Four years after its debut, special-ops Rico Rodriguez is back with another just cause. Set in the fictional island of Panau in South East Asia, JC2 is filled with tropical forests, snow-capped mountains, and villages with huts full of civilians that have fallen victim to an evil dictator, Baby Panay. Rico's plan is simple, to cause as much chaos as possible to destabilize this regime and take down its leader.
The story starts with a bang, hurling you into the overwhelmingly large island and some great plot driven missions back-to-back. The first couple of hours are spent on mastering the weapons system and grappling hook, parachuting and stunts. To proceed with the story after this, you must complete far too many filler missions like capturing military bases, races, and escorting VIP's from point A to point B.
Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
To say that I have something against sandbox gameplay would be an absolute fabrication. GTA4 was the first game to receive a perfect ten on this site, and I was lucky enough to bask in its glory right down to the last flying rat. I've embraced this style of gameplay as one of my favorites so it doesn't take much to keep my attention at a high level throughout the course of a game. Collect some stuff here, blow up some stuff over there, and introduce some new stuff in between. Just Cause 2 is great in all facets except one, it plateaus on originality after a couple of hours, making it quite the chore by the time your nearing the credit roll.
If franchise video games have taught us one thing, it is to spread out your features along the course of the story line. Introduce new weaponry along the way, unlock new abilities, or introduce a new main character that impacts the story with force to keep things interesting. Don't drag one concept along, and definitely don't add too many repetitive filler missions.
The grappling hook in Just Cause 2 is fresh, exciting, and natural. It's one of those "Why didn't someone think of this before" kind of situations. It's a staple weapon of JC2 and introduced right from the get-go. Use it to scale tall buildings, to pull Rico out of dangerous situations (usually in combination with the magic parachute), to yank enemies over the edge of a cliff, or for attaching a helicopter to a tree just for poops and giggles. It's a unique and incredible innovation, but it can't carry an entire game.
Adding a massive and exotic world to explore, introducing competing gangs to create a dynamic story line, and throwing in lots of easy to control but great looking stunts rolls up the complete package.
JC2's story is mediocre and mostly forgettable, but enjoyable none-the-less. Much like great action movies, JC2 contains just enough dialogue to bridge to the next intense bit of action. Panau is definitely jaw-dropping… until you have to sit in a plane for several minutes to arrive at your intended destination. Although once you've stumbled across a military helicopter, being annoyed at the long trip begins to fade away with each crumbling building.
For the adventurers, JC2 boasts collectibles galore. Boxes of parts for weapon upgrades and useless vehicle upgrades are strewn all over the island. There are almost limitless options for travel by land, sea, and air and that definitely helps keep things fresh.
Exploring the environment and causing mass chaos is engaging for a while, but those who just want to get on with the campaign will have to go through mission after mission for Panau's three gangs. Just when it seems as though the credits are about to roll, dozens of icons will begin appear on the map and your chaos meter will need filling once again. By campaign's end, I was about twenty hours deep, but things had gone dry in just over half that time.
The grapple-hook and infinite parachute combo is a winning formula and allows for great strategic maneuverability— it's upsetting to see it somewhat wasted on such stretched out gameplay. If it weren't for the bloated playtime and weak set of characters, JC2 would have reached its full potential and become a true franchise title.