Seek & Destroy
Sony's March Madness closed a little earlier than expected with the release of Square Enix's and Avalanche Studio's latest baby: Just Cause 2. The delays afflicting the next two Rockstar Games titles coming to PS3 gave yours truly some time to give a shot to the latest adventures of Special Agent Extraordinaire, Rico Rodriguez. The first Just Cause had been heavily criticized for buggy ports and for being an empty sandbox experience. The pre-release buzz for the sequel was referring to more than a hundred hours of material and a library of sandbox stunts that would make the game stock of legends. Needless to say, that was all it took for me to be intrigued.
Common comparisons heard in the reviews of the latest blockbusters such as Uncharted 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 cites Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. Suddenly, the nefarious duo became a synonym of quality for gamers. Try this, ask one of your friends to tell you the plot of a Bay/Bruckheimer movie, he's probably going to resume you the plot of a different movie they made. That is not the case with Just Cause 2. While the game isn't story driven at all if you compare it to the Modern Warfare's of the video game industry, you will get the lasting effect of those cult action movies in the eighties. You know these movies with Sylvester Stallone, Arnie or Burt Reynolds where nothing made sense and everything blew up? They were good, weren't they? It is exactly what Just Cause 2 has in store for you.
The story is simple and straightforward enough not to get in the way. You are Rico Rodriguez, work for The Agency and your mentor has gone rogue. You are so Latin that your blood boils out every time that you get shot and you meet stereotypes that only equal you in terms of ridicule. Some might get offended by the caricature, I thought it was funny and very "eighties". You get dropped in Panau (a fictional nation in the south pacific) in order to terminate his command. Straightforwardness stops here. The sophisticated mechanics of Just Cause 2 take over the story in order to make in an complete and enjoyable experience.
As you get dropped in Panau, you learn that the archipelago has been taken over by a dictator named Baby Panay. The only way to get your mission done is to ally with the rebel factions in order to stir some chaos and loosen the grip of Baby Panay over his people. Chaos is at the heart of Just Cause 2. Unlike other sandboxes where players create chaos out of pure fun, the Avalanche Studio title rewards the player by doing so. Chaos widens the area of influence of a rebel faction, therefore it unlocks more missions.
This idea of making chaos a part of the game mechanics is great, but it turns Just Cause 2 into an arcade game. As fun and diversified as it is, most of the time you will grind your chaos levels in order to unlock some new missions. Remember, the game isn't story oriented. So the main activity here is to seek and destroy as much as you can. Make peace with the arcade flavor of the game and you will have amazing fun as it is one of the most comprehensive sandbox out there.
Hits & Hiccups
The mission structure is an interesting layer of icing on the Just Cause 2 cake. It is not particularly thick or anything, but damn it's tasty! Missions are you traditional Grand Theft Auto model. Kill, blow up, chase... kill, than blow up, etc.
Rewarding way to story progression.
Controls fail in tense situations.