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Just Cause 2 is a game of enormous proportions with an overwhelming array of things to do (read : blow up). This is both its joy and its downfall, as the developers struggle to cope with the monster they have created offering a storyline that feels like an afterthought.
I play games to lose myself in another world for a while. I want to find an experience that will stay with me while I'm not playing and call be back into it every evening.
Just Cause 2 started with considerable promise in this respect. The game promised an open world experience like no other and within minutes play that was exactly what I encountered. Set in the fictional island nation of Panau, there is a glittering array of cities, villages, military bases and more to be explored whenever and however I wanted to.
GTA IV is big, Fallout 3 is bigger. But Just Cause 2 is simply massive. Getting from location to location takes time and planning and gave a real sense of scale to the place. From glorious sun kissed beaches to windswept snow covered mountain peaks, the environment feels alive around you. Day/night cycles and weather changes further add to the sense of immersion in this bustling Asian nation. This was a world with the potential to ponder even while I wasn't at the console.
I found a bewildering array of things to occupy my time but this became a double edged sword. While I wanted the world to perpetuate itself into my waking hours, it become a relatively forgettable playground.
While the sheer scale of the game impressed me - I could encounter any manner of things to break into little pieces as a drove along the many roads on the islands - it also generated a need to break stuff.
This was a world with the potential to ponder even while I wasn't at the console.
For someone with a touch of OCD, a Statues Destroyed 1/90 statistic is like a red rag to a bull. I had to find them and destroy them all. That also went for the petrol stations, wind turbines, electricity generators, water towers and and and... You get the idea.
Packing so much in, confusingly, lead to a sense of boredom though. The sheer volume of things on offer led to inevitable repetition. Petrol stations come in the two or four pump variety all over the island. There are X communication outposts that are exactly the same. Added to this was the fact that my character had the same stock phrase that he trotted out every time I added to my destroyed list.
Which leads on to my two biggest bugbears - the first being my character and the second being the main underpinning storyline. Both these things meant I was happy to drop in and play through the quests and missions, but it never became anything more than that.
My character (Rico) had no character whatsoever. A special agent, quick with a witty line and apparently a hit with the ladies is effectively just a tool to use to make stuff go Boom. There is no real connection with him.
Putting him into positions of danger was something I did because effectively he was just a person on a screen. Maybe I needed to play the original first but I felt absolutely no connection to Rico at all. This is partly due to the sheer volume of repetitive things to do which just result in stock phrases and suck any personality out of Rico but is mostly down to the storyline.
It is perfect for passing time but as a perpetual game this isn't what you are looking for.
Or rather the lack of one. There are seven story missions. Just seven. The first one is an intro to the fictional island of Panau so doesn't really count and the last two run on from each other so are effectively one mission. A grand total of five missions where I could see some cut scene interaction and discover more about the motives and morals of Rico Rodriguez.
It all left me with a feeling of missed opportunities. The world could have been a place for intriguing stories that haunted your psyche, but in practice was more like a very long virtual to-do list.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the game. To sink the 100+ hours that I did into it, I must have done. I just feel that the running around and destroying things should be the distraction from the main storyline rather than the other way around.
Just Cause 2 lacks that bit of polish and thought that would have seen it capitalise on its potential as the best and biggest open world free roaming games. It is perfect for sitting and passing time but if you are looking for an engaging story with welcome side quests and free roaming - a perpetual game - this isn't what you are looking for.
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