Just Cause 2 Xbox 360, PS3, PC Review

Sandbox games are ten a penny these days, everybody is making them, so it takes something different to stand out from the crowd. Some of them use a different setting from the norm, others give the player super powers, some even take a linear game and stage it in an open world, Brutal Legend I’m looking at you. Just Cause used a cheesy B movie style spy story to differentiate itself, and so does the sequel.

Latino super spy Rico Rodriquez returns as the central character but this time the game takes place in a new location. He has travelled to the nation of Panau, a collection of islands in Asia that are now under new management, thanks to the untimely death of its president.

Your mission is to find a missing agent, who coincidentally is your ageing mentor. From the start you have a black market contact to help you on your way, and before long you’ll have a whole team together. There’s the sexy femme fatale that no spy movie is complete without, and the more wholesome girl who is your agency liaison.

You’ll also have help from a few rebel factions that you work for undercover; the Roaches, Reapers, and Ulas. They provide you with intel, vehicles and weaponry in exchange for completing missions for them. Despite all the assistance, for the most part you’ll be all alone on missions, and the local constabulary and military don’t make things easy for you.

Besides the story, another thing that has been changed is the game’s difficulty. The original was criticised for being too easy but that’s certainly not the case here. Gone are Rico’s dual pistols with unlimited ammo, so you’ll be scavenging ammo from dead enemies as much as you can.

The bad guys have had a serious upgrade on the AI front – they’re really out to get you this time. On top of that you have to take enemy fire power far more seriously. You can’t just rush into fire fights anymore as dying is a very real danger, and one that happens all too often if you aren’t properly prepared for your missions. You can now upgrade your health and armour by locating special crates in settlements around the islands. These contain cash, a new vehicle or weapon, or an all-important health upgrade.

Thankfully these changes do not detract from the fun elements of Just Cause. It’s still easy to recreate those big action movie moments that were so enjoyable in the first game. There’s a fantastic selection of vehicles for you to steal or hijack, covering air, sea and land. It is simple to switch between Rico’s grappling hook and parachute on the fly, so if you want to fly a helicopter into a building, parachute out at the last second and grapple on to a passing car to make your getaway, it’s doable.

These tools can also be used to evade pursuers. One way is to drive off a cliff and parachute to safety, while you watch then skid to a halt or fly off to their deaths. With the extensive collections of vehicles at your disposal and a bit of lateral thinking the possibilities are almost endless. It’s great fun just exploring and seeing what crazy stunts you can pull off.

Of course there’s all the agency and faction missions to keep you occupied, plus plenty of race challenges, collectible objects and all the other things you’d expect to find in a sandbox game. Glitches have also been reduced to a minimum compared to the first game; they’re still there, but are now more of a rare occurrence than a frequent annoyance.

The original Just Cause was a little rough around the edges but the sequel is highly polished and looks great. I could easily see myself logging a hundred hours or more in to the game, it’s probably the most comprehensive sandbox game I’ve played. If you enjoy the genre this is a must have, and if you like a spy story then it’s definitely worth a look too.

9/10

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Version tested: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Developer: Avalanche Studios

Publisher: Eidos

Genre: Sandbox

Players: 1