I’m Playing…Just Cause 2
It’s new series time!
Starting now, I’ll start writing about the games I’m playing and what I think of them. Unfortunately for you, I’ll only write when I start playing a new game or I have a major change of opinion about the game I’m playing.
I know. It’s hard to wait for a new article. But you’ll survive.
At this year’s E3, Sony offered 487,326 free games (slight exaggeration), including Just Cause 2. And over 50 hours later, I have formed an opinion about the game.
After dozens of hours, hundreds of locations explored and liberated, and many unique weapons and vehicles used, I’m getting bored.
Let me give you some context.
Just Cause 2 stars a CIA agent who has been flown into the relatively small Pacific island nation Panau. Rico Rodriguez (OMG! A non-white hero?!) uses his grappling hook and magically refilling parachutes to discover and stop his former mentor Tom Sheldon.
Once Rodriguez arrives, he finds that the puppet government of Panau has started attacking all Westerners. Fortunately, three terrorist groups are working to stop the government, and if Rodriguez can work with them, he can find the information he needs to liberate the people of Panau from all threats, foreign and domestic.
In order to progress the plot, the player must cause Chaos, a gameplay element in which players destroy parts of the environment to weaken the Panauan influence in over 350 locations, including military bases, docks, airports, cities, and towns. Whether destroying fuel tanks, broadcasting towers, or surface-to-air missile launchers, players must build Chaos in order to open new stories or faction missions.
When I play open-world games like this, I tend to explore all open areas before progressing the story. Unlike other games, like Grand Theft Auto or Red Faction: Guerrilla, Just Cause 2‘s world is open from the beginning, and players can dominate the entire island. This becomes a problem for me, as I want to liberate every location before progressing the story. So, over 50 hours later, and I’ve only completed three story missions.
The game features three terrorist factions: The Ular Boys (an anti-West religious group using drugs and religion to dominate people), the Reapers (a Communist group trying to destroy capitalism and build military dominance), and the Roaches (a gang of mafia-styled drug dealers trying to remove government regulations). Each faction can dominate three locations, which open new missions, races, and collectibles. But while playing, I can’t help like feeling that every time I progress the story through the factions, I am creating a future Taliban for the island of Panau.
Sure, Baby Panay (the president of Panau) is a dictator who rules his people with an iron fist, but at least the people are allowed to carry on with their miserable lives without much interference. Then, Rico Rodriguez comes in with his CIA technology and the three factions start blowing up cities and towns throughout the island. It’s almost like the CIA is a government-sponsored terrorist training program…
The island of Panau offers plenty to see and do, with snow-capped mountains, tropical beaches, deserts, and rain forests. And in every location, bases and towns reflect the environment. Even the challenges (which are always races) pull from the environment to test the player’s ability to pilot a plane, drive a car or boat, or sky dive.
And while liberating these varied locations, part of the Chaos builds when the player collects power ups and faction items. The power ups allow players to upgrade weapons and vehicles, and the faction items are, um, shiny. Relatively weak weapons at the beginning of the game become one-shot death machines very quickly. But if buying weapons isn’t your thing, most bases come equipped with a rail gun with full power and infinite ammo. Destroying military targets becomes a breeze as you lurk through bases with the death machine.
But unless you play the story missions with some level of regularity, all of this becomes repetitive and boring after so many hours. While the story offers several twists and turns and weaves a tale similar to an episode of Burn Notice, when a player becomes bored with the world, no amount of awesome narrative can pull him back in.
I love this game, and I recommend it for patient players, but the same things that draw me to the game are also the elements that ruin it. If there were a way to improve this game, it would be to close certain areas until the player progresses the story enough. Because of my open-world game habit, every time I complete a story mission, I want to complete all side elements that are available before moving on.
And completing all the side elements would be to complete the game minus the story. I’ve only liberated half of the areas in the game, and there are still three strongholds to take over. But I don’t think I can do it. It’s just too much of the same at this point.