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April 3, 2010
Just Cause 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
1/4/2010Namco BandaiSquare-EnixAvalanche Studios1None
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Plummeting back to earth in Just Cause 2!
Back in September 2006 an open-world action game called Just Cause was released and received middling reviews (Michael Hutchesson game the PS2 version 64% on Futuregamez) but managed to sell over a million copies - with the much more impressive PC and XBox 360 versions scoring significantly higher. Sadly, there was never a PS3 port released so millions of gamers just about to move to next-gen Sony consoles (the PS3 launched in November 2006 remember) missed out. Now, four years on, a sequel is here and it is available on the PS3, and includes a swag of improvements across the board. This is not only a much better game, but one which all gamers should take a look at - it's a blast.

Just Cause 2 sees Rico 'The Scorpion' Rodriguez, the Agency's most powerful weapon, return and this time sent to Panau to take on the island and its military regime and track down Rico's former boss and mentor, Tom Sheldon, who has gone rogue in Panau with millions in Agency cash and secrets.

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Using the grappling hook to hang around.
If you played the first game then you'll fit right in here, and likewise if you've played any third person action games (including Grand Theft Auto) then you won't have a hard time adjusting to the mechanics here. Rico can carry a couple of handguns as well as a two handed weapon such as Sniper Rifle or Machine Gun as well as some Frag Grenades and Timed Explosives (Which aren't really timed, but rather remote detonated). The aiming system is pretty good, and works well on the Dual Shock 3 controller. When you're in the general vicinity of an enemy the target will change to red so you can start shooting away and likely hit the target. You can though, be more precise and aim for headshots or different parts of the body if you desire.

Controlling Rico is super slick with the analogue sticks used to move him, and the targeting reticule around while the D-pad is used to select between weapons and explosives. Vehicles are pretty slick they can feel a little floaty while the helicopters seem to move around a little slower then we would have liked - fighter jets though will scream across the landscape.

After an hour or two in the game a Black Market dealer will become available to you. Of course it's possible to pick up weapons or ammunition dropped by enemies, or use vehicles littered around the world, but the Black Market Dealer gives you the option to get weapons or vehicles, for a price, instantly including higher powered or rarer items. Furthermore you can upgrade weapons or vehicles through the Black Market dealer. Almost certainly his most useful, well, use is that to transport you to any discovered location on the map. It was a little annoying that you had to discover the locations before you could be transported there (why can't he drop you off anywhere on the map?) but it certainly cuts down on travel time.

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Turning the enemy into a projectile!
So what makes this game so unique, so special? Well besides the massive open world to explore, in which you can go anywhere at any time including locating, exploring and clearing out over 350 locations on the map be they military bases, large cities, oil rigs, airports, small villages or any other facilities, there's the dual grappling hook. Rico can use this to attach himself to almost any object in the game world and winch himself in towards that object. If you want to hijack a car or helicopter, grapple yourself towards it, press triangle and after a quick fight with the driver it's yours. But that's the tip of the iceberg. See an enemy in a security tower, hit him with the grappling hook, and then yank him out of the tower until he plumets to the ground below. It only gets better from there though. It's also possible to attach the grapple to an enemy soldier and then a gas tank. Shoot the tank and it will take off dragging the enemy soldier behind it until it explodes. Hilarious. There are so many similarly amusing moments.

Another big feature is the Rico has an everlasting supply of parachutes. Sure you can use these when you jumping out of some form of aircraft, or if the Black Market dealer drops you off at a location. More importantly you can deploy your parachute while driving a vehicle or using the grappling hook which will propel you into the air so you can survey the land, or attack from above. Of course you can also base jump of mountains, bridges, or skyscrapers and it will become just as valuable as the grappling hook.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of Just Cause 2 is the ability to sit through a lengthy gaming session or just pick up and play for a few minutes. If you only have a few minutes can jump into the game - which is pretty quick with the loading we might add - and clear out a village or two in your spare time. The problem is that the game is so much fun that putting the controller down after a few minutes may be a challenge in itself. Oh, one final thing, you can capture video to Youtube to show off your best moments to the world - very cool.

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Use the grappling hook to catch a plane.
So what issues do we have with the game? First of all we found that we were dying too often. Enemies have some pretty damn good aiming abilities - and the shotgun seems to have an effective range of 50 meters - and you'll spend a bit of time resetting back to you nearest Stronghold which sucks. Another issue is that the grappling hook camera sometimes goes a little off requiring manual movement too often. Also when you call in the Black Market dealer you get an annoying animation as his chopper comes in to your location - you can skip it by hitting X, but it would be nice if it didn't even load to start with. At various points in the game you can rip a mounted minigun which spews out massive amounts of bullets and damage. It does slow Rico down considerably when moving around, and he can't pick up items while he's carrying the minigun which is fair enough but I wasn't keen that you then have an unlimited number of bullets making this by far the best way to clear out an enemy base.

Another of the biggest disappointments is that there is no multi-player in the game. Certainly having dozens of players running around the entire map would be a dream, but we'll have to wait for next-gen for that. The developers could, however, have created separate multi-player maps for some online gameplay. It may not have added to the single player experience, but it is something that gamers are coming to expect these days to add value and longevity to a title.

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Rico first a rocket outside the Casino.
So let's talk about graphics and developer Avalanche Studios really have to be commended for their efforts with this title which uses their own Avalanche Engine 2.0 to power the game. The final product really is astonishing with players having the ability to travel to any point on the massive map at any point in time with locations varying between lush jungles, to tropical islands, to rocky or snow-covered mountains. It's all here, but perhaps our favourite aspect is the gorgeous water which not only looks great, but when you look into the shallow water from a boat, or gliding over it with a plane or by parachute you can see objects such as rocks and plant life on the sea bed. So gorgeous.

In terms of negatives the biggest revolves around the cut-scenes with characters having an unnatural look to them while their animation looks a little rough too. Furthermore in almost every cut scene you can't actually see the face of character talking - no doubt to save time working on their lip movement. In the actual game world there are some occasional glitches and areas lacking total polish - textures can change sharply (for instance from dirt to snow on the ground) while the civilian characters tend to jump positions or disappear from time to time. Finally while the game generally holds a very good frame rate it does, on occasion, drop some frames in busier sequences.

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Explosions in Just Cause 2 are impressive.
Audio in the game has some real highs and lows. Starting with the disappointing the dialogue is absolutely horrendous in places. It sounds forced, it doesn't seem to have any real quality (or scriptwriting) but is almost so bad that it's good if that makes sense. Fortunately two other aspects of the audio make up for this in many ways. The first is the cracking music which sets the mood perfectly while the audio effects such as gunfire, explosions and vehicles also sound superb. Of course all this is provided through some very solid use of surround sound which helps locate enemy gunfire precisely.

There is one term that I can use to describe Just Cause 2 - FUN. Sure there are some deficiencies in the game here and there, but I defy almost anyone to find a game that offers more entertainment, exploratory thrills or explosions then this title. Avalanche Studios have a great game engine here too which is very slick. We certainly recommend this game to those that enjoy action games. What a blast...

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSAvalanche Studios really have a fantastic graphics engine here, some draw in and cut-scene characters look average, but impressive in terms of scope.
SOUNDThe music and effects are fantastic, the speech is the games weak point, but still passable.
GAMEPLAYCan we keep on telling you how much fun this game is? It really is tremendous with super slick gameplay too.
VALUEThere's a decent length storyline here, but it's the amount of exploration and side-missions that will have you playing for weeks. Sadly, no multi-player is present.
OVERALLWow! We were a little lukewarm going into Just Cause 2 but we've had so much fun, and it's such a lengthy game, that we can't help but recommend this game to all gamers that enjoy action games - and that should be almost everyone.

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