2010 Reviews

Just Cause 2

  • Review Date: 2014-05
  • Release Date: 2010-03
  • Developer: Avalanche Studios
  • Rating: 8.0

I get a bit tired of sandbox games. It's always the same old gameplay, the same hiccups, all trying to cash in on the popularity of GTA. The hiccups are common among most sandbox games: too much time spent on meaningless missions and mini-games, average visuals due to the massive draw distances, and travel time getting from location to location.

But having said all that, Just Cause 2 is one of the best sandbox games I've played in a while, if not ever. I never played the original, nor Avalanche Studios second game - this being their third. So considering that, they've done exceptionally well. For visuals, Just Cause 2 is probably the best looking sandbox game to date. The game claims to have 400 square miles of land. Well that's rubbish, if I go to one corner and waypoint the far corner, it's 30kms across. 30kms is fucking huge. Especially when travelling by vehicles, if you can imagine how long it takes to travel that distance in real life, it's pretty similar in the game! You'll be driving for 20 minutes non-stop to get to the other side. It is mind-blowing how big the play area is, and know you can go anywhere within this area. It's full of villages, military bases, cities - this is not an empty island. If you can get up somewhere high you can look out several kms at once.

I just played Mafia II and some people commented that it looked great. No, it didn't look great. Just Cause 2 is the definition of looking great. Also Mafia II only took up a 10 square kms. It's not just that Just Cause 2 is huge, it also looks beautiful. There's a decent amount of detail, textures look good. Sometimes you'll get a stunning sunset, something Mafia II forgot about.

But graphics aren't everything to a sandbox game, in fact they're probably less important than the gameplay. The kind of gamers that play these kinds of games have a lot of time on their hands and want to spend it doing meaningless, trivial tasks, such as spending dozens of hours looking for collectibles, completing tasks and just randomly exploring. Just Cause 2, more than most free-roam games, caters to this audience. But it doesn't cater to those that want a proper, progressive and linear storyline. It does have a main storyline and seven main missions. But those main missions alone probably only add up to less than five hours of gameplay. To play these missions, you have to do side missions and just generally destroy stuff. No destruction means no access to the main missions. This is a shame, I hate having to do random missions to add up a meter enough to return to the main storyline. It's not a good way to force gameplay length. Especially when everytime I flew in to cause some carnage at a military base, I'd barely get halfway done before anti-aircraft guns or helicopters would blow me up and have me re-spawn back at base. After completing the first two missions in quick succession, I was over 4 hours into Just Cause 2 and still hadn't done enough to unlock the third mission. Well, fuck that. I put on a cheat to max out the chaos meter and allow me to play the damn missions in whatever order I want, without the need to destroy things. Of course I still destroyed things just for fun, but at least it was no longer mandatory.

The biggest issue in Just Cause 2 is travel. Vehicles are slow. Early on, after completing a couple of faction missions, the next faction mission was over 10kms away. I attempted twice to get to it, both times by vehicle resulted in getting attacked by enemies on the way and killed. The third time I finally made it, this after about half an hour. Who the hells wants to spend half an hour of gametime just trying to get to the next fucking location?! So, my second cheat, a grapple mod which allowed me to use my grappling hook across much larger distances, almost 1km. It means parachuting and grappling was the quickest way for travel, much better than cars. The vehicle handling is terrible anyway, with very little grip and often putting you into a massive spin with the lightest touch of the brakes or an enemy vehicle. Helicopters are okay, but planes are just uncontrollable. I could barely get the planes off the ground and the one time I did, it was impossible to properly turn.

The game does have fast-travel (extraction) but it can only be done to locations you've unlocked. So you still need to travel across most of the island the slow way at least once.

Then the third mod (cheat) I used was unlimited ammo, because it became evident quite early on that clip sizes are very small and ammo is an issue. It did make the game a little bit easy, especially as I just used the sniper rifle (which was automatic for some reason) throughout the entire game, as it was absolutely chaotic and could take helicopters down in 5 seconds. I didn't need to worry about any upgrades or purchases of items at all.

I ended up playing most of the faction missions, in total I believe 28, and just had 3 remaining when I finally stopped playing. This was at the 11 hour mark. However according to the stats I was only at 21% completion. I suppose the remaining 80% is just blowing up all the military bases and unlocking unvisited locations. But I certainly feel like I visited most areas and got most of the unique content out of the game. Overall, it is a repetitive game. Like I said above, it's for people that don't mind spending 50 hours just mucking around doing random shit. A better storyline and longer main missions would have been better than all the random side missions. Also Just Cause 2 didn't really need to be so such a huge play area, with travel taking so long. In fact, half my playtime would have just been getting from point A to point B.

Overall, fantastic looking open world. But for people with a lot of time on their hands. I wouldn't have enjoyed it nearly as much without the cheats/mods I installed, either.

Just Cause 2