Just Cause 2, an Xbox 360 game review

Just Cause was a game that, while not being a very deep game, was one of those games that really seemed to encapsulate what sandbox game should be. Huge explorative space, great combat, and a gimmick that made exploring the massive entertaining. Just Cause 2 is a sequel to the original game developed for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC by Avalanche Studios and published by Square Enix Europe.

Perhaps the worst part of the original game, and indeed the sequel was the flimsy story and bad acting. The title “Just Cause” isn’t so much a description of the plot as more of a double entendre. The game seems to try and want to make the main characters fighting for a good purpose, but there’s no real attraction to any of the characters or any actual indication that what you are doing is for the betterment of the people of the island.

You play a CIA black ops who originally come to a small tropical island run by a dictator with the aim of overthrowing the dictator in favor of a more American friendly leader and to find an Ex-CIA op who has gone rogue. It’s really formulaic and only serves to put you in the setting of the game. After a while it becomes apparent that the story is of little actual consequence to the experience of the game. It’s like a story for a movie filled with great action scenes. A good narrative would be nice, but you’re not quite bothered when amazing fight scenes break out.

Ultimately what the game comes down to is the action, and it is brilliantly chaotic. The big gimmick in the first game was the parachute/grapple combo. It was primarily used to get to vehicles quickly, and used to glide to safety after jumping from vehicles or long falls. It wasn’t a great gimmick, but it made some of the air related things more entertaining. Thankfully this gimmick has been greatly expanded on, mostly in the grapple department.

Just Cause 2’s use of the grapple gun is more like Bionic Commando without the swinging ability. It’s a simple change to the original’s format that really changes some of the core elements of Just Cause 2. This change to the grapple gun allows the parachute to become an auxiliary vehicle whenever you feel the need to traverse ground a little quicker, be it in combat or just to get over the mountains without the want of a helicopter or jet. The grapple gun becomes a great asset when it comes to gaining ground in large fire fights allowing you to either zip from one side of the area to the other, or glide in circles as you pummel the enemies with bullets and explosions.

The original game was subject to one major flaw, it lead you by the hand in nearly every aspect of the game. In some instances this was nice, such as being able to shoot grenades out of the air with great ease. In others this meant that you were able to kill enemies by just pointing in their general direction, allowing for killing shots being far too easy. This has been changed in large, some for the better some for the worse.

You can no longer shoot grenades out of the air, which is a bit of a minor flaw but does not become a huge issue given the greater control over shooting. Much of the shooting still uses some auto-targeting, but works in a way that benefit greatly from shooting at aiming at specific parts rather than just the person in general. The added ability to zoom in for deadly and precise shots allows for those who prefer the one shot one kill to actually do that. It’s not a change that effects any other game but Just Cause itself.

With the change to the target system and the grapple guns there’s a change that effects both, the ability to use the grapple on enemies. More often than not I use this to pull snipers from their (figurative) high-horses, but it can be used in a point-to-point way allowing you to perhaps attach enemies to flying explosive containers or the back of vehicles. It’s a great idea, but ultimately seems to fall flat in single player as the chaos in combat becomes too much of a bother to set up large Rube Goldberg mechanisms.

The gameplay plays much like what sandbox titles that are truly sandbox titles should be. The different missions in the game allow for some break in monotony between the exploration and the collecting aspects, but once those are finished much of the game will focus on you exploring, and there is a lot to explore. You can spend hours upon hours in the game going over the same patch of land before you realize how much more there is to the game, like the giant flying airship brothel. This is only made better for those OCD gamers that love collecting absolutely everything in the game with the insane amount of power ups found throughout the various bases and cities in the game.

The game is not without fault though. While there is a great deal of exploration and much to do in the game it feels as though there could have been more done on the developer’s part. Crackdown was an amazing sandbox title because, once you were done with everything in the game, there was still more to invent with your friends on co-op. While it’s a solid singleplayer experience, it could be better expanded with the addition of simple 2 player co-op.

The upgrade system in the game also leaves much to be desired in it’s plain system. There are hundreds of changes to the weapons and vehicles you come across in the game but they’re just statistical changes. It would be far more interesting to see more physical changes to the vehicles, or mechanical changes to how the weapons work. Something of more creativity could be found in the upgrading, but it’s just not there.

When it comes down to it Just Cause 2 is a game you should get for the name’s improper pronunciation alone, just cuz. There is a lot to do, from the main story of little consequence, to the miles upon miles of exploration and collecting to do. The game is a sandbox game as most sandbox games should be developed. An area of great expanse that focuses on the great gameplay and obscene sense of exploring, not so much the story(or cousin on the phone)driven narrative. I highly recommend Just Cause 2, if not Just Cause 1 as well due to the great sense of exploration in both games and great gameplay.

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