Genre: Action Developer: Avalanche Publisher: Square Enix USA Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 26th Mar 2010 Platforms:XBOX360
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Meet Rico (Suave) Rodriguez, International Man of Mystery. If the James Bond franchise had a Latino slant, was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Robert Rodriguez (no relation), Just Cause 2 would be the result. I've played a lot of sandbox games and as far as the 'fun' factor goes, this out GTA's Grand Theft Auto, makes Mercenaries look overpriced and even leaves my personal favourite, Saints Row 2, looking a little worse for wear. Seriously. Throw your brain out the window and ignore the little things like 'plot' and focus on blowing the living snot out of anything and
Your playground is Panau, a wee speck of an island in the middle of nowhere with a midget dictator. Why are you here? Your super secret covert spy agency - thoughtfully code named 'The Agency' - has sent you to track down a former ally gone rogue and as you uncover the truth you get drawn into a power struggle. Three factions are all vying for control while trying to depose this Kim Jong Yil wannabe, and to get the information you need you'll have to take on a few (and by a few I mean many) dirty jobs to gain their trust and get the intel that you need. That's pretty much it, in a nutshell. The premise is far from the star of the show here. The star is your super secret agent skillz, stunt parachute and grappling hook. Get ready to blow some stuff up as you walk, glide and streak away as it detonates in the background... cause cool guys don't look at explosions.
I used to think that all any game needed was a jetpack to make it cooler, but after being proven wrong by Dark Void and mucking about with Just Cause 2, Ive changed my tune. Every game should have a parachute and grapple gun. On their own, each is a powerful tool in your arsenal, but together they're amazing. There are just so many uses. You can use it to attach to a vehicle and hang from its roof (planes included!), then toss out the driver. You can pull enemies towards you, suspend them off buildings - but wait, there's more!
You can double tap the hook, and attach it to dual points. Hmmm. So many uses, so little time! Try clasping one end to a hapless guard and another to a gas canister... then shoot the canister. How about attaching one end to a pursuing jeep and the other to a nearby house and watch with glee as the car fishtails into the building and ends said pursuit. These are only the most basic uses. You'll discover many, many more, and I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise.
The parachute gives you a quick means of escape off any structure, but add the grapple hook and you'll be pulling off manoeuvres that'll put Bond and XXX to shame. Grapple anywhere on the ground, release the parachute and you're away, off into the wild blue yonder. As the missions get more hectic - and believe me they do - you'll need to utilise this constantly - after a while it becomes an extension of your arm and almost second nature.
The main component to the game is 'chaos'. Blow stuff up... it causes chaos. Kill a general, liberate a village, take over a military base... more and more chaos. This is how you progress through, as Agency missions (the main story) only unlock if you've caused enough of it. To this end, you'll be running a gauntlet of various Stronghold takeovers for the rebel factions to unlock more missions, and, you guessed it, have the opportunity to cause more chaos.
Avalanche has definitely taken a leaf out of Saint's Row's book - where you needed to complete 'activities' to advance the main plotline. What's important is it never feels like a grind - though I could've done without some of the infinitely respawning generic troops that seemed to pop out the woodwork each time you raised the alarm.
The missions are so off the chain I almost don't have the words to describe them, but a few highlights that stuck. Youve got to pick up a cheap ***** (as described by your contact) who refuses to be driven in anything other than a pink limousine... err... what the hell? How about this scenario? After destroying a mountain top base, you'll need to (a) defeat some puff of smoke vanishing ninjas (b) base jump off the mountain to avoid an air-strike (c) parachute down and grapple to a jeep to rescue a comrade (d) cut off an enemy convoy before it rendezvous with a submarine that just appeared through an ice lake. There's even some WWII Japanese working on pulse weapons on a deserted island... it's all just absolutely mental, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
The mission that sold me on the game was an early-ish task where I had to destroy a series of satellite relays before they launched. After grappling to the top of each rocket and planting some C4 and detonating it mid-flight, my contact announced there was a fourth secret rocket, now launched. I had to grapple to a Harrier, take off and "shoot it down with my rockets or mini-guns". Yeah, and I could catch a bus to work as well. Instead I flew the jet into the freakin' rocket instead and jettisoned out at the very last moment - that's how Rico rolls. As I freefell to victory with flaming debris littering the sky - that was it for me, I was sold.
As brilliant as the action set pieces are, and as awesomely suave as Rico is, they wouldn't be where they are without the stunning
graphics and brilliant scoring. This could easily have been regaled as a 'B-Grade' movie, but the gorgeous backdrop of Panau will leave you with a gaping maw. It's that stunning. The draw distance is exceptional and the colour palate remarkable - sensationally illustrated in each and every emphatic explosion. If that wasn't enough, the sounds that surround you are wonderfully understated. From the James Bond inspired theme music, to the subtle backing tracks as you gracefully glide to your next target, it nestles next to your earlobe and soothes you to the next explosive crescendo.
It's not without its issues, though. Second tries at missions (after failed attempts) often bring up stuttering audio glitches that can be annoying and distracting. Speaking of annoying and distracting, the voice acting is sub-par and decidedly forgettable. There is some clipping at times and some pop in/pop out of textures and vehicles. The thing is - if you're playing at a slow enough pace to dwell on these issues you're doing it wrong.
Just Cause 2 is one of the best sandbox games I've ever played. The action is absolutely insane, the plot ludicrous, the scenery breathtaking, and though there is a slight learning curve to get your funky fresh moves down pat, it's well worth the investment, as you find yourself drawn back to it again and again just to round out that last village as you edge closer to the massive task of 100% completion. Viva la Revolution!