But that's kind of the point — Just Cause 2 is a sandbox where the crux of the experience depends on exploration and making your own fun.
The B-movie type plot shoots for a James Bond under-cover agent style motive that attempts to justify the gameplay's chaos. As ridiculously voiced Rico Rodriguez, you'll work for the "Agency" (sigh), helping to track down missing American Tom Sheldon in the serene island landscape of Panau. Along the way, Rico becomes entangled with numerous military rebel groups, each of which will provide you with more than enough to do on the island of Panau.
Just Cause 2's main storyline will take anywhere upwards of 20-hours to see out, but the heart of the game lies within it's sheer breadth of exploration — finding everything could take 100 hours or more.
Just Cause 2 is a game true to its genre. In it you can walk and drive vehicles. Fly planes and drive speed-boats. Race and destroy. Swim and sky-dive. Grapple-hook and shoot. All of which in a massive open-world environment that takes literally 15-minutes to fly from one end to the other in a jumbo-jet. It's enormous. It's not just varied in terms of gameplay either — the world is cleverly compact, with snow-topped mountains, deserts, jungles and city-scapes all providing a seamlessly dense universe.
Just Cause 2's biggest gimmick comes in the form of Rico's grappling hook. To call it a gimmick is perhaps an injustice however. This is essential to the experience. Not only does it allow for numerous fun tricks in combat (stringing up enemies, pulling them from towers, attaching them to gas canisters), it also provides an excellent platforming mechanic. You're able to scale the game's biggest sky-scrapers in seconds thanks to the way the grappling hook controls. There's a learning curve to using it, but once it clicks, the world suddenly becomes so accessible. Factor in the parachute, and you're essentially privy to a better travel system than the game's vehicles. And a guaranteed more fun method too.
Avalanche know their strengths in Just Cause 2. While there are plenty of missions to take part in (attack this base, kill this guy, escort someone else), the main crux of the gameplay revolves around the Chaos system. Chaos is awarded for completing missions, collecting important objects, but most importantly, blowing stuff up. The game world is literally littered with thousands of gubbins to set fire too, and the game gives you plenty of toys to play with in order to do so. Timed explosives, grenades, rocket-launchers. It's up to you. There's so many ways you can destroy the island of Panau, it's often a deliberation as to which you'll use. Example — a statue looms in the centre of a park. We grab a 4x4, hook the statues head up to the passenger seat with our grappling hook and drive off. The statue crumbles and we tow the head victoriously behind us, squishing any army foes who decide to chase us down. Loud, ostentatious and fun. As you accumulate Chaos (preferably through hosts of pretty explosions), you'll unlock more and more missions, and subsequently more stuff to set fire to. It's the game's biggest strength, and it never really fails to get old. It's just a shame the stuff you're setting fire to is so often similar.
You know how GTAIV had amazing physics. Yeah, well this is even better. Take for example one particular mission which saw us carrying a bunch of boxed "gear" in the back of a truck. As we take sharp corners, the boxes slide about. We hit a bump and each box bumps uniquely in the back of the van. It's brilliantly complex, the kind of thing you might not even notice at first but genuinely life like. Everything you want to have a weight reacts realistically. Except the guards who fly a mile when you throw a grenade near them. Which is exactly what you want isn't it? A mix between real-life physics, and the ridiculous when it's more fun.
It's not often a multiplatform game stands a chance of becoming one of the best games visually available, but Just Cause 2 is definitely one of the PS3's best looking games to date. The world is just ridiculously detailed, which is staggering considering its size. Whether you're viewing amazingly complex vistas from the top of a mountain, or you're close and personal in a jungle, the game's staggering graphics never fail to please. This really is one of the best looking games on the PS3. A technical masterpiece.
The description "gamey" in a derogatory sense has always bemused us. But it fits Just Cause 2 so heavily. There are so many choices that could have been made here in order to make the experience that much more fun without compromising the game. Why do we keep running out of ammo? Why do piles and piles of guards keep chasing us just because we're having fun? Are we not supposed to have fun? Is that what you're trying to say, Avalanche? It's about time sandbox games stopped limiting their freedom with real basic design errors.
Just Cause 2 has the worst voice acting in a video game ever. There's a case for Shenmue 2 and Resident Evil, but no, we're not having it. This is horrific. We get that the game's going for a B-movie vibe, but terrible voice acting is not the way to achieve it. Nor is bad writing. You need to be conscious to be funny, and Just Cause 2 is just straight up annoying rather than comical.
Just Cause 2's general ambition for variety gives it the odd free-pass where things aren't as tight as they should be, but some "gamey" design choices and the worst voice acting ever to grace a video game almost undo the package as a whole. Thankfully, the sheer scale of the game's setting, and the simple thrill of wreaking havoc within it make up for much of the game's misgivings.