Just Cause 2 is a legendary over the shoulder sandbox shooter along the lines of Grand Theft Auto without the charm. The game focuses on destruction, deep controls and doing whatever craziness you’d like to do. You play as Rico Rodriguez and you’ve been sent in by the government to mess things up like a kitten in tissue paper on an island nation that seems giant by gaming standards. You have the option work for different factions / gangs that have their own agendas. The gangs are a nice touch and you’ll see them battle each other on the island while civilians run and hide. It’s a nice AI dichotomy.
Since the game is set on a bunch of giant islands, the terrain is gorgeous and diverse. You’ll see lush green jungles beneath icy mountains, then go into those icy mountains and down into sandy deserts. After that, you can take a boat for a ride across beautiful blue waters, then hijack a jet and surf on top of it into a golden sunset while dodging missiles. Everywhere in this game is a gorgeous place and there are tons of places to visit and blow up. There doesn’t seem to be any interiors, but that is fitting for a game so beautiful with good traversal diversity.
The controls are deep, but they allow you to do a lot more than your average over the shoulder sandbox shooter. You have your standard, run, jump, gunfire, reload, grenade, toggle guns, toggle grenades buttons, but you also have the infamous grapple hook. This hook is what the Bionic Commando reboot was missing. A simple press will send you instantly zipping to wherever it latched onto. Traversal is made super easy, climbing up buildings with the hook, but you have a parachute that is used to glide around or launch yourself in combination with the grappler. Simply hit the jump button while in the air to deploy the chute. Pressing and holding the grappling hook will grapple something, but then when you hold it, aim at something else and release the button, you’ve now tethered two things together, which results in hilarity. Tether a moving car to the ground, to watch the car flip over. Tether a NPC to a rocketing propane tank and watch them blast off. There is plenty of car combat. Normal games would have you just get in a car, but in Just Cause 2, you can get on top of the car to shoot things, or you can slip down in front or behind the car to shoot things using the car for cover as it’s moving. If there’s no driver and you’re vehicle surfing, you have a bit of control over the vehicle. You can take over moving vehicles, with easy quick time events that show a struggle instead of just kicking a person out from behind the wheel.
Combat is pretty easy, you just aim the cursor and fire. There is no aim button, if your cursor is remotely near anyone or anything, you will see a red highlight around the logical target. So if you the player have terrible aim, Rico Rodriguez will still shoot the target. In terms of holding guns, you can hold one two handed gun and two one handed guns. There are throwable explosives and you can toggle between two types. You can also melee enemies with the grappling hook.
With so much control freedom, you can tackle missions any way that you want. Such as a car chase mission where you need to escort the driver, do you grappling hook vehicle to vehicle, taking out enemies and struggling to knock out the driver? Do you tether the other vehicles to the ground and watch them crash, or do you use your parachute to hover over the action and blow up the other vehicles? Even a simple beat the clock race that forces you to have a land vehicle… well I could use that fancy red car over there, but I’m already driving a tank, so I’ll take the tank. The choice is yours. It is an excellent game to do what you want.
Missions themselves give you easy to follow objectives as if they were steps to follow. Open the gate, take out that rocket launcher, take out those snipers, pick up that item, grapple onto that helicopter, and so on. The objectives are marked with red and easily found with how far away they are. If you try to deviate too far from a mission location, the game will warn you and start a 10 second counter. This keeps the intensity on and prevents people like me from exploiting things.
Outside of missions, there are plenty of things to do and they’re all marked on your map. Well you need to visit the location marked on your map before you find what it is there to do. Things such as races, time trials, destroy bases and loot villages. Destroying locations and looting villages each has a percentage attached to it. To loot a village, you need to find 100% of things hidden there. Things like vehicle parts, weapon parts, cash boxes and even liberate the village from propaganda buses. Thankfully when you get near something collectable, it will show up pointing out where you are, but you need to be very near it. This saves you from detailed searching. It is the same for ammo boxes and health cabinets.
As for the bases, you need to find things and blow up things such as towers, generators, gas tanks, communication towers and surface-to-air missile launchers, each will make up 100%. It is fun for explorers to seek out every nook and cranny, but I can understand if getting 100% would feel like a chore.
When you create chaos or break any sort of law, the local military will be sent after you. At first it’ll be simple things hunting you down, but if you keep creating chaos, your ‘heat’ level will go up and more soldiers will come after you. How do you reduce your heat level? Hide. Yep hide in the jungle and after time your red heat will go to orange heat and start dropping down. This is good for keeping the focus on what you were doing before you created heat. With plenty of jungle in the game, it is pretty easy to ditch any heat you might have.
Sadly the enemies feel pretty dumb. No one takes cover when you’re putting bullets into them, even if enemies are next to cover, but I guess people play for the fun of doing what they want, rather than the challenge. In car chases enemy vehicles will just ram other objects. It leads to some laughable moment. They’ll just drive off cliffs when you hit the brakes. I can understand scripted events like running into a gas station, but otherwise it is hilariously bad.
The game is pretty easy even on normal with regenerating health. There are also health pickups from cabinets seem well placed. If you die, you go to the last checkpoint during a mission. Sometimes the checkpoints are further back than you think, but that’s the only thing that really presents a punishment in the game.
The real downside to the game is that it seems to crash once every few hours back to the desktop. This seems to be caused by having decals on in the video settings and another setting, so turning them off prevents the crash. Luckily the game has an autosave feature.
To top all of that off, there is a free Multiplayer MOD that allows every player into one world together for chaos to ensue. Is it worth $15? Sure…. but it has been on sale before at $2.50. Keep that in mind.