“It’s like the most retarded action movie ever made,” said the message Dobry left me. “It is totally awesome. Good call, dude.” Earlier that day he’d called from Best Buy, laden with gift cards and a screaming toddler, asking what he should get. “Just Cause 2,” I said. “Are you sure?” he replied dubiously. “It’s basically… running around and blowing shit up, right?”
Anyway, I got the impression that he wasn’t going to buy anything, but then later he left me that message.
The reason he left me a message was because I saw it was him and didn’t answer. I was screening. Only one person would have gotten an answer from me: my brother Marcus, who bought me a copy of Just Cause 2 over Steam on Friday because he knew I’d suffered an injury recently and he was worried. Wanted me to know he was thinking about me. Just the kind of guy he is.
But the reason I was screening – I normally answer the phone – was because I was playing Just Cause 2, and a telephone call would have interrupted that. In fact I seriously considered ignoring the phone if Marcus called, but I really owed him a thank you and pausing the game he got me to talk to him seemed only fair. But he didn’t call, Dobry called, and I didn’t want to talk to Dobry. I was playing Just Cause 2.
A lot of people (including myself) missed out on the first Just Cause, a silly open-world action fiesta in which you basically run around and blow shit up. It got fine reviews and was generally well-received, allowing Avalanche Studios to continue operation and begin work on a couple other games. Just Cause 2, meanwhile, shipped in a small lull – the craziness of March has given way to the relative quiet of April, and for those of us who don’t care about God of War it’s a good time for a new game. And what a game it is.
In Just Cause 2, you basically run around and blow shit up. As agent Rico Rodriguez, who represents a hybrid of James Bond, Zorro, and John Rambo, you’re tasked with knocking over foreign dictatorships for The Agency. The tiny island nation of Panau is one such place. Rico’s mentor was there recently, and has gone silent – or maybe rogue – so in you parachute to see what’s what.
A stunningly beautiful open world; a gamespace easily twice as large as Morrowind’s; lavish attention to destructive physics and insanely over-the-top action; what’s not to like? This game is so unapologetic in its ridiculosity that you have to love it. I mean seriously, at one point I jumped out of a burning helicopter, popped open my parachute, swung around, used my magnetic grappler to snatch an earthbound soldier who was shooting up at me, attached the other end of the grapple to another helicopter (which flew off, dragging the screaming soldier with it), dropped a couple grenades down onto a gas station I happened to be floating over, which exploded – the resulting fiery updraft launching my parachuting self higher into the air – popped my parachute closed, free fell about five hundred feet, steering until I was over a sparkling blue bay, popped the chute open again, caught sight of a motorboat, used my grappler to attach to the back of it, and parasailed my way to safety as the speedboat made dock at a resort marina on the other side of the bay.
Two words, my friends: FUCK YEAH.
Imagine Crackdown, plus Red Faction Guerilla, plus Prototype, plus Batman: Arkham Asylum. Plus Far Cry 2, if Far Cry 2 didn’t suck, but it did, so forget that.
There are some complaints I can level at Just Cause 2, but they’re pretty minor: the game is clearly designed with controller play at the fore; even with my XR97 Super Lasertronic Hypermouse I was unable to conveniently map every button and key. As I play I can’t help but sense how much more natural it would feel with a controller. BUT – in exchange for you’ll-get-used-to-the-controls controls, I get 1680×1050 resolution with full SSAO (I don’t know what that is, but I want it) and a draw distance you wouldn’t believe.
Also, the game’s insistence on saving at checkpoints is annoying – especially given that when you reload, the checkpoint it returns you to isn’t always in the same physical location as the one you saved at. This is disorienting. Similarly, the lack of an explicit current-missions log (or, at least, I haven’t found one) makes it confusing when you reload and feel like you should be doing something but can’t remember what.
There’s a lot to this game, and I sense that I’ve discovered less than 1% of it. But in my first four hours of play, my philosophy is this: if loving the most retarded action movie ever is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.
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