy shape to fill the hole.