Once you get past the tutorial missions and Just Cause 2 lightens up to daytime then everything changes. Somehow, what was at the start a tiresome case of shooting indentikit soldiers one by one suddenly becomes a car-surfing, grappling hook extravaganza that would make Michael Bay quiver and perspire with satisfaction.
It’s all a bit of a blur, but within a few minutes of exploring you find yourself shooting the tyres out on pursuing police cars, sending them tumbling crazily through the air like ladybugs in a tombola. Or tying motorbikes together and watching them collide. Or opening your parachute while standing atop a speeding sports car, spraying lead down on enemies before gracefully floating back into the driving seat.
Then, since you’ve learned how to do all that in such a short amount of proper playtime, you start wondering…what else can you do?
It’s that single thought which makes Just Cause 2 so much fun to play. It’s what drives you through what it otherwise actually quite a shoddy shooter. When you actually stop to play it properly, focusing on ground-combat and completing missions then it quickly gets repetitive – but if you do that then you’re blatantly missing the point.
The main tools at your disposal for messing around in Panau are the previously-mentioned parachutes (you carry an infinite supply) and grappling hook, which you can use both to zipline yourself around and also to tie things together. Both ideas are as ludicrous as the rest of the game, but work brilliantly aside from a few exceptions. You can’t stretch a clothesline across a road to dismount motorbikers, for example, as people will pass straight through the cable.
The rest of Rico’s arsenal is made up of the usual selection of guns and explosives, each of which can be upgraded and purchased via a black market dealer who also supplies vehicles and fast-travel for a fee. Weapons are universally underpowered at the beginning and you’re at first limited to carrying a paltry amount of ammo, so it’s a good idea to collect as many weapon parts as possible at the start. Then you can plough them all into the black market and give yourself an assault rifle that can bring down ‘copters with ease. Parts aren’t hard to come by luckily; munitions and money seem to be Panau’s natural bounty.
You can grapple up anything
Eventually though it’s inevitable that you’ll tire of Just Cause 2’s sandbox and will want to stick your teeth into some objective-based adventure – which is where things start to noticeably falter. There’s no shortage of missions to be had, with various criminal factions to work with in your attempt to sow chaos through the country and numerous races for those who want to keep their hands clean, but things get repetitive either way.
There are three basic types of mission to be had; Standard, Stronghold and Agency. Standard jobs are the filler, where a revolutionary or criminal group ask you to go kill someone or blow something up – there’s an impressive variety of reasons handed out, but that’s all it ever really amounts to. Some of them are dazzlingly good fun, but the majority feel like re-labelled copies from elsewhere in the genre.
Do enough of them though and you can unlock a Stronghold quest, where you have to take over a military base for a particular faction. It’s a much bigger job, but they are without exception boring escort and defence missions. Protect the technician, clear the way, kill the boss with a minigun, rinse, repeat. It’s not an especially exciting structure and it’s further weakened by the fact that guns usually feel about as effective as spitting at the soldiers in the hopes of drowning them.