Despite featuring some unforgivably bland, forgettable missions and a boring, cliched story, Just Cause 2 still might just be the most fun sandbox game ever created.
The amount of stupid, ridiculous shit you can do in this game is staggering. It really all comes down to your imagination. There were so many moments while playing Just Cause 2 that I saw something interesting that I just had blow up, or launch a car into, or tether to a helicopter and fly away. There's also an in-game recording and uploading feature, making it super easy to save moments like my mid-air car hijack above. The most fun I had here came from hours and hours of unscripted exploration and experimentation as I flew around the sprawling world, wreaking havoc and destruction. It's the kind of game where the sheer act of playing, even without any direction, is enough to put a smile on your face and cause you to lose track of time.
Most of the joy you'll experience will be directly linked to the game's absolutely brilliant grappling hook and parachute combination. You can grapple to anything in the world from a good distance away, then use the parachute to start gliding. While parachuting, you can use the grappling hook to keep yourself propelled, essentially allowing you to fly forever, cover ground incredibly fast, and reach ridiculous heights. You can also use the grappling hook to pull people toward you, latch onto buildings, quickly zip away from danger, hijack helicopters and planes, or tether any two things together, like a human being to a flying propane tank. I wish I could use the grappling hook in almost every game; it's that good.
What's really shocking though, is how, with all the crazy stunts possible in this game, the missions still end up being the same tedious chores you do in every other open world game. With this many tools for creating awesome scenarios, there's simply no excuse for falling back on tired concepts like escort missions where you drive a VIP in a slow limousine from Point A to Point B. There are some legitimately cool moments here, like jumping back and forth between speeding jeeps to disarm bombs or the insane final mission, but there just aren't enough of them. What makes it really insulting is that the game makes you do the exact same missions over and over for different factions.
Apparently you play as Rico Rodriguez, an agent for a US agency called, well, the Agency, as he tries to overthrow an evil dictator and track down a rogue agent. I say "apparently" because the story here is so bad and so poorly executed that, by the end, I could barely bring myself to pay attention to what was going on, much less care. At first, the lackluster story and awful voice acting was kind of amusing since I typically enjoy movies and games where the story is so bad that it's good, but as the game dragged on, it overstayed its welcome and wasn't so amusing anymore. In a game like this, clearly the story isn't supposed to be the focus, but it isn't supposed to bore me either.
The real beauty of this game could never have anything to do with whether or not the story is good, though. The best part of Just Cause 2 is conceptualizing increasingly dangerous and moronic stunts to pull off, practicing them again and again until you finally succeed, then thinking up some absurd way to make them even more dangerous and moronic. Topping myself became the whole game after awhile. Whereas anything scripted was practically guaranteed to disappoint, roaming around making my own fun never ceased to entertain. However, this is definitely a game meant to be played on easy difficulty. Worrying about dying will only hamper your creativity.
I highly recommend Just Cause 2. It both allows and encourages the kind of creative play that throws caution to the wind and favors fun over logic. The missions and story are a waste of time, but everything else is a blast.Just Cause 2 / $59.99 / PS3 [reviewed], 360, PC