I think we all saw the developer walkthrough for Just Cause 2. I decided to rent the game based on that 10 minute video alone. It sounded like it had everything I love in a sandbox videogame. Over the top stunts and explosions, an expansive area to explore, and something I’d never seen before. The grappling hook looked really cool. Especially when coupled with the parachute.
So, once Gamefly decided it would in fact let me have the game I jumped in and started grappling things. At first glance the world of Panau is beautiful. Breathtakingly so. Especially at sunrise or sunset. But it has its share of problems. Problem one. It took me a good four hours of game play before I could consistently fly across the landscape like the guy in the video. While learning this technique I spent a lot of time in helicopters getting from place to place.
Why helicopters? Well, for one thing, the world is just too huge to try to go to far by car. What with all the traffic and exploding motorcycles, after a few head on collisions that always ended in fiery death I got tired of that real quick, cars are just not worth the hassle. Even if you get a fast enough car to make driving seem worthwhile the game kicks you in the balls with a worthless directional system. Glowing arrows on the highway are all well and good right up to the point where it tells you to turn left 10 feet from the turn while you’re doing about 110 mph. But Enosh, that’s why cars have e-brakes. Uh huh. This is all very aggravating except in the desert. Flying across the landscape in a dune buggy with a mounted machine gun is pretty awesome.
So yeah. Helicopters. These crafts are plentiful, usually armed, and slow as hell. Switching to a plane is not an option though because it is impossible to do strafing runs or really fly with any sense of precision. They really over simplified the flight controls to the detriment of everything else. It’s called a rudder Square Enix! The Wright brothers put them on planes for a very good reason! Speaking of rudders, the boats are pretty cool, but again; too much water, not enough power. The lack of a rudder is especially a problem on the ground. At the international airport there are a lot of nice jets that would be hilarious to fly, but you have to wait to steal one taking off or you’ll end up in the trees. Every time. And don’t buy a plane from the black market unless you’re on a runway either otherwise it’s bound to hit something and explode before it gets 20 feet off the ground.
Speaking of the black market, they could learn a thing or two from GTA. The guy brings his helicopter over in the same animation every time and you can upgrade some stuff and buy exactly one item. One. Then he flies away saying “Try not to break it now… Hell, who’m I tryin’ to kid” every single time. Now, if you quickly call him back and buy something else they won’t bother to torture you with the cut scene again. That’s still no excuse for forcing us poor innocent gamers to re-enter the stinking menu for each item when we restock our equipment.
This game also has an exorbitant amount of bugs. This wouldn’t be such a problem if that crazy grappling hook didn’t let you go just about anywhere on the map. Now, they’re not major bugs like falling through the map or anything like that. They’re just annoying things like aiming your grappling hook at a balcony and going right through it to land on the building itself and other similar grappling problems. I found these to be especially frustrating in the final boss fight when I kept getting knocked down by explosions only to find myself magically on the level above where I got hit after glitching right through the floor.
The story line leaves a lot to be desired. The game takes a cue from Rockstar and stereotypes the living hell out of every character in the game. Whether it’s the big Texas CIA operative obsessed with barbecue or every citizen of Panau and their “I’m so ronery” accents, everybody is treated equally poor. There’s some mild intrigue concerning who is pulling the strings of the three terror organizations on the island, but it’s not that dramatic. Even the storyline fights are lacking. That is, until you get to the story mission. That is pretty epic. At least until the main characters get together for the big game ending barbecue. I enjoyed the final fight all except for the endless stream of ninjas. Stupid smoke and mirror tricks.
Overall the exploration isn’t so bad. There is an endless stream of easter eggs strewn all across the map and they’re fun to play with. Like the hot air balloon that’s been all over youtube. And to be honest, scaling sheer cliff faces with the grappling hook is just the sort of tedium I enjoy. My friend used to have this online multiplayer World War II air combat game complete with jeeps and tanks and stuff and while everyone else was bombing bases and engaging in epic dogfights I was seeing how far up the mountain I could get my jeep or flying for 45 minutes to bomb a munitions factory behind enemy lines. Similarly, in Mass Effect one of my favorite parts of the game was driving the Mako over rough terrain. Man that was such a great car. So after 30 hours of Just Cause 2 I am eager to shove it back in my mailbox. Well, after I get a few achievements for doing stupid stuff. Oh wait. There aren’t any. They’re all for killing people in creative ways and beating the game. Oh well, what’s next in the queue?
By the way, that developer walkthrough that looks so cool? Here it is: