Just Cause 2

Scor-pi-o! Scor-pi-o! Scor-pi-ohhhhhhhhh!

Bangarag, Rico! Wait, why are we making Hook references in a Just Cause 2 review? Oh, you know why.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: May 28, 2010
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One of the best things about this generation for me has been the increase in resolution. People can talk all they want about how HD doesn't make a difference in gameplay or how SD is just fine for most game concepts, but the simple fact that modern consoles have finally moved into the realm of resolution that PC gamers have enjoyed for damn near a decade now means one very important thing: console versions of games that appear on the PC are at least close to what they can do in terms of visual splendor.

As anyone who played through the PS2 version of the original Just Cause will tell you, resolution and graphical fidelity mean a whole hell of a lot. The first game's island paradise of San Esperito was a shadow of its PC counterpart -- and that's just getting into the start of the port's issues, to say nothing of the issues inherent in the game itself. The point is, if developer Avalanche Studios had tried to put Just Cause 2 on the PS2, it would have been an even bigger disaster; there's simply so much game and so much of the awe that comes from seeing it all splayed out before you as you free fall from 20,000 feet that it wouldn't even be the same game.

So yes, I'm an admitted graphics whore. I demand that my games look as pretty as they possibly can, and in that respect, the Avalanche Engine delivers in ways few open world games have. Even after 30 hours with the game, the view from one of the peaks in the mountainous regions of the fictional island of Panau as the sun rose over the horizon and spilled its bounty out across huge swathes of water and land alike was no less breathtaking than the first time I saw it. This is a game whose beauty ends up making the environment you explore as much a character as any of the one-note ones you'll experience while playing through the "story."

I am indeed using that word with a heavy helping of sarcasm. There's simply no way to justify the wafer-thin plot and hilariously terrible voice acting that went into the various personalities you'll encounter while trying to fan the flames of discord for the good ol' US of A than to say that Avalanche was going for an 80s action movie vibe and nailed it. Everything about the idea of a black ops dude dropping into a country with the off-the-books goal of blowing as much shit up as possible to topple a regime in place to allow the US to sweep in and capture the geographically strategic island country is textbook 80s government policy.

And you know what? It works. It totally, completely works. Sure, there was some interesting details filled in via text for each of the characters that you're welcome to check out on your almighty PDA, but these tend to crumble under the weight of some of the worst accents and voice performances in a modern game. To be honest, though, I can't help but think that was the point. There's such an over-the-top tone to everything that it ends up being a bonus for the game rather than hurting it in any real, meaningful way. When you steal a helicopter, dive out of it to hijack a fight jet and then bail out of that plane while going afterburners-full into a building to watch the massive explosion, you quickly stop worrying about how realistic any of the people you're doing all this destruction for actually are.

You're here to blow stuff up, seek out hidden packages of money and gun/vehicle upgrades, and escort a bunch of grunts as they try to blow other stuff up. It's simple. And oh dear, sweet baby Jeebus does it all work. The fact that there are really only a handful of different mission types means nothing when it's so much fun to carry them out. The arsenal you're given, the ability to call in drops of increasingly powerful weapons and vehicles and the inclusion of the single most important tool that's been added to a sandbox game since they were invented, the grappling hook/parachute combo, is more than enough to keep one happy for dozens of hours.
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