When you think of Square Enix, you think of elaborate, time-consuming RPGs and fantastic worlds where magic and wizardry are more commonplace than traffic at the Holland Tunnel. So when it came down that Square Enix was pairing with Eidos and Avalanche Studios to bring us a sequel to a game that had a lukewarm reception, befuddled to optimistically curious was the range of thoughts for many gamers.
Just Cause 2 sees the return of CIA special agent Rico Rodriguez, our protagonist from the first game, as he is again tasked with overthrowing a tropical island's government that is somewhat hostile towards our good ol' U.S. of A. On top of this, Rico must also track down his missing mentor and best friend, Tom Sheldon, whom the desk jockeys in Washington think has gone rouge after he fell off their radar for several weeks. In order to accomplish his mission, Rico is tasked with going around and blowing up as much government owned and operated equipment as possible in order to lure out both Tom and the dictator of the island nation of Panau, "Baby" Panay.
So, even with the addition of Square Enix and an 18-month delay from when this game was supposed to be originally released (leading to speculation if it would ever hit store shelves), the plot was clearly not a priority to be changed and improved upon. The game still plays like a long version of a bad Miami Vice episode with stereotypical characters ripped right from that era. From Rico, who is every hero of the 80s rolled into one with an Antonio Banderas accent, to Tom who represents every higher up in the government as a redneck in a Hawaiian t-shirt who hates commies. If the game was trying to be a farce, then they should have made the rest of the game play try to be less serious as a whole.
The third person shooter game play was more of a joke than the plot though. Although the addition of the grappling hook mechanics allowing you to tether to almost anything in the environment was nice and made getting around on foot easier, it felt like I was playing Bionic Commando all over again, but with a lot more glitches. And this game is chock full of glitches, especially with the vehicles. There were several times when my poor flying skills were going to result in my plane crashing into a building, but instead I either flew straight through the building or hit it and was sent straight down into the ground where the plane would get stuck. It would not explode or fall flat on its backside; it would get stuck, balancing on its nose, with me trapped in the vertical cockpit against the side of the building.
On the positive: the sandbox world you play in is beyond massive with several hundred full villages, cities, and military bases with their own nuances to them. Possibly the scope of the world you play in took away from other aspects of the game and caused so many other glitches to find their way into the system. From mountains and jungles to the desert and ocean, the island of Panau is beautiful, diverse, and fully explorable after beating your obligatory tutorial mission.
Another disadvantage of having such a large world is rendering it. The graphics for the game suffer somewhat due to the sheer scope of the landscape you play in. Although the characters and people look up to par, the landscape, especially in the distance, is muddied and bland, considerably so in the jungles.
The voice acting is over the top on purpose so it can be forgiven a little, but it's still rather unpleasant to listen to and the music becomes repetitive quickly. The best music actually comes in the end credits, and not just because you've beaten the story mode, but also because it is the first time you hear a couple of different instrumentals besides the main theme.
The strongest point about this game aside from the scope is probably the replay value. With thousands, not hundreds, of items to collect and countless cities and villages to liberate by destroying government property, you can probably get 50-60 hours out of this game if you are driven to get 100%. Otherwise, you'll still see yourself playing this for probably 20-25 hours to get through the story mode causing a minimum amount of chaos to advance the story. Add in four difficulty levels, with the hardest actually being somewhat difficult, and you'll probably get your money's worth, even if you get frustrated with the countless glitches and over the top acting.
Much like the first Just Cause, this game has so much potential, but glitches and a real lack of plot and character development keep Just Cause 2 from being a top tier game. If you're only interested in the story mode, you'll only need to rent this as I'm sure you'll get your over-the-top explosion and cheesy voice acting quota in with just a few hours of game play, but if you are an achievement/trophy hog then you'll probably be frustrated in having to buy this in order to collect every item and finish every challenge.
Just Cause 2 is available now for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.
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