Review – Just Cause 2
There were rumours of anti-Castro pigeons.
I liked Just Cause. Okay, so it had a problem with pacing and the missions got really boring after a while – they where all the same after all – but as sandbox games go it was not bad, quite fun some might say. I can’t believe Just Cause 2 is from the same development team. While the landscape has been switched to a more varied Asian setting everything else seems to have gone backwards in terms of game design. In other words this game is not as good as the original.
Now if you are about to send me some hateful comment on this review or an angry e-mail (I wouldn’t worry too much. We’ll track them by IP address and have them ‘disappeared’ a bit like Shannon but without the comedy pay-off – Ed), I tried okay!? I really did try to like this game. In a video gaming industry which at the moment seems only to be dealing with absolutes, Just Cause 2 is firmly in the ‘open-ended sandbox’ camp which is a refreshing change from other newer titles being released around the same time, bucking a gaming trend so to speak. But the problem is for a decent sandbox game to work it needs substance which is what this game sorely lacks.
Now I know what you might be thinking â€œbut Danny this game looks fun and I just want to mess around should I buy it?â€ well the simple answer is no. In this day and age just having a fun sandbox to play around in will not cut it. Besides there are much more entertaining sandbox games out there which are not only cheaper but come with online co-op play which I think you will agree screwing around with friends is a lot more fun than being by your lonesome. Anyway the games in question is Saints Row 2 and Crackdown. I feel that (and this is pure speculation!) SquareEnix pushed this game out the door in a hurry because the end of the financial year was approaching and they knew this game was not going to sell well in the new financial year with games like Crackdown 2 on the horizon.
The game is a simple sandbox affair. You are send in to destabilise the country by any means necessary which normally means either blowing up stuff or collecting things, or blowing up stuff and collecting things at the same time. (sometimes they spice things up by telling you to do something different but that’s rare!) A big problem with this game is the lack of mission variety and the sheer mass of things the game wants you to collect or specific government buildings that they want you to destroy.
Simply put Just Cause 2 has the Nintendo 64 platformer mentality about it which is bad for a game of this size, I’d say that the world is five times bigger than your average sandbox game easily. There are over 1000 weapon, vehicle and armour upgrade collectables and also thousands of sabotage targets (government buildings that are not radar trackable). So yeah I feel that all this busy work gets really old really fast. Forty or more hours just doing the same old boring shit and yes I am aware most sandbox games have collectables but those run in to the hundreds but this game has them in thousands, does that sound like fun to you?
When the game is not making you collect everything under the sun or escorting some of the most brain dead A.I. I have witnessed in some time though a gauntlet of RPG troops, mounted gunners and snipers the game is really fun, especially with it’s trademark grappling hook which is not as good as Bionic Commando‘s but hey at least you can â€œdouble hookâ€ people in Just Cause 2. Double hooking allows the player to attach both sides of the elastic rope on to objects, people and vehicles with interesting results. The most popular one is attaching an unsuspecting passer-by or enemy troop to a Boeing 747 and smirk to yourself as it takes off dragging the poor sap you have hooked on to it with it.
This is my point, when the game allows me to do my own thing and not worry about stuff to much, everything is fine. You know when I complained about all that collecting earlier on? Well that’s the best bit of the game! Yeah I know that’s messed up right? The missions are bland and very cookie cutter. This is also compounded by the fact that the whole factions idea is wasted here. In the first Just Cause when you did jobs for factions you not only earned new hideouts to save your game and get more ammo but they would also upgrade the vehicles the hideouts had as well as weapons. Each faction also had their own specialities.
In Just Cause 2 working for a faction does nothing other than advancing the plot. There is no warfare between the factions (which would help create more chaos in the country, no?) and the voice acting and dialogue for these leaders is some of the worst I have witnessed. Literally no time went in to making the mission briefings or cutscenes and they did not bother fleshing these characters out, it’s all very barebones. I feel there is a lot of wasted opportunity here. The there is the weapon buying. Running out of ammo is a big problem in this game and luckily you can air drop supplies in during a firefight (something you could not do in the original) but you can’t simply buy ammo you have to spend like $20K to $50K on a single gun with full ammo which is highly annoying and I preferred the first game’s method of handling the weapon upgrades and ammo supplies.
‘But PEOWW, what do you mean? This game is getting great reviews!’
Yep, Just Cause 2 provides so much shock and awe that everyone seems to have forgotten what gameplay actually is. I’ll say it right now for the record, Just Cause 2 is achingly beautiful. Everything looks stunning and has a draw distance that makes you suspect that Avalanche Studios have secretly replaced your console with a super computer from the future.
Also, the grappling hook is a joy to use in both combat and exploration. The sheer larks that are provided by simply hooking a car to a helicopter and then using it as bespoke wrecking ball are almost worth the price of admission alone.
However, everything else in the game is half-assed at best. The list of crimes is nearly endless but here’s a checklist for you in case you missed them in the demo.
Awful vehicle handling (made worse by the stupid number of races that this game throws at you), rubbish gunplay (you can’t buy ammo you so need to rebuy guns you already have THAT COST AS MUCH AS A FUCKING PLANE and that don’t auto-switch when you run out of ammo, are inaccurate as fuck close up), absurdly repetitive missions, bugs (falling through the floor really isn’t on), thousands of fucking collectibles, another giant area to play in that mostly has thousands of square miles of FUCK ALL in it, the shittest story since whatever Jim Carey was last in, AI that would get laughed at by a Commodore Vic 20, voice acting that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Doctor Who and a choice of difficulty settings which is fucking ludicrous in this type of game especially as the difficulty adapts as you progress.
Once you get shitty story campaign out of the way, simply bounding about the place destroying things and collecting upgrades can be actually kind of enjoyable – addictive even – but it’s a short-lived feeling and you’ll be looking to capitalise on the game’s trade-in value. Saints Row 2, Crackdown and Saboteur all did this kind of thing a lot more convincingly whereas Just Cause 2 clearly needed another six months.
Secondary Score: 5/10
Then there is the vehicle handling. Depending on what you are driving this varies from awesome to whack but mostly whack. I found myself travelling via chopper for most of the game because it has chainguns mounted on it and was a dream to fly but also because the GPS waypoint system while a land based vehicle in this game is like being directed around town by a senile pensioner, there is no two ways about it. I was constantly missing turns with it because it’s not clear enough and does not indicate within reasonable human reaction time when to make a turn, it’s rubbish.
One of the games biggest saving graces is the island that the game takes place in. It’s fantastic looking and a real beauty to behold. It’s detailed and full of life and it much, much more varied than the original game. The graphics are gorgeous and you can tell this is where most of the development time and money went. Everything from how the water reacts everything around it with the sun shining off it. Flying over the mountains in a chopper is also another highlight, one which I spent a lot of time revisiting thanks to the fact that I decided to do a lot of the Reapers’ missions which where all situated there. My only wish was that the developers thought a little more about the mission structure of the game because all this collecting stuff really takes away from the tremendous feat they accomplished when creating this great sandbox of an island for the player to screw around in.
From the cackhanded way they progress the story with unvaried missions to the clumsy upgrade system, the developers obviously bit off more than what they could chew. Simply being an average sandbox game isn’t enough in a world filled with great ones especially when most of your main competition have online play and are much cheaper to buy these days. Just Cause 2 is a very rough game and lacks the polish to match the beautiful graphics this game churns out which is a shame because I really like the original and I had high hopes for this game.