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Score: 8.0 / 10
While property damage was just one of the
innovative features Grand Theft Auto brought to the sandbox genre with
its Rampage missions, it serves as the basis for Eidos Interactive’s
Just Cause series. In the world of Just Cause, chaos reigns, and with
the sequel, gamers have been given a free pass to completely decimate a
foreign island in any way they see fit... all in the name of American
The story of Just Cause 2 brings back Rico Rodriguez, an amalgam of
history’s greatest bad-asses, from James Bond to El Mariachi, with a
dash of Wolverine and
Mad Max thrown in for flavor, to find and
assassinate rogue agent Tom Sheldon, who is believed to have taken
refuge in the island nation of Panau. A Southeast Asian island gripped
in civil war, Rico must gain the trust of the radicals and
revolutionaries across the island in order to gain information on
Sheldon’s whereabouts. Clearly lacking in diplomacy, the majority of
missions given by these factions involve
the hostile takeover of military
facilities, the assassination or kidnapping of influential figures, and
more often than not, blowing stuff up, with an occasional mission to
blow up lots of stuff.
As an agent with black market contacts, Rico is more than equipped to
get the job done, but no tool is more useful than his grappling hook, a
Bionic Commando-inspired arm attachment that lets him cling to any
surface or object. This single mechanic has a variety of uses, from
covering long distances while on foot, to latching onto speeding
vehicles, to reaching the top of high-rise buildings.
The hook can be used offensively as well, from grabbing and throwing
nearby crates and barrels at enemies, to pulling unsuspecting foes
toward you for a closer shot, yanking them away from their high ground
to watch them fall.
Another innovative feature is the ability to tether two objects together
with a single rope, which expands things even further; for example,
hooking one end of the rope to a dictator’s statue and the other to a
nearby vehicle can result in an instant defacement (and retaliation),
while hooking two enemies together results in a Looney Tunes-style
collision that’s as amusing as it is violent.
There’s a great thrill in effortlessly sneaking onto an enemy base,
dodging waves of gunfire while tossing explosives at nearby fuel tanks,
then hijacking an enemy helicopter to make a grand escape, or jumping
out of a speeding car at the last minute as it crashes into a gas
station, or even grappling onto a massive rocket hurling upwards,
planting it with explosives, then sky diving out of danger as it lights
up like an apocalyptic 4th of July. These are just a few of the hundreds
of explosive missions players can partake in, and the more “Chaos” they
cause, the more missions and upgrades they’ll gain access to.
On the surface, Just Cause 2 seems to feature the same controls commonly
seen with its genre, from switching between weapons and hijacking
vehicles, along with aiming, strafing, dodging, sprinting, and melee
during combat. The problem is that while those features are gradually
presented to you in games like Grand Theft Auto, they are all
immediately unlocked at the start of Just Cause 2.
It isn’t just the memorization of the controls itself that's required,
but the way Rico handles and responds; when hijacking a vehicle, for
instance, there are several options available, such as hanging across
the front of the car or the roof, taking out the passenger and the
driver, or just blowing the whole thing up; learning when to grapple in
midair or when to bust out the parachute, or using a combination of the
two in order to gain some extra air-time, is also a mechanic that
requires practice. Failure to fully grasp all of these different
controls can and will result in a quick death.
Another problem I had was that most of the vehicles (save for
motorcycles and helicopters) are incredibly floaty and generally
unresponsive, often resulting in a simple Sunday drive turning into a
full-on collision with oncoming traffic, or veering off into the dense
forests. Driving is ultimately a requirement in order to complete the
rather frustrating Racing challenges, as well as reaching new unexplored
locations on the world map. A black market helicopter can be called at
any time to deliver weapons and gear, in addition to instantly take you
to marked destinations, but only if you’ve physically visited the
location first. As a result, getting from one point to another can be
lengthy and often brings the high octane action to grinding halt.
While these elements may keep Just Cause 2 from toppling the "GTA
government for sandbox supremacy," its explosive presence is one that
must not be ignored. The residents of Panau won’t know what hit them,
and neither will the players.