Just Cause 2 Reader Review
Some people just donít like to dither around, so Iíll get right to the point. Hereís a concise, yet surprisingly thorough, summary of Just Cause 2ís spiralling plot of toil, deceit and redemption:
Blah, blah, blah, evil dictator. Blah, blah, blah, gang wars. Blah, blah, blah, international crisis.
Now thatís out of the way, letís turn to the equally insightful synopsis of what Just Cause 2 has to offer in the gameplay department:
Boom, boom, boom, boom, crash, bang, wallop, terrified Hispanic scream.
A triumph of interactive storytelling and schema refreshing narrative, wouldnít you say? And thank goodness too; could you imagine what would happen if the gameís storyline wasnít such a deep, philosophical journey into the delicately woven fabric of the human psyche? Why, weíd probably end up with yet another mindless sandbox shooter with all the allure of a Labour Party conference at an OAP brothel in Luton.
And yet we donít. Not quite, anyway. Just Cause 2 may do for plot development what Ed Pickles does for low BMI maintenance, but its capacity for mindless tomfoolery and madcap frolicking does an almost unparalleled job of uncovering that all-too-guilty lust for gratuitous violence that ultimately hides itself away once we reach adulthood and gain a greater understanding of the social values and expectations du jour. Donít try to deny it; accept your true feelings. Youíve got a ruthless, sadistic streak waiting to emerge, and Just Cause 2 is just the avenue on which you need to unleash it before your pent-up frustration bursts out and culminates in a real-life urban rampage usually reserved for the intoxicated aftermath of an English football defeat.
In essence, what Iím saying is that the sooner you cast the lacklustre tale of Rico Rodriguez, Just Cause 2ís unashamedly one-dimensional protagonist, and his various escapades with gang leaders representing every racial stereotype outside the developed Capitalist world, the sooner you can have some good, old-fashioned, sociopathic fun.
And what fun it is. Not content to let you loose in the luscious, sprawling island of Panau with an almost unlimited level of freedom, the game makes the fulfilment of your wicked fantasies that much easier by providing you with a generous supply of firearms, vehicles and explosives, seeing you off with a small kiss and the ironic utterance of ďBe good. Donít do anything I wouldnít do.Ē
As long as that doesnít involve launching aeroplanes into petrol stations, hurling grenades into crowds of poverty-stricken civilians and strapping elderly men to my car before dragging their flailing bodies down the road, I think Iíve heeded such advice. I certainly canít have overstepped the line because, if I had, someone would surely have had a word with me. Instead, Just Cause 2 simply dishes out rewards in the form of an enhanced ďChaosĒ meter each time a hilarious atrocity is committed, and itís up to the player to fill up this meter in order to unlock additional missions that they probably wonít care to engage in anyway. Thankfully, the developers evidently anticipated such apathy, as demonstrated by their decision to grant the player access to the true marvel of sandbox capery that is Ricoís grappling hook, the flexible, highly accessible device that truly launches Just Cause 2 into the stratosphere of pulsating ludicrousness. Is a pursuing enemy vehicle giving you grief? No problem; just use your grappling hook to attach it to a nearby tree, sending its human contents hurtling through the air and into an untimely grave. Whatís that? You donít like the look of that middle-aged bystander over there? Why not see what happens when you strap him to the arms of a moving wind turbine? Youíre no longer needed, Greenpeace, because the most convincing argument in favour of wind power has now been realised.
Just Cause 2ís lack of memorable human characters need cause no concern either. The real star of the show is the island of Panau itself, with its varied and enormously open-ended landscape complemented superbly by the gameís beautiful graphics. Of course, those beautiful skylines and romantic vistas might as well mean nothing when youíre working so hard to lay waste to everything in sight, but I would disagree with such a rash assertion. In fact, the juxtaposition of the gameís picturesque visual design with its alarming propensity for anarchy brings up more than one philosophical trail of thought. Firstly, it acts as an extended metaphor for the ongoing battle between mankind and nature, reminding us that it just but one moron with a tank and a small arsenal to ruin the aesthetic delights that only an untouched natural environment can produce. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, itís a fantastic insight into the hypocrisy of modern society. Basically, when youíre designing a sandbox game with any element of violence involved, youíre bound to attract the unwanted attention of the MPAA and the other self-appointed guardians of our childrenís innocence if you have the nerve to set it in an environment reminiscent of a typical urban metropolis in the heart of the United States. Simulated violence in a familiar setting, it seems, is an incontrovertible platform towards a life of crime and corruption. Set your game in a sparse, open world in which the only people you murder are dim-witted Hispanic peasants, however, and itís all fine and dandy, presumably because these people donít matter. Hereís the basic formula in case you want to memorise it for future reference:
Simulated bank robbery in New York=reprehensible Simulated mass slaughter of innocent natives with explosive devices=OK
With the gaming industry undergoing a constant shift towards the expansion of its development teams into increasingly large, processed teams of faceless mercenaries for hire, itís highly likely that observing a gameís development process would make for a rather tedious, depressing activity. Not so with Just Cause 2, I would imagine. Frankly, Iíd have loved to have sat in on one of Avalanche Studioís creative meetings, if only to see how long it took before their initially serious discussions about the gameís plot development and character integration descended into paper aeroplane fights and bully circles with the boy on work experience.
Much like these imaginary meetings, Just Cause 2 acts as something we all need once in a while: a crass time-waster, something with which to let out your frustrations for a minute or two at the expense of a few virtual NPC lives. Just whip it out for a few minutes every time you feel your inner rage bubbling to the surface and revel in the gleeful contentment that only a slice of puerile mayhem can bring.
The juryís still out on whether or not games qualify as art. If they do, though, Just Cause 2 would probably be a da Vinci masterpiece with a crude depiction of the male genitalia spray-painted on the front. And that, my comrades, is what makes it so appealing.