How A Sequel Should Be

About a year after the launch of the Xbox 360, the development team at Avalanche Studios created the original Just Cause, a unique but flawed open world game.  Avalanche’s sequel not only corrects most of the original’s problems, but they have also created one of the most interactive and beautiful sandbox titles to date.

Just like the original game, you control Rico Rodriguez on his quest to overthrow a tyrant on a tropical island.  Instead of just running in with guns blazing, Rico must complete missions for three other renegade groups in order to generate chaos throughout island.  Chaos is basically the game’s way of opening new missions – the more s*** you blow up, more missions will become unlocked.  The plotline never takes center stage and is the lamest aspect of the game.  However, with a game that is almost entirely geared around guerrilla tactics, parachuting, and explosions, you are not going to really miss a complex narrative.

Almost every aspect of the game has been hit with a shot of adrenaline, especially the missions.  The player will probably never think twice as to why they are skydiving from a helicopter that is on fire, why they have to activate an antenna only to blow it up four seconds later, or why they have to scale a ridiculous tall building to fight a legion of locals at the top.  Each mission is a little more extreme than the last which always generates a high octane experience.

The best part of this sequel is the game’s beautifully crafted engine.  Environments not only look high def gorgeous, they are also highly interactive and destructible.  However, this lush new island wouldn’t play very nice without some cool tools and weapons to get the job done.  The grapple hook and parachute are by far the most entertaining gameplay gadgetry to hit any video game in a long time.  These tools of the trade are not only means to take down your enemies, but they actually make traveling easy and fun. 

In fact, the grapple hook in Just Cause 2 makes Bionic Commando’s grapple hook seem as fun as a wet noodle and also puts shame to a famous wall crawler.  When used in conjunction with the parachute, traveling across the island will never really seem like a chore.  Swinging through the jungle or launching yourself off cliffs never gets dull especially when mixed with some creative parachuting; it is wicked fun.  But no matter how you travel, traversing the 600 square miles in Just Cause 2 is a massive task.  Luckily, you can call in some air support to teleport you from one spot to another.  Supplies and even vehicles can also be dropped on your location. 

Taking the grapple hook one step further, the player now has the ability to tether two objects together.  As you can guess, this opens up the door to some highly destructible ways to kill your enemies and to bring down structures.  Want to knock down a statue?  Then wrap it up, tie the other end to the back of your firetruck, and drive away.  Or if you want to get even more creative, tie the other end to a helicopter and drag the remains through a throng of your enemies.  The possibilities are nearly endless.  Further, the game encourages this type of behavior by introducing forgiving deaths (no penalty for dying) and checkpoints that can respawn you back to a critical point during a mission, eliminating the need to deeply retrace your steps. 

It is very obvious that the developer sunk a lot of time into the visuals.  With virtually no load times, the player is free to travel from one side of the island to the other without a single drop in the framerate.  On a rare occasion some clipping or tearing will occur, but it never brings down the experience.  And for a tropical island, this game has a ton of different locations: forests, jungles, cliffs/plateaus, snowy mountains, miles of ocean and plenty of heavy and light urban areas.  The game literally has hundreds of locations to discover and vehicles to commandeer.

Giving the game a slight RPG feeling, most locations have hidden crates that can be collected to upgrade weaponry and vehicles.  Unfortunately, a lot of time must be put into the game to unleash the game’s best and most explosive weapons.  Ammo, especially during the first several hours, is always hard to scavenge.  This can make combat much more tedious than it needs to be.  The game wants me to blow the crap out of everything, so let me do it! Using in the grapple hook to fling and juggle enemies is cool, but having the firearms, or more specially the ammo, to back it up is imperative.  Forcing players to conserve ammo is the game’s biggest sin.

As fun as the game is, there are a few minor nuisances that do not greatly hinder the game but are noticeable. The soundtrack is mostly uninspired but the voice acting is even worse.  The lack of any type of multiplayer is also a let down but totally understandable when considering the scope of the game.  And although the game looks great from top to bottom, the menu screens can be a little hard to read via the small text and the lacking ability to zoom in close to the map.  It might take some time to learn the how the control scheme works but will become comfortable within a couple hours of play after the game really starts to open up. 

Just Cause 2 is packed with memorable moments, but every single one of them will be created by the player sans the opening sequence.  Creating havoc has not been this much fun since players were first treated to GTA3 many years ago.  The game’s unscripted action, thanks to the highly entertaining grapple hook and parachute, even makes simple tasks, like traveling from here to there, enjoyable and outfitted with action.  Just Cause 2 is one of those games you can have a blast the more you travel off the beaten path and just tinker around the environment.  Enjoy yourself and create some chaos.  


Not As Good As: vacationing on a tropical island

Better Than: Red Faction: Guerilla

Wait For It: Crackdown 2

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