Release Date: March 23, 2010
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Metacrtic Score: 83
“Just Cause 2” is a frustrating game to review. A lot of what makes the game fun and worth while for the player are just that: fun and worth while, but it made playing the game with the intent to review it in a timely manner a tedious chore. Other parts of the game should make it more fun to play, but are almost always working against itself. Because of all this, i’m going to give you my opinion on the game upfront, knowing that the overall score of the game may seem contradictory to that opinion.
“Just Cause 2” is a fun game that I encourage you to try out, especially if you like B-action movies. If you can’t get enough of movies like “Planet Terror” or “Machete Kills”, I have a feeling that you’ll love this game. Just like those movies, the game is cheep and unpolished, yet some how it’s better for it.
As C.I.A. Agent Rico Rodriguez, you are sent into the fictional country of Panau with two objectives: 1) find you old mentor, Tom Sheldon, who has gone dark while undercover in the area and 2) help tear down the new leader, Pandak “Baby” Panay, who overthrew the old leader and has institutionalized anti-American polices. In order to do this you must help three different radical anti-government agency’s with their own motivations that you will never end up caring about.
I said easier that the game has very much inspired by B-movies, and that inspiration shows from the get-go. The voice acting is never really “good” but most of the time it gets a pass for over the top performances that are well suited for the tone of the game. AT least it does in the opening cut scene. After that, the cut scenes just kind of become…cheep. As in, they are almost all copy and pasted and reskined in order to hurry you up to the mission itself. Almost all the missions start with the head of one of the criminal groups driving up to you, telling you what they want done, then you look at whatever equipment they gave you. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the missions themselves have very little verity. Each of the missions I played were essentially variations on “capture the base”, with contexts given only to change the set dressing. But when you get right down too it, how much verity is really needed?
The guys at Avalanche Studios seemed to know that the main draw to games like this is the ability to cause as much wanton destruction as humanly possible, so they made that the main focus of the game. You unlock story missions by doing side missions (witch normally included causing chaos) and you unlock side missions by, well, causing chaos. When the game is at it’s best it is little more than long stretches of anarchy as you blow up government compound, the go on the run only to be chased down and having to take the action on the road. But when that anarchy is really all that’s being offered, it can dull the sensation a bit.
But as I said before, a lot of what made the game fun makes it a pain to review (at least for me, as I am doing this is my spear time yet still trying to keep a semi-professional schedule). That comes into play here, as it took so long to generate enough chaos to open up story missions that I didn’t get to play many of them. I’d like to keep playing until I was able to get further into the story, but I can tell you that that would take so long as to nearly render the point of my page obsolete. I’m still going to rate the story based on my experience with it, but i’d encourage you to look for a second opinion on the matter.
The game world is huge, with lots of varied locations, ranging from snow covered mountains and lush jungles. It’s also too big and, outside of preset location, has little to do. Games like “Skyrim” of “Fallout 3” might use the size of the world and your slow trek trough it to add an element of the random, of chance. Another wanderer might come up to you and ask for help, and you know that at anytime you could be attacked. Those games knew that simply having a huge game world wasn’t enough. Here though well….
You’ll never go too long without causing chaos, but when that is all you are doing, with no emotional connection as to why (as you did in “Far Cry 3”) and with the incredibly unpolished game play, it’s just not as fun or as cool looking as it could or should be. Often times, when I did decide to go do a mission, the act of getting there was so painfully tedious that I ended up blowing it off to just not be bored on the way there.
Again, I think this is an issue with playing to review more that it may be an issue with the game itself. You see, a lot of the issues here should be fun, and would be If I could just enjoy the game, but as it was I just found them frustrating. Like, for instance, your ability to move through the world. I don’t mean to keep beating on this drum, but this is the largest of my issues. It should be fun to grapple to the top of just about everything, jump off, then parachute down, using the grappling gun to sling shot your way across the island. It should be fun to jack almost every car, motorcycle or plane you see and ride them like surfboards. But most of the time I found they just weren’t. Or at least not as fun as they should have been. The parachuting was slow and hard to control and the helicopters (while much better than the ones in “GTA 5” in my opinion) were almost impossible to fly and aim (to shoot, I mean) at the same time. The worst part, by far, were the cars. Almost any tempt to turn ended with me doing an uncontrollable drift. Worse yet are the physics. Once, while driving, I hit someone on a moped. I shot backwards as if I had just been hit with a RPG. And what of my victim? They went on their marry way as if nothing had happened. This wasn’t a one time occurrence.
I don’t think I understood what the game was aiming for until a few hours in, in the middle of a gun fight. You see, if you take the time to aim and shoot with precision, you’re going to end up dead. This is a game that encourages the “spray and pray” strategy. So much so, that once I wasn’t even properly aiming at the enemy (the reticule was noticeably to the left of who I was “aiming” at), yet hit him with every shot, as if the game just went, “screw it, that’s close enough”.
The game isn’t about precision, it’s about fast paced nonsense and fun. And again, it would have been…if I was playing for fun. Or even if I had a real “reviewing work day” were not all of my gaming time is spent trying to get a review done. But as that’s not where I was at the time I was playing the game, all of these semi-minor annoyances just kept piling on to where, near the end of my time with the game, I hated playing it. I can almost assure you you will have fun with the game.
The fact is, I don’t really know how to score this part of the game. Sure, I had some fun and I almost know you will too. Sure, I know that most of my issues with the game came from having to play it for review, but i’ve never had that issue with another game before. Every other game managed to make the play time either enjoyable or was just bad. Should I hold the game accountable for failing to be fun when played professionally when that is never really the point of games? Unfortunately, yeah, that is kinda my job here.
Game Play: 2/5
Music and Sound:
Well, at least this is one part of the game I have no mixed feelings about! Most of the sound is pretty mediocre. The explosions all sound very nice, as well as most of the vehicles. That’s really all the good things I have to say about the sound. The voice acting is really bland and sounds like the voice cast was just bored most of the time. The only exception I found was in the first cut scene. It was big and dramatic and clearly aiming no higher that a “B-movie”, but it was fun and gave the game a scene of identity and, at the very least, got me excited to play the rest of the game. After that the cut scenes just lose all energy. I think it would have only helped the game to give us more of that through out. So yeah, there really isn’t a lot to care about in terms of sound.
Music and Sound: 2/5
Overall score: 2/5
Who is this game for:
Someone who has a lot of time to kill and can over look a lot of issues. More importantly, people who want a fun game, even if that fun is somewhat shallow.