Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just Cause 2 - where a grappling hook and parachute is all you need!

Remember the days when games were about gameplay, shooting enemies in a frenzy of violence, achieving that fatality after a hard battle in Mortal Kombat and dismembering hordes of zombies with a chainsaw. Avalanche Studios and Eidos the developers behind the original Just Cause have recognised this long hallowed tradition and came to the table with Just Cause 2. It’s a brutal departure from the mundane experience of the first game with high-octane stunts and gravity defying physics. From the outset, it is made clear the game isn’t focused on plot. Rather, gameplay is king and Just Cause 2 marries Chuck Norris fighting technique with the execution of a James Bond film. Shooting itself up with a few injections of adrenaline like jumping face first out of a plane at high altitude. Just Cause 2 is both a pleasure and an irritation.

The game’s storyline resembles a B-grade action movie and appears at first glance to be the oh-so predictable espionage tale of intrigue and big explosions. Just Cause 2 is set in the expansive South-East Asian island of Panau which is run in a similar vein to Cold War era Cuba, mixed with a bit of North Korean flair. You play as Rico Rodriquez an agent working for the shadowy US organisation “the Agency” and your mission is to eliminate the fascist regime of Baby Panay. The game follows the typical route of many of its sandbox predecessors, where players have a huge world map to explore (in the case of Just Cause 2 it’s epicly huge) and complete various missions. These missions are plentiful and the game itself works on the basis that the player needs to create chaos in order to increase the mission roster. With the insane arsenal of upgradeable weapons for purchase, not to mention vehicles, achieving chaotic bliss is no difficult chore and once you amass enough chaos various missions become available. Missions are divided between faction missions and agency missions, but first you have to choose one of the many factions.

Three main factions exist: the Roaches led by a corrupt businessman, the Reapers (definitely Che Guevara fans) and finally the Ular Boys led by a religious revolutionary reminiscent of the ever popular Osama Bin Laden. Faction missions follow the very simple formula of destroy, destroy, blow up stuff, destroy, save a hostage, destroy and destroy some more. The same can be said of the agency missions, which becomes repetitive as the game progresses. For the most part this is quite entertaining but can drag on after an intensely long gaming session. The reality is that Just Cause 2 is a game best played when either boredom sets in or time is not a factor. This doesn’t mean Just Cause 2 is a bad experience. Actually, it’s quite enjoyable and excessively fun until you have to travel from one side of the world map to the other searching for a mission trigger. In the game fighting increases the alertness of enemies (similar to wanted levels in GTA) and the more chaos you cause the higher the alert level. So be wary because if you’re alert level reaches critical you’ll be bombarded with missiles from every corner and the Panauan army will surface. But, if you have the skills you may survive, and fighting is at the heart of Just Cause 2’s game mechanic. The game is about duking it out with enemies and this is where the absurd charm of Just Cause 2 begins to shine.

Gameplay for the most part centers around a system relying on Rico’s dual grappling hook and his never-ending supply of parachutes. Pair this with a barrage of upgradeable weaponry and vehicles obtainable by gathering ‘parts’ and you become a lethal combination that leaves enemies incapacitated. The player can find a million ways to kill enemies, employing only the dynamics of the grappling hook and surrounding environment. In my own dabbling in-game I found attaching enemies to burstable gasoline cylinders quite enjoyable, with the enemy shooting straight up into the atmosphere hurtling. The absurdity of the gameplay is taken to new heights in some of the missions. One mission involves the player having to destroy a rocket midair whilst flying a jet at break speed where death greets you at the slightest error. Just Cause 2 is really over-the-top and is enjoyable in short bursts and in the end the gameplay means the player can be as creative as they want. But, one of the main problems with the game is the mission roster which is infinite and in my opinion wasteful of playing time. Where the game could be more dynamic by varying mission types, it ends up repeating the same missions with different scenery. This again is why I suggest you don’t solely dedicate gaming time to Just Cause 2, because I see it more as a ‘filler’ between other games.

The extensive world map is relentless and completing the game fully is a quest in itself. There are quite a few villages and cities scattered across the terrain begging to be freed and players can let loose enjoying the pure mayhem, still after prolonged play this too becomes tiring. Ultimately Just Cause 2 is a game you’d play for the sake of gameplay and is really exciting while it lasts, but dries out soon enough. Some would argue that the storyline is where the game falters but I thoroughly enjoyed the camp-ness of it all ( the terrible voice acting included). It really brought out the cheesiness of those old spy films the game is mirroring. Most would overlook this title because of dated graphics, which I might add are not really an issue on the PC, whereas on the XBOX 360 version the quality of the graphics is supposedly abysmal.

Yet, what is concerning is that gamers nowadays are coaxed into games with high polygon counts and the gameplay mechanics of a chimpanzee with a joystick (Dark Void anyone). Whereas, Just Cause 2 is a game dedicated to gameplay and shouldn’t be overlooked because of dated graphics. It sets out to be a fun explosive thrill and achieves that, but lacks storytelling depth and variety in missons which would otherwise make it an utter hit with the majority of gamers. Just Cause 2 is a hit and miss, with wasted potential. RAMjew


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