I hope to not make it much of a habit to stop playing games at a certain point, but the idea of there being far too many good ones to bother playing something you view as a massive time sink that is not all that fun is greatly unattractive to me. Yet, that description and Just Cause 2 being combined still provokes something of an error in my mind, as I heard nothing but good things about it upon picking it up for enough money to buy a bag of chips. Yes, Steam sales are lovely.
Just Cause 2 Review
Platforms: PC(played), PS3, Xbox 360
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Square Enix/Eidos Interactive
I believe I can critique the story and plot of Just Cause 2 and its importance to the game as a whole can be best demonstrated by my understanding of the greater narrative at play. Rico Rodriguez is a secret agent man who is sent to a fake country with both an authoritarian ruler and several bands of rebels, when all he really wants to do is find a man and presumably give him a bullet in his face. It honestly seems like a storyline that, despite clearly having a lot of attention go into it, acts more as a placeholder and justification for Rico’s actions as he blows things up and collects both wealth and goods from a struggling nation.
However, the manner in which this story is told makes me feel as if it was drafted early on during development when the game was possibly going to be that very alienating brand of serious. Take Rico’s characterization right down to his outfit and face. He is a grumpy man in an outfit dull enough I felt the need to mod in something even a little bit more visually appealing who sounds bitter even when unsarcastically claiming that something was fun. And then there are the missions one may embark on with a group of non-descript people who I can barely remember aside from their role of being the “good” terrorists. Oh, but there is naturally more than an uninteresting plot to inspire my dropping of this title, and it goes right down to the core of the gameplay.
The central problem I had with Just Cause 2 was that the game simply was not all that enjoyable. Oh sure, the tools for a keen sandbox are right in front of the game, but in terms of actually incorporating them and making the game a worthwhile trip, nope. Let’s start with the core mechanic that separate the game from all others, the hookshot, or whatever the blazes the game prefers to refer to the main character’s ability to latch onto anything about 100 meters away and pull himself towards it. This practically makes for its own enjoyment as swinging from object to object is something of a delight as long as it feels right, and it does just that as it combined with the ability to pop out a parachute at any give time while also somehow slamming into the Earth in order to survive a fall allow for a very nice sense of freedom in the world’s traversal.
Granted, said freedom is hampered by the occasional hiccup in reading the player’s input with the grappling hook, but it works near perfectly ninety percent of the time, so I can hardly fault that. What I can fault are the environments and world layout, as they fill me up with a certain degree of vile as I am someone who likes to play a game and see everything there is to see. Yet with Just Cause 2, the map is a good 385 square miles and the game is a little under five gigabytes. If you know anything about game assets, especially in a title that aims for that realistic look where I question if there was much creative concept art in place, I don’t need to tell you that this game repeats itself to an almost gross degree. With much of the world likely procedurally generated, the openness of everything falters as once you explore a section of the world thoroughly, you have seen everything there is, but now need to see it 20 more times.
And to make things worse, everything aside from the swinging aspect feels rather canned as nothing else seems to fit in with the freedom that is given to you by the hook. You have shooting that does not focus heavily on aiming and results with corpses being knocked into the air due to bullet damage, yet actually getting the bullets is tedious due to how many most enemies suck up unless you know where ammo boxes are hidden. Even upgrading weapons, which the game expects for you to invest plenty of time into doing offer near negligible rewards despite how you threw seventy-five items that need to be individually gathered.
Also, enemies are far too aggressive and seem to have their sights set only to you, which due to the large environments that make crowd control a frustrating experience, especially when a chain gun bound helicopter pops in and brings the screen to that obnoxious grey fade that exists only to make you feel bad for not noticing how the game spawned it in. Oh, and your regenerative health does not recover if you take a massive beating, and despite struggling to find any number of the far too plentiful health upgrade pieces, the change is unnoticable. As such I made plans to apply a mod for unlimited health, as the idea of making a game that in theory should be about messing around in any way difficult is like adding a cutscene heavy story to a browser game.
A sentiment I could bring up in regards to whoever decided to make the cars, aircrafts, and even the boats control like real boats, which is code for flimsy pieces of crackers that control “realistically”. An even more questionable move when the game not only views them as powerhouses that should have no problem zooming through the environment as opposed to being the cause of many a dull trek. Hell, most of the time you shouldn’t even bother, as you can fast travel to any previsited establishment and use your hook as your primary, and arguably fastest way of travel through this small country. A country which is filled with things to hundreds upon hundreds of things explode and literally thousands of collectibles to obtain.
Collectibles which are rather difficult to pinpoint due to how large the environments are, and how much is repeated, though I do feel as if some of the assets and technicalities that went into creating this world deserve a certain level of praise. While the art direction is a step I doubt was pondered upon much before developing a very predictable looking world, the detail placed in the houses and nature are rather impressive on the highest settings, with no form of delay, dip in frame rate, or even much asset introduction that I could notice despite the large environments. It was likely something of a nightmare to get running properly, but at the same time is probably why once I saw one eighth of the world I felt as if there was nothing left out there for me.
However, one aspect of exploration that I found the game to nearly completely drop the ball on is the inclusion of music. Sure, there is the very forgettable thumping stuff that pops in when you are in combat, but when travelling across a big world, a radio certainly would not be amiss. So I eventually grew to the point where I felt the need to insert my own music in order to make the game feel less lifeless and dull the repetition of the whole blasted affair.
I I feel as if the term Collectathon needs to be revived, but this time instead of referring to bright and colorful platformers with loads of things to collect, any game with a load of collectibles and upgrades. With that in mind, Just Cause 2 may be a very enjoyable game to screw around in, as the opportunities for anarchy are numerous, but as a Collectathon, the game is pretty goldarn trashy from what I’ve played. It could be that I approached it with the wrong mindset, but it was a mundane and frustrating experience for me, and there’s not a single thing that can prevent those from more or less ruining my fun. Just Cause you can make the world the size of a country, doesn’t mean you should.