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Game Info:

Just Cause 2
Developed By: Avalanche Studios
Published By: Eidos Interactive
Released: March 23, 2010
Available On: Windows PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: M for Mature: Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence
Number of Players: Single-player only
MSRP: $29.99 new, $24.99 used

Have you ever gone to see a summer blockbuster? Full of action and special effects, but about as deep as a kiddie pool; they’re exciting and fun, but can leave you wanting more. Just Cause 2 feels exactly like this. With a completely open world and intense action, this title not only feels and looks like an action movie, it plays like one. The game takes place on the fictional Asian island of Panau, which, now under new leadership by the malevolent dictator Pandak “Baby” Panay, has taken an anti-American stance. It’s up to you, Rico Rodriguez, to overthrow Panay and restore the peace.

Similar to Grand Theft Auto, JC2 takes place in an open world, which means you can go anywhere you want, right from the beginning. But unlike GTA, this island has a much more diverse topography including: dense jungles, desolate deserts, snowy mountains, small towns, big cities, and military bases. The game’s map is massive, and filled to the brim with places to explore. Thankfully, the developers also had the foresight to implement a fast travel system.  

Missions form the majority of structured content in Just Cause 2, and most of them play to the strengths of JC2: destruction and chaos. To help accomplish these objectives, Rico is equipped with grenades, C4, an unlimited supply of grappling hooks and parachutes, and three weapons of your choice. About fifty missions are available, split between four factions: the Reapers, Roaches, Ular Boys, and the Agency. The first three are native to Panau, and used by Rico to gain influence on the island. The Agency however, is Rico’s true employer, and its missions are all story based. Most missions, whether story or optional, have you destroying some large structure or killing a specific person. They’re incredibly simple and designed to throw large amounts of enemies at you, just like action movies.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Insane action; efficient controls; massive world
Weak Points: Weak story
Moral Warnings: Excessive violence; drug and alcohol use; sexual situations

One of the biggest draws of JC2 is its stunt system. Using the grappling hook, parachute, special “stunt jump” and skydiving abilities, Rico can fluidly move, fight and hijack nearly anything. Words cannot do justice to how breathtaking this is. Movement is made easier, fights are made more interesting, and nearly everything can be stolen to use against the enemy. In any other game, I would be exaggerating when I say I jumped out of a plane, landed on a boat, and then crashed the boat before landing safely on top of a car, which I proceeded to “borrow”. But not in Just Cause 2.

Nowadays, many movies rely on special effects to enhance the action and captivate the audience.  Staying with the action movie theme, JC2 doesn’t disappoint in the visuals. The geographical draw-distance is nearly boundless and the frame rate is solid. Explosions are impressive as well. It’s just unfortunate that the game is marred by problems with objects popping up and disappearing too quickly. Both vehicles and random items would randomly spawn in front of me, and I noticed vehicles would sometimes disappear as they passed me. These seem like really odd problems when everything else works fine, and should have been fixed before release or with updates.

As I mentioned earlier, Just Cause 2 is very similar to an action movie. This is a fantastic thing for the gameplay, but the story suffers. Exaggerated character personalities, predictable twists, and more plot devices than I care to count make JC2’s story entirely forgettable and unimportant. I can tell these things were deliberate, but that doesn’t excuse poor quality. I’d say it’s like a spoof, but a spoof is funny, and this was not. Perhaps if the story team went a bit more overboard, this could have been more tolerable, maybe even enjoyable. It worked for Saint’s Row, why not here? But as it is, a few parodies don’t make a good story, and it has to be all in or not at all.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 60%
Violence - 2.5/10
Language - 3/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Continuing with the action move theme, remember those cheesy 80’s action movies that have ridiculous characters with even more ridiculous lines? Just Cause 2’s characters emulate these clichés far more successfully than the story does. Characters are just clichéd enough to be funny (and probably true), without being offensive. Music is also used well, with intense action music used at the right times, along with some gentler melodies used for exploring the world. Thundering explosions and convincing gunshots draw you into the action while the music gets your blood pumping. Everything works together to create an action-packed experience.

I’m thankful the controls don’t ruin that experience either. With all the different abilities and actions available, complicated controls could have been a real problem, but Avalanche Studios added in some clever features to avoid this. Both static and floating buttons appear next to vehicles and other interactive items, explaining what actions are available. It doesn’t fill up the screen, and you can always turn it off, but it was a nice touch. Tutorials are available as well, so it’s unlikely you’ll have any major problems. It may take a while, but learning the controls is very possible, and once mastered, fluid and effective.

Unfortunately, this game does have some big moral problems. Just like GTA, an average human life isn’t worth much, and there’s no real penalty for murder. Blood splatters everywhere when a character is shot, and characters’ bodies go limp after being killed. Drugs are referenced, and an optional mission has you collect cases filled with them, but they are never actually seen or consumed. Although the F word is never used, Rico more than makes up for it by cursing in both English and Spanish (hurray for diversity I suppose). While it’s certainly not at the same level as Grand Theft Auto’s prostitutes, Just Cause 2 doesn’t stray away from sexuality either. Not only is there a brothel (complete with scantily clad dancers), and multiple sexual references, but one mission also has you escorting a prostitute. Aside from the ESRB descriptors, alcohol is mentioned a few times along with unlabeled wine bottles at bars scattered across the island. Rebellion also has an active role in the game, but can be justified since you’re fighting a corrupt government.

It’s becoming more and more common for games to be described as “cinematic experiences”, but few ever truly live up to that. Just Cause 2 does. It’s fun and fast-paced, but light on story and depth. If you love just messing around, I guarantee you’ll have a blast. While I wouldn’t call it a feature, making up your own fun can be an integral part of a game, and JC2 has plenty of ingredients to make your own kind of fun. Unlike GTA, which I can recommend solely on its story, JC2 requires the player to have an imagination (and a willingness to overlook all the moral content). But if you’ve ever wanted to be an action hero, go try this one out.

-Nate DaZombie

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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