Just Cause 2
I can’t stop playing this game and here’s why:
IT’S FUN! This needs to be said because there are too many games I’ve played that weren’t very fun (listen up Resident Evil series, I’m talking about you). The development team behind JC2 understood what makes a game fun and they wanted to share that with the players lucky enough not to be too soured off by the first mediocre game.
Here’s my quick bullet point “fun” list:
*GRAPPLING HOOK – For speedy zip lining, object towing, attaching things to other things (say, attaching enemy jeeps to a tree), or just transportation in conjunction with your always available parachute. This device adds a wonderful puzzle-like element to what would otherwise be just another dull combat shooter.
*SANDBOX + ME = 🙂 BIG SANDBOX WORLD + ME = 🙂 🙂 🙂 :)! Sandbox games have a free-form design where you can go where you want and do what you want without being pushed into a linear narrative, giving you the freedom of choosing how you want to play the game. If it’s one thing I like, it’s freedom. I like it in my country, I like it in my choice of cereals, and I love it in my video games! JC2 has one of the biggest sandboxes I have ever played in (400 square miles!!!) and it’s filled with tons of my favorite toys.
*PACING – Never a dull moment, unless of course, that’s what you want. One moment I’m sneaking around a military base blowing up key installations, 30 seconds later I’m trying to fly my newly acquired Harrier-style jet under a bridge full throttle. Even in the unexpected event of a water crash landing, there is always a passing boat I can procure for the greater good (meaning myself and whatever wants I may have.)
*TRANSPORTATION DONE RIGHT – You could say the scale and speed at which the various methods used to get around the island are unrealistic, but I’d say you missed the point entirely and stop interrupting me. It’s fast, easy and fun to get from one point to another. Whether you want to go by motorcycle, car, boat, airplane, jet, helicopter, truck, monster truck, tuk tuk boom boom, or just grapple parachute, you will travel great distances with ease. Finding yourself car-less doesn’t mean hoofing it 30 minutes to the nearest village. With over 300 populated points of interest there’s always another city just over the hill. You can also order a car, jet, boat, helicopter, whatever, from a menu and have it delivered right into your hands. Or if you are too impatient to wait 15 seconds and you demand instant gratification, you can be ported to any city you have previously discovered. Saving travel time leads to more time spent blowing stuff up!
*BLOWING STUFF UP! – Stuff blows up really well! The smooth integration of a strong physics engine mixed with decent-to-really-high-quality graphics means you will get to see some beautiful explosions. Since that is one of the main things you do, I’m glad to say, you will get to see A LOT OF THEM!
I might get bored some day and play something else because:
*STORY – (contains some spoilers) The story is forgettable at best. Uncle Sam hires you to “Cause Chaos” on this poor little extremely well-defended island (Panau) run by an insane-with-power dictator, Pandak “Baby” Panay. Chaos is caused by destroying military installations, oil refineries, radio towers, propaganda stations, etc, which undermines the dictator’s ability to govern his country, making the people restless and angry towards their leader. It would be nice to be able to see the people actually lose trust in their leader but you’ll have to take their word that they’re upset. Early in the story there was some tie-in mention of a previous friend (probably from the first game. Who played the first game? Be honest now.) who has now betrayed you and you need to hunt him down. This potentially interesting plot point quickly passes by without so much as a puff and he’s suddenly your ally again. Along the way to bringing down “Baby” you occasionally help out 3 separate factions vying for their own portion of the island to control in the form of side quests. (spoilers) The main story resolution comes down to a Big Oil scheme and our protagonist burns up all the oil (sorry about giving away the ending but it really doesn’t impact the fun you’ll have) and he proudly proclaims: “I hate oil!” I’m not going to get all preachy on my blog about anything but video games so I’ll just say: people need oil, and this was stupid.
* SUPPORTING CAST – Cast members can give so much color and life to a franchise; just look at the Simpsons. The 2 dimensional characters in JC2 merely serve as an annoyance. I found myself skipping the cut scenes between missions just so I wouldn’t have to hear them speak. But the worst are the three faction leaders the player must ally with in order to progress towards each of of the 7 main missions. There’s the Roaches, led by a fat, bald, capitalist, drug dealing business man who wants the dictator to loosen his restrictions on importing and exporting. I’m sure whatever restrictions placed on this man are there for a good reason. The nature-loving Ular Boys tribe leader is the most annoying. He finishes all his sentences with the word “Ular”. “There are weapons in the crate if you need them, Ular!”, “Tonight we will celebrate, Ular!”, “These are my Ular boys, Ular!” It was kind of like working for a big, dirty smurf I wanted to strangle. The third, the Reavers, led by a communist woman who wants to spread socialism through the country. She is the least annoying, but politically, I just can’t feel any of these are what they meant by a “just cause”.
*NEEDS MORE VARIETY – What JC2 does, it does well. But with a sandbox game this big it would be nice to see a little more variety. Sure, you have stuff to blow up, hundreds of objects to find, tons of races, but it would be nice to have some mini-games thrown in. For instance, there’s a huge twin-towered casino, but without any games to play inside, its just another meaningless building. The races are a great addition but without any competitors or a leader board there’s no real incentive to try to get the best time possible (the point of racing), and certainly no reason to ever do them twice. It could have been a simple addition to include a leader board of your friends’ accomplishments and times to motivate you to get a better time.
*MULTIPLAYER – It would have been nice to share this sandbox with a buddy. Conceivably, this game could have shipped with co-op missions, race challenges, even competitive play. Could have, but didn’t. I’m sure the developers weighed the cost, and time, of adding multiplayer components but it would have been nice.
*CONSOLE GAME FIRST – This refers to its core development being designed for a game console first (X-Box 360, PS3) and then the game was later converted for play on the PC. If a developer wants to reach as many players as possible they usually start with the hardware specs of the lowest common denominator first; then they can add the features they want for the higher end, hardware-demanding, gaming PCs later. This is an easy way for publishers and developers to make more money, attract more attention, reach more players, but it comes with a cost. Usually the changes are nothing more than mouse and keyboard support (duh), barely noticeable graphical enhancements, and better resolution capabilities (since PC monitors have better resolutions than 1080p HDTVs can offer). The problems come from limitations in game design since it was originally designed and developed for an older system with fixed hardware specs. The menu system and user interface is usually frustrating, along with the in-game control scheme due to sloppy porting from a controller interface to a mouse and keyboard. Many other complaints can be levied in the direction of console to PC ports (some other time maybe?) but I’m happy to say the team behind JC2 did a rather decent job of porting its masterpiece to the PC as there are some major visual upgrades for PC players and the usual negative complaints associated with console ports are negligible. But to imagine the potential for a game like JC2 as a true PC game… truly it could unite the world in peace.
Some people might say the Sistine Chapel needs a churro stand. Sure it might improve their visit and overall experience, but the rest of us will be too busy looking up admiring the incredible work of inspired artists. Despite the few things it lacks, JC2 comes out well ahead and makes a superb single player experience. The resources required to address these relatively small complaints would have taken away from any effort better spent on improving the core game experience, fully realizing the developer’s designs of a true masterpiece of fun.
Hail to Avalanche studios, developers of JC2! I eagerly await JC3!
(Edit) This just in: The devs of JC2 are working on a multiplayer mod! Way to support your game!