At first, Just Cause 2 seems like it’s barely evolved beyond its 2006 predecessor, which itself was just another GTA clone. It’s an sandbox-style game with a solo protagonist who uses his martial talents to reset the status quo of the game world. You’ll see a lot of familiar open-world mechanics in Just Cause 2: the attention level affected by your actions, tons of hijackable vehicles and loads of optional side missions. But right away two things make JC2 stand out: how much more crazy the action is than damn near anything out there and the amazing freedom you have to improvise with all the gameworld’s toys.
Players will be reacquainting themselves with Rico Rodriguez, the first game’s covert-ops badass who’s landed on the fictional country of Panau in Southeast Asia. Rico’s there to sniff out his missing mentor, who’s either missing or gone rogue. You’ll be traveling in pretty much the same flamboyant style as in Just Cause 1 but with some differences. Rico’s grappling hook has become the core of not only locomotion, but combat, too. The grapple will yank enemies toward you or out of cover and gets lashed out as a melee attack. You can also bind enemies onto objects in the world with the grapple, so you can tether them to something explosive and have them meet in a fiery embrace. You’re essentially Spider-Man with guns here. You never need to take damage from a fall, either, because you’ll be able to use your chute just about anytime you want. The gameplay feels like a cross between GTA and The Fall Guy TV series from the ‘80s.
You use all of Rico’s insane stunt skills to cause enough chaos to eventually topple the regime of evil dictator Baby Panau’s regime. Along the way, you’ll work with three criminal factions to help destabilize the country. But the story reasons don’t matter much here. Here’s what matters: I was able to latch onto a nearby chopper, threw the pilot to his death, got into a duel with surface-to-air guns, jumped out of my burning helicopter, parachuted back to the ground and kept killing enemy soldiers nary a pause.
JC2’s biggest flaws come from a slightly wonky camera and dodgy cover mechanics. As mobile as you are, you will need to take cover in heavy firefights and it’s completely haphazard. You don’t stick to cover as in Gears of War; you just sorta stand behind it. This means that you’re going to die a lot, which will have you run into another one of Just Cause 2’s shortcomings, its checkpoint system. You’re never really clear when the autosave is kicking in and will often re-spawn to find yourself way further back than you’d like.
But, at its best, the game delivers so may great, adrenaline-crazed set pieces that its issues won’t bother you too much. Just Cause 2 is a great example of how unique, well-executed elements can make a typical experience feel fresh.
Official Techland Score: 8.5 out of 10