By Duncan Voice
I’ve been sitting on the fence about Just Cause 2 for so long now, I may need to visit a doctor to get the splinters removed from my rear end. I can’t decide if it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a game, or if it’s the most frustrating. There is one thing however that’s certain, and it’s borderline offensive…
It has to be some kind of industry joke, or a bet between developers Avalanche and publishers Square Enix. I mean it has to be, right?. You see, the voice acting is genuinely appalling. I apologise for effectively opening the review with it, but I feel like I’m developing an ear infection every time I hear faction leader Bolo Santosi flirt with our protagonist Rico in some bizarre tongue that’s a third European, a third Caribbean and a third I have no idea with a bit of pirate thrown in for good measure. "Ricoooooo, yoooo are da Scworpiun, no?". The actress, who must be very proud, is a British citizen who grew up in Singapore. I don’t know why that matters. It’s genuinely off-putting, I’ve never cringed so much.
On the other side of the audio/visual coin, it looks sublime. It’s often cited as the gaming equivalent of going on holiday and it’s easy to see why. Avalanche have taken on criticism of its previous island. Panau has stunning jungles, mountain ranges, cities and lush beaches. It’s ginormous, with around 400 square miles of beautiful scenery to mess around in. However, it’s almost too big. More often than not you need to get to the other side of the island, and even in a helicopter you could probably make yourself a cuppa in the time it takes to get there. A taxi system will drop you off to any previously discovered location, providing you remember where it is, as the game inexplicably removes all text from the map.
The storyline, just like the acting, is awful. Thankfully the game forces you to make your own fun before you can carry it on, by building up a chaos meter. Cause enough chaos and you can unlock black market weapons (which are very overpriced, and seem contradictory to the fun – I want to blow up everything with a rocket launcher, not count the pennies so I can afford it), storyline missions, and new strongholds which all follow the same template of escorting a technician into the base, getting on a mounted gun at the end and letting rip.
Causing chaos is limited by your imagination. I’m particularly fond of stealing a passenger jet, aiming towards a fuel silo and making a leap of faith at the last second. You may have caught the ‘anatomy of a stunt’ videos pre-release. If not I suggest looking them up for an idea of what you can achieve. The grimacing Mexican Rico has a grappling hook and a magically retracting parachute which cause genuine laugh-out-loud moments frequently. During a car chase I attached my pursuer to the side of a bridge, and watched his vehicle go flying over the edge once the tether had run out of slack. Jump out of a plane and just let the parachute do it’s business. It’s one of the most serene moments in gaming, and is a quite poignant contrast against the rest of the game.
There is plenty to do, with 100% completion a seemingly impossible task. The combat however, is truly dire. Sticky targeting is lost in favour of twin-stick shooting, but re-spawning enemies make most missions a pain in the rear. I’m an advocate for a challenge as much as anyone, but if you do take the plunge, do yourself a favour and use casual difficulty. Even on normal difficulty, your health will last a few seconds and enemies are capable of headshots from quite a considerable distance. Tethering enemies mid-battle just isn’t an option, and missions can quickly descend into frustration. There is a quite considerable clipping error too: even if you have a clean shot just past an obstacle, you can be sure your bullets will just hit the wall. Really not acceptable for such a high profile release.
You almost get the feeling that Avalanche have made this incredible island, ran out of time and hoped no one would notice the mess of a combat system that they tacked onto it. Whilst flying planes around, causing chaos and base jumping is great fun, the actual ‘game’ aspect of it really leaves a lot to be desired.
It would just about scrape a 4 OUT OF 10 based on the actual gameplay, but there is more to it than that, thankfully.
I implore you to try the demo, build up a resistance to the frustrating gunplay and then buy some ear plugs if you do decide to purchase to what effectively amounts to a £40 virtual playground.
7 OUT OF 10 Barely. Why? Just ’cause.