If you've ever wanted to fix a gas tank to an opponent's leg, shoot the top off and watch him launch into the sky, you can finally do it. Just Cause 2 is all about satiating those needs for explosions, death defying stunts and ramming high speed boats into trees before jumping out at the last second. Just cause 2 is about strapping an oil drum to the back of a jeep and driving it into the center of a military road block.
Just Cause 2 is about being a dumbass, making stuff blow up and then laughing all the way to the bank.
Stuck somewhere in between all the BASE jumping and gun upgrading is a plot that gamers will find themselves looking to pass over quickly. Avalanche Studios and Eidos clearly knew that their story would play second fiddle to the action on screen, so they spend very little time on cutscenes and background information. Rico, the main character, is shoved out of a plane within minutes of starting the game. Stop a nefarious president on the fictional island of Panau by gaining the trust of rebel factions dispersed around the game's world. Gain that trust, you guessed it, by shooting things and grappling onto stuff. It's fun because it's simple, and the developers made no qualms about bringing that fact front and center.
So how does the action work? Exceptionally well. Folks that were willing to give the original Just Cause a try may remember that using the grappling hook was sort of a pain. It was an unlockable and it basically served one purpose: hijacking vehicles. This time around, the grappling hook has been mapped to the Left Bumper (360 version for review) and is accessible at any time. It's become an essential and dynamic part of the game meant for problem solving, quick travel, hijacking and combat. And it works consistently in most every situation. There are a few hang-ups in the beginning, but players can adjust to any minor shortcomings and be moving swiftly within the first hour of play.
To add to the grappling hook method of travel, Just Cause 2 also features a really unique way to parachute whenever you want. Press the A button when in the air and a parachute will pop out of the invisible pack on your back. No, that doesn't matter. What this provides is another way to get around. With the parachute out, players can grapple onto the ground and swing forward. Do this over and over and you'll gain enough momentum to cover large distances in little time. The result is this very strange, very fluid Spider-Man like swinging from point A to point B. The whole experience is rather addicting.
The ground, water and air players cover over the course of Just Cause 2 is gorgeous, varied and huge. Think of an environment and you'll find it in the game. Snowy mountains, open dessert, tall city and small villages...they're all within. The whole thing is spread over 4 miles of space. You'll want to take the jet.
That blimp? It's a night club. No I will not 'Shut Up!'
Cooked up special for this sequel is the dynamic weather on the island of Panau. Rain, snow, clouds and sun all move around the island and the weather itself seems to be one of the most vibrant portions of the game. Fighting inside a small military base can be interrupted by a rain storm. Will it affect fire and gunplay? No. But it will hamper visibility.
Gun combat is a little stale. There are a few guns available, and each (along with vehicles) can be upgraded through a weapons dealer and the parts you'll find all over Panau. Upgrade guns and explosives on a system of six stars. Each star progresses capacity, power, accuracy, exactly what you'd expect. In action, killing is as simple as painting the enemies red and squeezing the trigger.
Or you could get creative and use the grappling hook's attachment feature. Keep the grappling hook squeezed after attaching it to one object and release it over the next. The two will now be tethered. Enemy-enemy, enemy-airplane, jeep-car, etc. The tethering mechanic is pretty much the most awesome thing ever.
I'll end with this... When I started reviewing this game, I made note of the timer within each save file and the completion percentage below it. At 15 hours in, I was just over 20% complete. This game is massive and there is a ton of stuff to do. Races, stronghold takeovers, destroying military bases, finding crates of goodies and upgrades. It's all here and it all contributes to percentages and 1/100 collected notifications. This is a completionist's wet dream, and it'll take anyone days to reach 100% of everything.
The gameplay isn't flawless and the storyline/voice acting are pretty sub-standard amongst AAA titles. But Just Cause 2 is a blast, both literally and figuratively. It's fast paced and offers a wealth of gameplay. For $60 and an addiction to over-the-top action, you can't go wrong.