Meet Rico Rodriguez. He works for the “Agency”, blows up bad guys with all sorts of guns and explosives. He likes planes, helicopters, fast cars, tanks, boats and above all parachuting and grappling with a hook. Rico is an old style good guy, the kind they don’t make no more: no angst, no emotional baggage, no wishy washy attitude. Just Cause 2 is refreshingly straightforward like a good B flick you can enjoy with soda pops, pizzas and chicken wings. Your mission is to get rid of Baby Panay, the ruthless dictator of the Southeast Asian Island of Panau. Yeah, Rico Rodriguez is an old style James Bond cum Dirty Harry, the kind that does not look constipated or in need of psychoanalysis. You can tell the designers of Just Cause 2 are Scandinavians, Rico can shrug off a bad day like a Swede.
Playability: Parachute in a light breeze
Just Cause 2 is more than a gun ’em down, blow ’em up shooter. Sure, there is inevitably a lot of screaming and explosions, but they never look too serious. The physics of the game are downright unbelievable, and justly unbelievably entertaining. Rico has a hook and a parachute which come in very handy to move around, and not just for jumping from fast planes, choppers, boats, tuk-tuks or zeppelins… Aim the hook a few dozen yards from you, roll it and pop open the parachute, and you’ll quickly gain speed and altitude: no need to waste time running around! Anything is possible, from climbing impassable mountain ranges, to hijacking a wide variety of vehicles. The amazing thing is how easy the hook ‘n grapple routine is. Even less adroit old video gamers will soon feel rejuvenated by the seemingly impossible feats of Rico.
Annoyance: Apple pie
On casual mode, Just Cause 2 is easily accessible to old hands. Some of the missions are quite long though, and it is not possible to save: if you die, you go back to a checkpoint that could be quite a few explosions and dead enemies away. Other than that, Rico is a likable good guy who does the right thing without asking himself too many questions.
Beauty: Gorgeous scapes
Rico Rodriguez is not the best looking guy around. Fair enough, he’s so beat up and scarred up, he’s not in it for a beauty contest. I’m not sure Rico is good with the ladies either: his innuendos are about as subtle as a big bazooka… Strangely enough, the characters in Just Cause 2 are not very pretty, not even the ladies. But the landscapes are gorgeous, and between two explosions and a headshot, you’ll marvel at the beaches, fjords, snowy mountains, rainforests, deserts, Angkor-style ruins, and other natural and man made wonders. Dive into the water and you’ll be swimming with fishes and coral reefs… The Island of Panau is a hodgepodge of Southeast Asian nations. If you’ve been to that part of the world, you’ll gladly recognize Khmer temples, Malay names, Thai script, and bits and pieces of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore with (unfortunately) a relatively realistic local dictatorship.
The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: A blast 9/10
Just Cause 2 is loads of fun, a visual feast and a physical programming achievement. Although I would have enjoyed a longer main storyline, there are countless side missions and a lot to discover (and blow up) on the exotic Island of Panau. The no nonsense no angst approach to being the hero of an action blockbuster is quite refreshing in this day and age of impending gloom and doom.