Just Cause 2, if nothing, taught me an important survival tip. If the jet I am surfing on explodes at high altitude, a plausible way to survive is to increase the falling speed to above 200 miles per hour by grappling to the ground. You’ll land unscathed with a burst of adrenaline and no bruises or contusions. It’s pure science. Rather, it’s pure “Just Cause 2 science,” a game fueled on its pure ridiculousness to ensure fun comes first and reality in a distant second.
You’ll hijack many vehicles in your romp through Panau and, even though you throw out the driver by bashing his skull into the glass, there is always one thing left in the backseat: the plot. Rico Rodriguez, also known as Scorpio, has to overthrow the dictator of Panau that has gone too far with his power. He’s evil and you have to take care of it. Other characters come into the fray, but everyone is one-dimensional and lacks any sort of depth due to lack of screen time. The only story motivation to do missions is to please the three factions you work for in exchange for information. Story missions can be completely absurd to the point where I knew the developers knew they were being stupid. I wholly appreciate this stupid approach because it was ridiculous enough to make me laugh in a few spots, but it’s undeniable how bad the narrative package actually is.
That said, it’s hard to care about some crooked ruler and dumb characters when the gameplay is this stupid (in the best possible way) and pure fun. You are granted with guns, a magnificent grappling hook, a parachute, and the ability to break the laws of physics. These tools aid in traversal which, in contrary to some open world games, is a complete blast. Parachuting and using the grappling hook to slingshot your way across the map is way more swift and fun than it sounds, leaving it as the go-to way to rapidly get out of a jam or just to swing into the air.
Even though those tools are useful, you aren’t just left with your parachute and grappling hook to get around. The island is littered with jets, planes, fast cars, bikes, and boats for you to easily get your hands on. Taking these vehicles is intuitive and simple. Pointing your cursor near (thanks to the generous auto-aim) a vehicle and hitting a shoulder button gives you access to it. Surfing or leaping from ride to ride can link hijackings together, giving it an over-the-top and useful way of getting around and feeding into the game’s hyperrealisitic way of handling stunts. Are these things even remotely possible? Hell no! Standing on a jet going at full speed doesn’t make sense but it makes for a flashy, intense, and flat-out absurd way of getting from place to place.
You are going to need to these methods of exploring due to the rich, expansive setting. Panau is an absolutely beautiful, massive area, ripe with almost 400 unique areas to explore and cause chaos. The checklist always remains long because there is always something to hijack, someone to murder, or something to blow up. Missions are plentiful, but just messing around (which is essential to move the story along) can take up most of your time. I can’t even count the amount of times where I would have a set destination, only to get sidetracked by the nearest military base just begging for me to rain down a symphony of rockets and mayhem. This is gaming A.D.D. at its finest.
Improvising on the fly always has its thrills, but if you plan to plot out what you want to do, a weapons and vehicle delivery system is always in reach. Sometimes I’d call in a jet to reach my destination and dive out at the last second, leaving the pilot-less aircraft as a missile (although the flight controls leave something to be desired). Once in a while I’d grab a gattling gun and destroy anything that did or didn’t move. Waltzing into a stronghold and just thinking of what I wanted to do made some of the game’s biggest moments stand out due to my creativity (or lack thereof). The endorphin rush from witnessing explosions that I had caused was similar to the fuzzy feeling found in the best parts of Red Faction: Guerilla, another game with a “destroy everything” mentality. I loved this free-form method of destruction because of near overwhelming amount of choices at my doorstep.
The urge to shoot everything that is huge and red (read: something explosive) can lead to your demise. Not because of danger close, but because every soldier, plane, helicopter, chicken, and dog is always laser-focused at shooting you. A game with such core values of blowing stuff up can feel hampered at times because of how easily death comes or how stressful the race to refill your health can be. I couldn’t always go on rampages as much as I wanted (read: all the damn time) because I was always looking for ammo (which is surprisingly limited) or health packs. Staying in the open too long almost always leads to a dead Scorpio, which can kill the buzz achieved from blowing up every oil tanker in sight. Enemies spawn almost endlessly too, so the heat is always on your back. I wanted to switch to easy difficulty just to relieve some of the stress, but besides from starting over, I wasn’t given any option to do so.
Just Cause 2 makes the smart, contrarian choice of putting fun and over-the-top-ness at its forefront. I can envision the designers thinking of the most insane stunts and making them possible during gameplay all while making everything gloriously explode around you. This extends to the plot, although with significantly weaker results but story in a game like this doesn’t really matter. Do you really need a reason to destroy everything have a ball doing it? No, and Just Cause 2 is a shining example of that.
+Expansive, rich open world
+Traversal is a complete joy
+Large list of objectives to do
+Choosing how to do things is open and fun
+Ridiculous reality-breaking stunts induce awe
-Death comes pretty easily and ammo can be scarce
-Flight controls are awkward
-Story presentation and content is bad
Final Score: 8.5/10