GSY REVIEW | X360 Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | 3:30 PM

Gamersyde Review: Just Cause 2

Gamersyde Review: Just Cause 2

Eidos has sent us a retail version of the latest creation from Avalanche Studios, Just Cause 2. We didn’t need more in order to prepare a late review full of videos, which will demonstrate the potential of this title. If you still wonder if this title will be part of your collection, then this article is for you, we will try again to describe the pros and cons of this title. Sure, in broad outline Just Cause 2 is a game in the vein of the first one, but if you look closely, you will find a multitude of elements that make it more interesting. If action and explosions are your daily routine, jump inside.

San Esperito was only practice

After the island of San Esperito in the Caribbean, which was reminiscent of Cuba's dictatorship, Rico Rodriguez this time around arrives in Panao, the heart of Indonesia. A new tyrant has been raging there for some time since the former president was mysteriously murdered. All indications point to his son, Pandak Panay, being the culprit, eager to assume his father's power. So far nothing insurmountable for Rico Rodriguez, the spiritual son of James Bond. However, one soon learns that his friend and mentor, Tom Sheldon, has disappeared while working undercover. Worse yet is that the agency that employs Rico suspects Tom of changing sides and becoming a threat to U.S. interests. That's pretty much the motivation for our hero to spread chaos in the country and to understand the ins and outs of the case. Many say that the game's story is an excuse for the gameplay, but as you advance in the adventure it'll take a few turns you wouldn't expect. Just Cause 2 offers plenty of balls to the wall action, but the story is pleasant to follow, too, as long as you’re not completely impervious to its kitschy and quirky sides.

The order is simple: chaos

But those allergic to cutscenes don’t have to worry, most of the game is about blowing up anything that belongs to the Panuvian government. The bad reception Rico is given upon his arrvial in the mountains demonstrates that the time for diplomacy has passed. Anything indicated with a white star on red background (the symbol of government) must be reduced to rubble. From the little gas station to the gigantic space rocket, nothing can withstand the arsenal of Rico, which may even turn Panao’s strike force to his advantage. Gear-wise, our hero does not skimp on the means, each direction of the d-pad allowing him to choose a weapon type. The right for light weapons, machine guns and handguns, up for heavy weapons, machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles and bazookas, left for projectiles, grenades and C4 charges. He obviously can't carry all of those weapons on his frail little shoulders, you must make a choice and carefully select a weapon of each type. If the gear left by the enemies is not enough, you may turn to the black market. By pressing down on the directional pad, a certain Don Motelsh and his helicopter land to resupply. Depending on the progress through the game, this service gives access to different types of weapons and vehicles, and can even upgrade these items according to the objects you finds on the ground. Dear old Don can also transport Rico to all known locations on the map, so it saves a long trip (distances are indeed impressive).

Money is the sinews of war

Of course, to pay for all this material, you must obtain money, and a lot of it. No worries, the destruction of government buildings, the recovery of certain resources and missions accomplished will finance the essential equipment for Rico. Progression in the game depends on the chaos that our hero spreads. A counter and several progress bars always show you the level to reach in order to unlock your future missions. After spreading enough trouble, the missions will unlock on the global map. They are available in several ways: agency missions, stronghold takeovers, faction missions and the black market. The agency missions allow you to advance in the plot of the game, there are only eight but they are longer than all the others and require you to reach a high level of chaos to be unlocked. Stronghold takeovers will help you to expand the factions' territories and will unlock additional missions. Faction missions strengthen your relationship with the faction concerned, they are numerous, a little repetitive but have the advantage to make money while raising the bar of chaos. The black market unlocks new vehicles and weapons once the progress bar is filled.

Rico ain’t alone to overturn the government

Rico will quickly find allies to help him accomplish his mission, he will convince all the enemies of the Government that he can be very useful. Three factions have emerged in Panao: The Ular Boys, the Reapers and the Roaches. The Ular Boys can be compared to the Khmer Rouge, their violence is matched only by their desire to take power. The Reapers are the revolutionaries of the island, all for the people, a bit like a Che Guevara. Finally, the Roaches are the mafia of Panao, a clever mix of Triads and Yakuza who do not hesitate to expand their business by terror. Even though these three factions have the same goal as our hero, we will soon realize that all of them play a double game... To please his allies, Rico can also search for 100 objects for each faction scattered throughout the areas controlled by them. All this small world of 1000km² therefore provides a lot of replay value, from 30 hours (if you limit yourself to the missions), to a lifetime (if you're looking to finish the 368 places at 100%). After a day of good spirited destruction, you can also relax with a few additional activities, such as performing almost 50 race challenges scattered throughout the country (by plane, motorbike, car and even freefall and parachute). Finally, if you like murders, you can concentrate on the 50 colonels of the Panuvian army stashed away everywhere, each one more psychopathic than the other, just like their President, one might say.

Spider-man + James Bond = Rico Rodriguez?

The now famous agent Rico Rodriguez, Scorpio to his friends, would not exist without his legendary grapple hook. It is no longer limited to pulling you from one point to another, it may now be used as a devastating weapon. On one hand, it allows for much fun at the expense of the poor soldiers of Panao as they can be put through the worst kind of suffering. If you want to be effective, you’d better go for the essentials; bringing down the enemy from their perches, swinging vehicles into the void or even hanging a foe from a high point to neutralize him easily. The grapple is useful in many situations, but your weapons will remain the backbone of your arsenal. The gunfights are very simplified, no automatic cover possible, you have to position yourself to avoid the bullets. No need to aim meticulously to be precise, an auto-lock allows you to shoot while you focus on something else, for more fun.

Walking and vehicles are now becoming redundant, the combination of the parachute and grappling hook allows you to travel long distances easily. It is certainly a little odd that you have unlimited parachutes, but it's so funny that we don’t care. Another great pleasure in the game is skydiving and base jumping, which allows you to admire the beauty of the landscapes of Panao. If you prefer to concentrate on the mission, the grappling-hook allows you to grab just about anything that flies, like the shoppers of the Panuvian army for instance. Rico must then clear the aircraft, shooting down the passenger (if any) and neutralize the driver in a QTE sequence. Helicopters are also probably the most efficient aircrafts in action, but you will also find tanks, armored vehicles and fighter planes among the 104 vehicles available in the game.

Give a change of scenery to the paradise island of Panao

Technically, Avalanche Studios' engine is even more impressive. The volumetric clouds in the sky are particularly well rendered, although some may criticise them for their lack of depth. Rico’s animation was fortunately reworked, and most of his movements are now very realistic. When one recalls the first game and its animations from another age, we can truly speak of a real leap forward at this level. Between two destructions of some military base, we are surprised to stop dead in our race to admire a splendid panorama of mountains, a desert or a tropical beach. Even more impressive is that no framerate stutters or load times will disrupt your sightseeing. Only some slight tearing may occur in the heat of action. Speaking of action, pyrotechnic effects are breathtakingly realistic and show that the physics engine is up to the task. The massive destruction by helicopter allows you to notice the shock waves that propagate around the blast. However, one drawback, the physics and handling of land vehicles which - though improved from the first game – prove to be decidedly average


Just Cause 2 clearly is the game to play these days, if you're in to action-packed games. In addition, the plot of the game makes you feel inclined to progress and find answers to the questions that arise, which gives incentive to keep playing. For more information, you need to smash everything in your way and help the three different factions to impose their power. This results in an explosive cocktail, mixing fun action in an offbeat but coherent tone, framed by landscapes and exotic paradise. Technically, the game has nothing to envy from its competitors. On the contrary, since Avalanche's engine delivers on its promises and even surprises us by not suffering from any slowdown. The replay value is bound to even make Oblivion green with envy provided that you are a perfectionist willing to achieve 100% in all locations that make up the country Panao. This second installment perhaps suffers from a bit of repetition, and some missions have a sense of déjà-vu, but the secondary objectives, challenge races and assassinations are there to keep things fresh. Just Cause 2 surpasses the first game and cements Avalanche as a developer to be reckoned with in the future.

The First 10 Minutes

All comments

Commented on 2010-04-20 15:46:09
This message is in "Boulet Time" (TM), If you still *really* want to see it, click here

Commented on 2010-04-20 15:53:14
I just bought this for the PC and have been loving it so far. So many crazy things you can do. Grappling pursuit cars to the highway during chase sequences is brilliance.
Commented on 2010-04-21 14:17:20
Love this game, it's just fun and it looks nice.
No story really, but what is there is good enough, but I am happy with it, money well spent.

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