Edios, Square Enix and Avalanche Studios have come together to create the much-anticipated sequel to the 2006 hit Just Cause. Like the first game, Just Cause 2 is a sandbox based spy/stunt thriller that sees the return of the series protagonist, Rico Rodriguez, an “Agency” operative. This time the action is centred on the fictional Southeast Asian nation of Panau, where a dictator, Pandak “Baby” Panay (who in no-way resembles a certain Korean despot!) has seized power after assassinating the former president, his father. Rico must find his old boss, Sheldon, who has gone rogue, and bring down the regime.
The game is very familiar to players of the first instalment; a third-person open exploration game with playable missions for the main storyline as well as faction missions which all help toward causing enough chaos to bring down the corrupt dictator. There are over 100 individual vehicles usable on land, air or sea, a plethora of weapons and, importantly, Rico is outfit with a signature grappling hook and re-usable parachute. The hook can be used to launch Rico to hard to reach places, to pull enemies toward you or to attach objects to other objects; for instance a car to a truck, a soldier to a passing airplane or, very amusingly, a perusing vehicle to the ground beneath it with hilarious consequences. The most useful utility of the grappling hook is to “slingshot” Rico by grappling a distant solid object and, while being reeled in, deploying his parachute to create a very handy and quick mode of transport. “Slingshotting” can be used continuously to keep Rico airborne for an age, except over water.
The terrain is varied from tropical beach to barren desert and snow-capped mountaintops over more than 400 square miles of playable area; the scope of the game is truly enormous. In a way, the vastness of the game may be slightly to its detriment, as players can find themselves wasting hours exploring and having fun causing carnage and performing mindless stunts, flying fast jests and racing fast cars. It all sounds like a lot of fun but it keeps you from progressing the game. Because it is so big you can loose yourself in it and forget to carry on with the missions, which are the only way to advance the story.
The gameplay and combat have been improved markedly from the first game, rather than shooting mindlessly at enemies knowing that the computer will do most of the aiming, players now have a crosshair they can use to shoot more accurately, aiming at specific body parts in order to dispatch you enemy more quickly or to disable them as required by the situation. The graphics are ok, but are not mind-blowing. With the exception of the weather, sunrises etc, it comes across a little cartoonish. It is fast paced and adrenaline fuelled so lovers of a more considered, tactical or stealth combat style may find Just Cause 2 frustrating. The enemy AI is improved from the first game too; they wont just stand there allowing you to shoot them, but seek cover and try and flank you. They even run away if out numbered or on the losing side of an angry exchange of gunfire.
Overall Just Cause 2 is an edge-of-your-seat, fun and exciting ride that James Bond fans will love; it’s like all the best bits of a 007 movie, just without the plot, charm or wit, good for a few hours of entertaining gameplay, but a bit stagnant after that.