Just Cause 2 Review (PS3)

Striking out in a divergent direction is definitely an advisable move if you're going to differentiate your game from the rest of the pack in a crowded genre, and since Just Cause 2 is yet another entry into the ever-expanding open-world marketplace, we're glad to see that Avalanche has made an effort to make its game stand out. How? Why, by cramming it full of balls-out action of course!

Yes, it's a sequel to a game that failed to set the world alight upon release, and yes, it's severely lacking in depth or narrative intrigue of any kind, but then Just Cause 2 makes no secret of its unreserved, relentless action remit, thrusting you straight into the thick of it from the off. Returning hero Rico Rodriguez opens the game leaping from a helicopter flying thousands of feet above a mountain range, where in a valley a small military base pelts the sky with erupting mortar fire, peppering Rico's descent with explosions.

Base jumping or simply ejecting from a plane or helicopter is a great way to skydive and get an aerial view of Panau.
Using your parachute to quietly drift upon the breeze is one of the few moments in JC2 where you can relax and take in Panau's beautiful sunsets and rolling views.

Just Cause 2 certainly brings the action, no question and the game's vast island paradise of Panau is a dauntingly immense playground in which to wreak havoc, but there's a danger that having to cover such an expanse with meaningful activities could result in the action being spread thin across the rolling hills and mountains.

Luckily, there's an even spread of locations dotted throughout Panau that appeal to the completist in almost every obsessive gamer, demanding thorough exploration if you want to gain a 100% rating for tracking down the thousands of weapon, vehicle and armour upgrade parts as well as the countless destructible targets strewn all over Just Cause 2's varied archipelago.

There are of course some areas of Panau that fall under the category of the remote, positioned in-between the hundreds of regions where there actually is something to do. Being stuck in a deserted forest, barren desert or on a far-flung snow-capped mountaintop without a vehicle can be incredibly frustrating until you unlock the ability to call in an extraction, which enables you to travel to any settlement on the island via a quick call to the friendly Black Market salesman, who for an exorbitant price will also furnish you with disposable jet planes, cars, motorcycles, speedboats and weaponry.

Irritatingly, purchased objects are normally dropped in an incredibly inconvenient place, so prepare to lose tens of thousands of Panauan dollars on crumpled Silverbolt aeroplanes that you attempted to launch from a short stretch of road. On more than one occasion, we splashed out on a shiny new jet only to clip the scenery, flip it over and then attempt to take off while inverted, kicking up sparks and fragments of steel fuselage before exploding in a ball of flame. All you can really do when this happens is laugh. Or order another plane and try again.

Hijacking a fighter jet is a rare treat, but good luck landing it. It's impossible. Ejecting and watching it crash into the ground below is heartbreaking.
Rico can 'stunt jump' effortlessly between vehicles. There's also 104 different vehicles to find and drive in JC2 and an achievement rewarded for it.

Being unable to reverse the plane is another annoyance, but somehow, tethering the nose to a truck using Rico's grapple, and then towing it around is inexplicably fun, but then simply experimenting with the grapple and parachute is always a good laugh. We've already blathered on about it at great length in our Just Cause 2 previews, but the grapple and parachute really is the crux of what makes the sequel so breezily enjoyable.

Being able to grapple, reel in and catapult yourself into the air before unfurling your parachute is a great way to get around, and when you're not being shot at, drifting on the wind, using the grapple to glide and climb vertiginous buildings and cliff faces is a soothing break from blasting fuel dumps, destroying generators, SAM sites and radio masts or killing bad guys. And boy, do you kill a lot of bad guys. After twenty hours of play, we'd sent more than 1500 of them to henchman heaven, pulling them down from great heights, dragging them behind moving vehicles, tethering them to a seeping gas canister, hanging them up and whipping them with the grappling hook the list of ways to kill Panau's fascist forces are numerous, although a gun and some bullets does the job equally well.

Story missions, faction missions and stronghold takeovers are what you'll be tackling when you're not infiltrating and sabotaging enemy facilities or shooting an armed guard in his stupid face, and although there's relatively very little in terms of compelling story to follow, you'll never particularly be longing for an absorbing narrative go play GTA IV if it's cinematic storytelling you're looking for. It's the many diversions and other bitesize activities that'll keep you occupied playing Just Cause 2, which as such, bolsters the longevity considerably. There are three factions to work for in Panau, each with their own set of strongholds for you to capture having successfully escorted a technician through the complex and dispatched the enemy onslaught. Once a stronghold is taken, it acts as another base of operations and respawn point for when you die, which if you're as reckless as we are, will be frequent.

Speedboats are fun to drive over the waves, although crashing one and being stranded in the middle of the sea is a massive pain in the backside.
You can use the grapple to reel yourself in from huge distances. Opening your parachute uses your momentum and gives you a nice forward boost to get you airborne.

The joy of simply roaming the island, messing around with the vehicles and opportunities for causing chaos will undoubtedly keep you playing Just Cause 2, and Panau is really something to behold, whether you're seeing it from the ground or the air. The draw distance and level of visual quality is astonishing given the grand scale of the island, even though the game's cutscenes don't quite measure up and holding up the graphics to close scrutiny does reveal some very minor flaws. Sure there are glitches too, but nothing game-breaking, or even worthy of mention. It's actually remarkable that there aren't more glitches when you consider the ambitious nature of JC2's game world.

For all its slight foibles, Just Cause 2 is hugely entertaining, and despite the creeping feeling of repetition beginning to set in as you destroy your 500th fuel tank or collect your 1000th item, there's more than enough freedom to pull off ludicrous stunts and experiment with your weapons, vehicles, parachute and grappling hook to make you want to extend your stay in Panau's sandbox paradise indefinitely.

Top game moment:
Any time you stumble across a military base and a minigun. Let mayhem commence!