Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just Cause 2 [Game][PC]

Amount Completed - Main story line completed and all known locations cleared – 88.5% by the conclusion. I skipped most races and collected about 70% of the faction items.

Story - Just Cause 2 takes place on a small south pacific island nation named Panau. The story follows the adventures of Rico, a sly CIA agent, as he brings chaos throughout the nation. The clear conclusion of the story, from the beginning of the game, is the toppling of the dictator “president” of the nation of Panau. Unfortunately the story is utterly bland with very few twists or surprises. Rico becomes the attack dog for three rebel factions vying for control of the nation. Instead of having the factions cross paths in interesting ways the nation is instead literally just cut up by the three groups. Rico's influence with one group plays no role in his influence on the others. This level of simplicity is both good and bad. You can forget about managing your allegiances, but then you can also forget about anything intriguing between the various factions in the storyline.

The many judgments passed down upon the nation of Panau (and the world as a whole) by Rico are way too heavy handed. While there are hints of morality in the bland story the black and white approach to it is a bit strange. The voice acting does not help at all. The main character, while close to what I would like, never really showed enough emotion to make the story come to life in any way. The sound (and general) design of the cut scenes never integrated any sense of urgency or suspense.

Art - Panau is utterly gorgeous. The lighting revolving around the day/night cycles is definitely brings the game to life. While there are really only 4 types of terrain (jungle, desert, snow, and city) there is plenty of variety in each. The characters are alright looking, and understandably not as high resolution as other games due to the view distance among other things. It is a shame there is no built in screenshot functionality as just running around and looking at things is the game's best advertisement.

Gameplay - Just Cause 2 is an open world game after the first two missions are complete. At that point it truly becomes a huge sandbox of potential chaos. The main component of the game is chaos. You cause chaos by destroying things. Just about anything adds to the overall chaos.

Panau is huge. You can spend hours exploring and driving around without scratching the surface of the game. There are over 360 locations to take over by collecting items and/or destroying enemy infrastructure.

Like many recent open world games the player can go anywhere. The major appeal of Just Cause 2 is that it is very easy to go vertical. The grapple Rico is armed with makes Just Cause 2 an over-the-top action movie. You can grapple and take over helicopters, jets, vehicles and even grapple onto enemies. This is the reason to play the game. The ground combat is an absolute blast. While not the most intelligent, the AI is fine and will make an effort to find cover and run away when overwhelmed.

Driving vehicles (ground specifically) is incredibly difficult and was a major annoyance I hit immediately. My car always seemed to spin out of control. Some of the wider vehicles had improved control and stability but they could still easily go into spin mode at any moment. It is a shame the vehicles are so difficult and there is so much fun surrounding driving off road through the various types of terrain in the game.

The button sequences in-game are acceptable and reasonably quick. These require you to enter a sequence of keys under a given amount of time. They use this for taking over vehicles as well as various other activities to create a sense of urgency in the action the player takes.

The on-screen hints are horrible. An indicator for a target location can literally be in the middle of the screen drawing over other critical information (such as what you are targeting).

The difficulty ramp is way too steep as well. I restarted the game on easy mode after realizing that the normal mode was simply ruining the fun of the game.

Gut - Just Cause 2 delivers in every department with the exception of the story and general vehicle controls. I highly recommend it as the combat and exploration experience is top notch. It would have been worth it at full price. (I bought it during a Steam sale)