Dealspwn Rating: 8/10
Just Cause was a game that steadfastly refused to take itself too seriously - a flawed but fun sandbox game that had some wonderfully ludicrous action tempered by a game world that seemed a little bit empty. Although you had a variety of bullet-spraying armaments at your disposal, the game pushed for more extravagant action, encouraging you to dodge, duck, dip, dive and...dodge with a number of gadgets like grappling hooks, parachutes and arachnid-esque agility.
The sequel is no different in terms of the action, in fact Avalanche have simply ramped the high-octane shenanigans even higher, resulting in a game where you can quite happily slingshot your way into the air by latching onto a moving car, paraglide over to an antagonistic helicopter, take command by throwing the pilot out and raze the gang hideout that sent the thing to the ground before bailing out at several hundred feet and gliding safely earthwards as you pepper any survivors with a cap or two, perhaps grappling your way onto the summit of a nearby mountain for a suitably epic victory pose. Imagine Rambo, Mad Max and xXx all mashed together and you’ll start to get the idea.
CIA maverick Rico Rodriguez is back, and you start the game by being dropped into a hot landing zone on the tropical playground that is Panau before busting through a brief tutorial where you’ll come to terms with the improved grappling hook and parachute. It’s not long, though, before the game hands you the keys, passing you a map, giving you a bunch of info on the three political factions vying for supremacy on the island and the hints of a main story involving the disappearance of Rico’s former mentor.
Forget money, the most important commodity in this game is ‘Chaos’, and Rico is a dab hand at causing lots of it. Scattered all over the island are government facilities, and it’s Rico’s job to destroy them. Bunkers, comms towers, fuel tanks, generators, they’re all here and they’re all ripe and ready to be blown sky high. Ratcheting up the Chaos meter opens up fresh faction and story missions that lead to upgrades for your weapons, new vehicles and plenty of other power-ups, creating a snowballing cycle of playful carnage that is deliciously over the top and virtually consequence-free.
It’s this extraordinary freedom that makes Just Cause 2 such fun to play, as nearly every single facet of the original has been polished up and improved. No more endless trekking, the countryside of Panau is positively filled with compounds to infiltrate and obliterate, and it’s beautiful too. Avalanche have created a truly special game world here, from the snow capped peaks to the dusty desert tracks to the lush tropical countryside, Panau is a joy to explore. It’s made all the more easier by the enormous range of Rico’s grappling hook, and the smooth ease with which you can rappel up buildings, cliff faces, and onto the back of cars and, as before, our dodgily voice-acted hero can engage in a number of death-defying stunts.
There is a downside to all of this updated Tarzan action: it distracts completely from the combat. You see Avalanche were always going to encounter the old question of ‘Why don’t you just shoot your enemies with the gun that you have?’, and they’ve come up with a relatively simple way of skirting the issue. Their solution has been to make the third-person shooter aspect of the game extremely mediocre. The gunplay feels lighter than an Aero bubble and lacks feedback, a flaw all the more noticeable because the game succeeds in giving the player all of the explosive action they could possibly want in other areas. It’s almost as if you’re Spider-man, armed with a spud gun.
There are other small little gripes too: The lack of a cover system isn’t a game-breaker, but it sure would have been nice, Rico’s little evasive rolls are slightly clunky and tend to disorientate, and the aiming in the game has all of the finesse of a fat man swimming in zero-gravity. To be fair, these only really come to the fore later on the game when the adaptive difficulty begins upscaling enemy encounters and throwing all sorts at you, but you’ll find yourself cursing the sloppy mechanics from time to time.
These are minor issues, though, and should not distract too much from the simple fact that Just Cause 2 is a fantastic sandbox game that manages to elevate itself from the crowd by combining stunt-stuffed, testosterone-fuelled action that would make Vin Diesel cry with joy with an environment and game world that’s enormous, richly detailed and stunning to behold. You’ll find yourself engaged in repetition at times but, and here's where the sequel manages to learn from its predecessor, the game offers so much for you to do, in so many different ways that you’ll never find yourself bored.
Whether you’re following your blinking HUD towards a hidden item location, nipping up to the top of a mountain just to see what the view is like, engaging in a spot of illegal street racing, or simply blithely stealing an armoured vehicle and rampaging through the countryside laughing maniacally as you smite those who stand in your way thanks to the joys of infinite ammo, you’ll find yourself having a cracking time. Like the very best holidays, you get plonked down in a tropical paradise and asked what you want to do – sure, there’s a basic itinerary, but you’ll be way too distracted by everything else that Panau has to offer.
- Panau is an incredibly beautifully detailed and wonderfully varied game world
- Ridiculous stunts and OTT action
- Massive potential for madcap manic mayhem
- Combat could use an aiming overhaul
- Combat could use a cover system
- Combat could use guns that fire bullets rather than marshmallows
The Short Version: There are a few niggling issues to be aware of, but take a holiday to Panau with Rico and you can be assured of three things: you’ll be bowled over by the sheer beauty and size of the island, you’ll find yourself constantly distracted by new areas to explore and things to do, and you’ll have an absolute blast. Literally.
Don't forget that we're giving away copies of Just Cause 2 to three lucky winners to round off our March madness month of awesome contests. Click here to get involved!