Just Cause 2 Review — Link Wishes He Could Hookshot Like This

I demand the new Zelda game be allowed to use the hookshot to break 1000-feet falls.

In my relentless effort to catch up on the video game scene by completing past games whilst playing present-day ones that interest me, there are two games (out of more, of course) coming out this year that have caught my interest. One of them is the Mad Max movie tie-in, which is being developed by Avalanche Studio so it has a good lead over most tie-in games, and the other is Just Cause 3, the sequel to Avalanche Studio’s last AAA game before they faded into downloadable stuff. However, my hype would have more grounding if I’ve actually, y’know, played any of their games?

Despite owning it for almost two years now, I never actually played Just Cause 2 because Macbooks aren’t exactly great for shooter action and I wasn’t going to double-dip for the PS3 version. But now I’ve got a working PC and barely more than a week (now not even a day) before Mad Max: The Game and Mad Max: The Movie are both available for purchase, so I burned through the game as fast as I could in order to review it for the blog and be more prepared for the awesomeness that is to come. Unless the Mad Max game turns out to be shit, in which case I’ll just try to plow through Arkham Knight or something.

Just Cause 2 is the much improved sequel to the mixed first installment that I never played and follows the adventures of Agency operative Rico Rodriguez, a man who was apparently hired due to his ability to solve missions by breaking the laws of physics whenever it’s convenient for him to the point that he might as well have been a character from Guilty Crown. With his ability to conveniently pull out an unlimited number of parachutes literally from his ass and a momentum-cancelling hookshot that can break giant falls by latching onto the ground and slamming him into it slightly faster, the only way Rico could be more of a game breaker is if he had the ability to reflect bullets and sprint up mountains. Said quality skills are put to the test when he is sent to the fictional island of Panau in order to kill the ruler and track down his mentor, who is suspected to have gone rogue. And how exactly does he accomplish this task once he arrives? By blowing shit up.

No seriously, that’s pretty much the entire purpose of this game. Blow shit up. There are only like seven story missions, but in order to access them, you have to get the attention of the people you’re trying to hunt. And the best way to do so is to blow shit up. Then after you have access to the story missions, you beat them by blowing shit up. It’s like if Michael Bay was channeling Kill la Kill by using his most famous of fetishes as a crutch to hold up the fun.

Of course, just like Kill la Kill, just because Just Cause 2 is using “constant fun” as a crutch doesn’t mean it doesn’t get tiresome after a while. Okay, it didn’t help that I was plowing through an entire weekend trying to finish the game so I could review it without having to sacrifice time marathoning Community, but the game tries to be a little too epic in regards to its fun. Most egregious is the sandbox setting, which is ungodly big, and you can only fast-travel to locations you’ve already been to with a good chunk of said locations being on remote islands and tall mountains that are populated by soldiers who will shoot you on site. You can hijack a vehicle to travel quicker of course, but the driving physics are absolutely broken and too often I ended up dying mid-travel by crashing a motorcycle into a tiny pole or flying a helicopter too close to a anti-air missile system. And that’s assuming they’re around and I’m not stranded in the middle of a mountain with nothing but my hookshot to propel me up.

It is possible to buy vehicles and have them transported to you, but they’re pretty expensive and you’re not going to use them more than once, especially not the flying ones since landing a plane without causing it to explode (and pretty much every situation where it would be more beneficial to not cause an explosion) is one of the few things Rico is not good at. So you’re better off carjacking innocent citizens and saving your money for weapons, and trust me when I say that comes with its own downsides as well. Outside of missions, which always begins with a gang leader giving you a weapon that will most likely benefit you, weapons are hard to get hold of and your only constant supply of them is through contacting a black markets dealer whose voice actor sounds like a failed country singer. But you can only buy one thing at a time, so be prepared to put the game on mute the instant you hit that purchase button.

Don’t get me wrong. The traveling is fun, especially when you’re flying an attack helicopter to a military base and shooting guards who try to shotgun blast your vehicle out of the sky. It’s just a bit too bloated what with the long distances and the fact that by fast travel, I mean contacting said black market dealer – seriously, I hope you’re good at developing trigger fingers – and having him drop you off from really high, adding twenty more seconds to the destination reaching assuming you land correctly. You’ll have to get really good with combining your hookshot and parachutes to make the most of the game, and if you can’t be assed, Just Cause 2 just isn’t for you.

As for the combat, it’s pretty damn broken on the normal difficulty. I could hit snipers from far away with a mere pistol that was pointing a little too much to the right, or I could just hookshot them and cause them to fall thirty stories. The bosses have unrealistic amounts of health that can absorb so much machine gun damage you’d think they were fucking Replicants, but otherwise they’re pathetically easy to beat. There was one leader who tries to attack you with a satellite missile system whilst standing on the same narrow rooftop as you, and when he came up, I just hookshotted myself to the side of the building and ate some chicken whilst watching the jackass realize firsthand how impractical his fighting style was.

Of course, I was sort of handicapped by the system I was playing on. I used my PS3 controller to play the game, but I had to adjust the virtual controller settings to Xbox 360 in order to play the thing. This meant I couldn’t instantly press the correct buttons in order to defuse a bomb or hijack an armored vehicle shooting at me as quickly as the game wanted me to because remembering that “X” equals “square” at a moment’s notice is kind of beneath the functionalities of my nervous system.

Some of the missions are kind of cheap and unbalanced even without that handicap though. Sniping a guy from a hill gives you the same reward as destroying a base, stealing liquified nerve gas, and transporting it to the city before the warm temperature spoils it. And sometimes on missions, two guys with rocket launchers will spawn out of nowhere to turn Rico into a physics-defying ragdoll. Not to mention, remember when I said you have to blow shit up in order to progress through the story? I was sort of understating things, because you have to complete alot of missions and blow up alot of shit in order to achieve the next agency mission that will actually allow you to progress things – which means lots of traveling and lots of used-up ammo. You can just imagine my reaction when I finally beat the game and it told me that I had only completed 29% of what you can accomplish through explosions whilst giving me free reign to achieve 100% if I so desired. Yeah, not even Koreans would want to get that from you, game. So what makes you think I would?

But Just Cause 2 has one more similarity to Kill la Kill that’s important and it’s the fact that I like it. It’s pure exploitative camp with enough social commentary put in to elevate the story into something not throwaway without getting in the way of the fun despite the shitty writing and dialogue – trust me when I say the way everything concludes is hilariously brilliant. And once I shake off some of the excess adrenaline and get to a point in my life when I’m not in the mood to look for something new, I’d be all for going back to the game and playing a few more missions and causing a few more explosions just for the heck of it. The gameplay isn’t very challenging, brokenness of the vehicle physics aside, and the AI is incredibly stupid whether they’re on your side or not, but fuck those complaints. It’s a game where you can hookshot a jetplane, attach the other end to an enemy soldier, and watch them get swept into the sky whilst you play target practice with one hand and eat a roast pig with the other.

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