Wot I Think: Just Cause 2

By John Walker on March 30th, 2010 at 12:24 pm.

Er, Rico, your back's a bit on fire.

Apologies that this is a few days late. The review code we received had a big old crazy bug in it, completely fixed in the released version. But never mind, because finally you can find out Wot I Think about Just Cause 2 – a game that I’ve been unquestionably looking forward to thanks to one of the best trailer campaigns we’ve seen. But can it live up to that hype? Will it have heeded my constant plea: “please don’t let the game get in the way of the fun”?

“How was your day?” someone asked me on Sunday evening. “I found a hot-air balloon in the mountains, landed it on top of a skyscraper where there was a helicopter, which I used to pull over a statue. Then I stole a passenger plane from an airport and flew it into the ground,” I replied. Just Cause 2 gives you conversation topics.

There’s a purpose here. You, Rico, are trying to find out of a colleague has gone rogue, then to attempt to overthrow a fascist dictator, and to do so your task is to cause as much Chaos as possible. Which is a great premise. You’re just there to cause trouble, make a mess, and it’s rarely more sophisticated than that. There’s the odd escort mission, perhaps you’ll have to get a car to a destination. But it’s primarily about blowing stuff up. There’s then lots of story wormed in to attempt to dignify this, but it’s completely superfluous. And the voice acting is so atrocious (and occasionally downright offensive) that it becomes laughable. Ignore all that. It’s about blowing shit up. That’s enough.

What else have I done of late? There was that time I drove a car off a cliff, free-fell then parachuted, grappled my way onto a boat, threw the driver into the sea, and then rammed the boat into building. Oh, I liberated about 15 towns yesterday afternoon by the radical process of blowing everything up, and stealing all their supplies. It was helping! I helped some militant factions take territory from the despotic leader of the group of islands, Panau, mostly by blowing other stuff up. I shot helicopters out of the sky with a rocket launcher, and then amused myself enormously by tying an enemy to a gas canister, then shot the canister sending the man flying through the air like a deflating balloon. And I stood on top of a plane taking off from an airport to find out where it went, then when I got bored, threw the pilot out at about 20,000 feet and flew it into a mountain. (A quick pro-tip: Don’t discuss playing Just Cause 2 in public places within earshot of authorities. This is especially true for airports.)

The grapple/tether deserves attention here. Forget the one from the first game – this is something else entirely. The grapple can attach to almost anything, from the ground to mountain-sides, walls to vehicles. Combined with the infinite parachutes that mark both Just Cause games as so bloody brilliant in their attitude, this means you can now fly yourself around at decent speeds, grappling the ground beneath you to tug yourself forward. It takes a while to get used to, then becomes magnificent. In battle situations it becomes so common to grapple a distant roof, pull yourself in, then launch your chute to fly over the roof and attack from above. Or grapple an enemy to tug him off a rooftop to fall to his death. And it’s no longer a separate weapon. Mounted on Rico’s wrist, it can be used at any time. Also, now you can fire the other end of the grapple out to tether two items together. Anything you fancy. Go crazy, see what works, see what hurts others. That car that’s chasing you? Jump on the roof of the car you’re driving, tether the car behind you to that tree. Bye, car!

This is Just Cause 2 at its best. A playground of idiocy, with astonishing capacity for letting you have maniac fun. It is so enormous, so densely packed with minute detail, littered with hidden surprises, and just there to be played with. If you see a vehicle you can drive/sail/fly it. The most work involved will be hitting a few number keys in time to remove the current occupant, then it’s yours to do with as you will. In a way familiar to those who have fallen for Burnout: Paradise or Red Faction: Guerrilla, it’s almost impossible to travel any distance to a particular target without getting distracted along the way. Perhaps you’ll be flying a chopper over a mountain to reach a faction quest on the other side, but what’s that nestled in the peak? A military base? With some sort of rocket deep into the mountain? Well that will surely need blowing up.

That’s Just Cause 2 at its best. Tethering cars to helicopters, using triggered explosives to take out half a town at once, firing a rocket at a vast radio mast to watch it collapse.

But Just Cause 2 has some worst as well. If you were to play this game for ten hours – a generous length for your average mainstream game – then the resulting review would be jubilant. The achievement is absolutely extraordinary. The scale is mind-blowing. As you liberate yet another town, 100%ing it by destroying every destructible and collecting every collectable, it tells you, “34/368”. Three hundred and sixty-eight?! The number of unique vehicles, the fun of so many of the weapons, the inventive ways you can use your grappling hook and tether. All of it is utterly remarkable. And then it gets carried away.

I was playing on Casual. When reviewing a game it’s normal to play on Normal. That’s the setting by which a game should usually be judged. But almost immediately on Normal I was finding the game was curtailing my opportunities for fun by killing me. As troops were dispatched to deal with my naughty ways, I found that I was all too easily taken out. I restarted in Casual and found everything a great deal more fun. This isn’t a stealth game, this isn’t a survival action, this is a lunatic’s playground. To have to play cautiously feels like a bastardisation of the point.

But get to hour 15 and something starts to change. When you cause unrest you attract Heat. With this you might attract the attention of reinforcements, Jeeps and bikes showing up with extra soldiers. Increase the level of Heat and it will ramp up the response, until eventually you’ll have four Heat segments lighting up very quickly, being attacked from all sides. Now, if you were equally levelled up to match this would be just more opportunities for fun. As it is, you just die a lot more quickly. If you’re being attacked by sixteen men at once (a likely scenario), there’s a strong chance one of them will use their supernatural aiming skills to empty a few rounds in your back. At the start of the game, on Casual, this isn’t an issue. Rico’s a resilient fellow. But by this stage their weapons are far more powerful. Should someone in the near-invisible distance have a rocket launcher, then you’re dead in one unpredictable moment. If this happens halfway through an extended mission with only a checkpoint a significant drive away, it’s only tedious. Now throw in a couple of helicopters above you, both firing missiles. You may have the coolest grappling hook in the universe, you may be armed with a rocket launcher, but you simply aren’t going to be able to get on with collecting items in that situation. The game loses focus. And let me stress once more: this is on Casual.

So this creates an interesting situation. What is Just Cause 2 for? Is my criticism of it here simply because I want to play it differently than is intended? Am I supposed to be using a different set of tactics, managing things in a whole other way? Is this a challenge I’m simply unwilling to accept? If so, then Just Cause 2’s biggest mistake is to trick me into thinking I can play my way for its first 10 hours.

The other mistake is ammunition. There simply isn’t enough of it for the weapons that are the most fun to use. You end up stuck with the basic machine guns, which are effective, but not nearly as much fun as a rocket launcher. Again, it doesn’t make sense for a game with infinite parachutes to put such a restriction in place. To have as much fun as possible, you should have as many rockets as possible. Oddly, occasionally the game understands this. Get in a chopper with rockets and it has infinite ammo. Rip one of the mounted guns from its stand and stagger about with it, and again you’ve got infinite bullets that cause awesome destruction. So why not the rest?

There is, as it happens, a solution for all this. There’s a trainer, and for the first time in eleven years of doing this job I used a cheat when reviewing. I was having fun. I wanted to carry on having fun. I suspect you might too.

I got it to strengthen the tether – something I suspect Avalanche may do themselves in a patch soon enough. And then I saw the tick box for infinite ammo. And I ticked it. And oh my goodness, did I start having a lot more fun. Rocket launcher go! Most of the time such cheats will ruin a game. It ruins the balance, makes it too easy, lets you bypass the challenge. This one just makes JC2 a lot more entertaining, for me at least. If you run the cheat you’ll see there’s also a box for infinite health. That will ruin the game. Don’t tick that one.

The missions you’re given vary in quality. You can help out three key factions to create civil unrest, with the aim of eventually overthrowing the islands’ leader. Some of these have a decent amount of plot to them, multiple stages, various characters playing a part. Others are very ordinary assaults on bases, that you’ll have been doing anyway as you explore in your own time. There are escort missions, but thankfully they’re mostly reasonable – I only had to restart one once due to my escortee getting himself killed, and it was entirely my fault. Then there’s the major plot, the Agency missions. These are large-scale, plot heavy, and often involve massive destruction.

It also needs to be mentioned how incredibly beautiful this game is. Just gasp-inducingly stunning. Watching a sunrise, seeing the clouds roll in and the rain start falling, seeing the snow glistening on the mountains, it’s breathtaking. Flying a small plane to any destination becomes enormously difficult, as I find myself just enjoying the journey, doing some loop-the-loops, flying upside down, soaking in the view. The weather patterns are like nothing I’ve seen before, the cloud layers modelled realistically, the weather not appearing from nowhere.

In so very many ways, Just Cause 2 is absolutely stunning. It’s incomprehensibly enormous. There’s so much to do, and so much fun to be had doing it. But then it gets too caught up in a need to be a Game, like other games are a Game. There’s no need for that. I said it every time I posted one of the stunning trailers – please, please don’t let the game get in the way. They do let the game get in the way. Not to the point that it ruins it. Not at all. I absolutely emphatically suggest you get this, because there is nothing like it, and the fun I’ve had in the last few days has been just bloody brilliant.

My concern is whether I’ll be able to continue having that much fun now that the moment I show up in a town it’s suddenly level 4 Heat and I’m being assaulted by an entire army. And there’s still literally hundreds of them for me to attack. My ideal cheat would be one that limits the Heat level to 3. Oh my goodness, the fun I’d be having if that were the case.

That’s the rub of it. Avalanche didn’t quite have the confidence to entirely embrace what they’d created. They came so astonishingly close, and the result is compelling and hilarious. But in the end it gets overwhelmed by a need to control you, stop you from being completely free. And yet there was no need.

Get it. Get it because it’s Red Faction: Guerilla x 10 (a game that similarly became overwhelmed with difficulty in the face of fun). Get it because you can steal planes from airports and ditch them into the sea. Get it because you can fly a helicopter up to unimaginable heights and then freefall for minutes. Get it because you can tether an enemy to the back of your boat and then drag him behind you. Get it because you can watch the sun set behind the mountains, as you fire a rocket into a water tower and see it cascade over the town below.

PS. I strongly recommend reading Tom Francis’s tips before playing the game.

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142 Comments »

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  1. supersonic88 says:

    to all trainer user, be careful, it can happen that when you use i.e. the 13+ trainer, that your savegame will be crashed, that means that the games start freezing, especially after missions or sporadically

  2. Flappybat says:

    I forgot about Red Faction but it’s an excellent point, it has exactly the same balance issues. In the face of a hugely powerful player the game’s only solution is to throw ludicrous numbers of enemies at you, feeling like it’s balanced on the assumption that you are driving a tank or flying an attack helicopter at all times.

    It would work a bit if it wasn’t for their insane accuracy when you are using your parachute and the harsh health regeneration meter that refuses to give you more than 1/2 your total health when you are in combat.

  3. WTF says:

    Spot on review, John, absolutely spot on.

    Stunningly beautiful game with a staggering amount to do and some amazing basic mechanics but the infinite respawns and AI that is incapable of missing utterly ruin it.

    Gonna try that cheat out you used now and see if it perks my interest in it once more.

  4. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    I think I shall have to get this.
    I know it sounds utterly silly, but the potential for causing mayhem for a ‘good cause’ is more appealing than causing mayhem for a ‘naughty cause’. This is despite it making no sense whatsoever, the methods being hugely questionable in reality (I mean you’re basically playing a CIA endorsed terrorist), and it being both ‘just a game’ and making absolutely no difference in terms of game-play and exactly what you get up to.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      I know it sounds utterly silly, but the potential for causing mayhem for a ‘good cause’ is more appealing than causing mayhem for a ‘naughty cause’.

      Except it quite patently isn’t a good cause (beyond undermining a nasty dictatorship). The game makes perfectly clear that the CIA’s motives are entirely self-interested, as are the various factions’. And it even makes fun of some of the more ludicrous plot points, especially toward the end.

    • BigJonno says:

      I know exactly what you mean. Playing an anti-hero is always much more satisfying than a straight-out villain. There is something in intrinsically more bad ass about, for argument’s sake, an angel who slaughters his way through a metric fuck-ton of opponents with no regard for collateral damage than a demon doing the same.

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      HermitUK says:

      “Finally a way to combine my love of helping people with my love of hurting people”

    • Richard Clayton says:

      @HermitUK: Where were you when they were filming the Alan Titchmarsh show?

  5. nine says:

    I like how the criteria for a fun escort mission is “the escort didn’t die”.

  6. Subject 706 says:

    I’m certain you broke the Geneva conventions several times while playing that.

  7. Phinor says:

    “Get it. Get it because it’s Red Faction: Guerrilla x 10″

    So I should definitely skip this one. RF: Guerrilla is already one of the most overrated games of all time. Alongside the (in)famous Halo series.

    Then again, I knew I should skip this one. The demo felt very unpolished as if an alpha version of a better game. Very arcade-ish, the gaming mechanics were clumsy, very dull and it wasn’t fun to play. I didn’t “feel” the game. It was as if I was detached from the character and things just happened very vaguely. I don’t know how anyone considers the game fun but I also realize I’m in the minority here. There aren’t many games I don’t agree with the majority on but this and RF: Guerrilla are among that list. Meanwhile I usually enjoy sandbox games a lot. GTA4 was simply superb despite the technical issues on PC and while it’s probably popular to hate that game, I enjoyed it. Crackdown is maybe closer to JC2 than GTA4 and I enjoy that game as well. But JC2? Based on the demo a 6/10 effort. A bit better than Guerrilla but definitely something I shouldn’t spend my time on while my list of games to play is over 15 titles long.

    But is there a reason I don’t enjoy JC2?

    • Starky says:

      Maybe you’re just joy/soul-less?

      Just kidding, but I think this game appeals to that section of us who still enjoy little-boy games of smashing things – maybe that just isn’t your thing.

      If you don’t get that boyish grin at causing destruction and mayhem on such an insane scale it’s just not for you, nothing wrong with that.

    • JM says:

      For what it’s worth, I thought the demo was promising but hated the controls and it felt a bit “off”. The full game feels a whole lot better, and it really is one of the most gobsmackingly incredible experiences available to a PC gamer right now.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      If you don’t like Red Faction, you definitely won’t like this. It has all the same joys and flaws, apart from being an awful lot prettier.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      You hate fun, basically.

    • undead dolphin hacker says:

      I’ll can overlook your dislike for Red Faction: Guerrilla. Combine it with the preference for GTA4, though, and I can’t help but think you’re trolling.

      That, or you have terrible, terrible taste.

  8. Starky says:

    This seems to echo all the other reviews I’ve been reading (buying this game next pay check, damn monthly wage cycle) hopefully the Devs will take all this on board and tweak/patch the game.

    I want heat level 4, but I just want to be hard enough to handle it, better armour, more health, weapons with huge amounts of ammo (or unlimited, whatever works).

    It’s what I greatly enjoyed about Prototype, and was hoping this would give that same feeling in a different setting, with planes and such – and it seems it will – to a point.

    Still as mentioned above, there are always mods/trainers to provide that – I did the same thing with Prototype, just to give me unlimited energy (so I could use the mega moves whenever I liked) just to make it more insane.

  9. IAMJETHRO says:

    FYI, the BOLOPatch now has an option to limit heat. It’s called “Anti-Heat”.

    Also, requires more links to the JC2 demo if you still aren’t bought on getting it.

  10. Plushpants says:

    Just wondering peoples thoughts on using a 360 controller for this game. I can’t decide.

    I tried KB+mouse and controller in the demo. It felt great on the controller, especially using the triggers when dual-wielding weapons. Best of all, with the high level of auto-aim my hilarious lack of precision with a controller is negated. The only problem is that precision is required with the grapple if you want to get up to some really sweet shenanigans.

    So I went back to my trusty PC controls. But I’m dreaming of my 360 controller. it just felt so right.

    • Bananaphone says:

      I’m using both. The driving model in JC2 is absolutely horrendous, really not fun at all, but is slightly improved by using a 360 pad. So, pad for vehicles and k+m for on-foot shooty-bang-grapple action.

    • mcwizardry says:

      Does anyone know if there’s a fighter jet with rockets in the game? . I’m trying to recreate the bridge scene with the Harrier jet from True Lies :)

    • Clovis says:

      @Bananaphone: Can you switch from k/b to controller automagically? I really loved that in GTAIV. I hate when games make me change the control input from a menu. For some reason the rise of the 360 gamepad has coincided with the ability to switch easily.

      If I can’t switch easily, I’ll stick with the gamepad. I hate driving with k/b&m.

    • Bananaphone says:

      @Clovis
      The game doesn’t mind you swapping between pad and keyboard, the only thing that changes are the control prompts showing Xbox pad buttons instead of keys.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Morph says:

    I think part of the game might be knowing when to run away. Which, admittedly, is not much fun. Using the extraction plane can feel a bit like cheating at times.

    But it seems to get into a cycle, when you’re in an area and the heat is rising and killing the enemy just seems to make more and more enemies arrive and no end is in sight. Maybe that’s the problem, maybe an end should be available for every location. Kill X baddies and no more arrive, rather than getting to a point where extraction is the only way out.

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      HermitUK says:

      There is definately the need to ease up on the troop spawns. I’d like a system where if you kill all the enemies in the area, backup is called in, but it takes a minute or two to arrive. This would be enough time to grab some collectibles and blow up stuff, then escape the enemy force as it arrives.

      That said, playing it on normal with Strong Rope and Infinate Ammo on the Bolo patch and loving it so far, though I did just go up a Heat rating which may mean things become more difficult.

    • RobF says:

      I think that having the heat levels rise a bit slower, drop a lot faster when taking cover and tweak the amount it throws at you down a bit for each of the levels would be about the wisest things the devs could do right now.

      The problem I’m finding with the current set up is that you can run away, you can take cover but as soon as you step foot back within range (easily done if there’s still choppers around or the likes) it’s just ramping up too much too fast. Sometimes it’s fun to see how long you can go avoiding this (I had a good half hour round the refinery just bombing about the tops of the silos trying to avoid getting caught but I had to blow up all the choppers first to facilitate this)

      A few small tweaks away from being glorious I’d say.

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      HermitUK says:

      Yeah, I think heat dropping faster would help a lot. With a lot of locations now I use a two-step process, usually blowing up as much as I can from the air/a safe distance first, then dashing through the area nabbing pickups while trying to keep my man killing to a healthy minimum.

  12. Mobrockers says:

    You should know that BOLO is working on adding heat options to his trainer ;)

  13. Bolo Santosi says:

    Well… the feature is not in the “release” version ;) (As it’s not working 100% at the moment, the choppers still wanna gun you down.)

  14. Lanster27 says:

    I got win XP.

  15. jackflash says:

    I absolutely loved Red Faction: Guerilla. It was, oddly, my favorite game of last year, (and there were a lot of great games last year).

    Will I love this?

  16. Irish Al says:

    Based on the 360 demo, are the cut-scenes still un-skippable? Please say no. Because I don’t think I could endure the abysmal voice acting.

    • Walsh says:

      You can skip the cutscenes now iirc, you just need to press the enter key.

  17. Hat Galleon says:

    I have Windows XP also, and I’m considering a switch to Windows 7 solely because of this game. Then I remember that Windows 7 costs money. Sorry Just Cause 2, you’ll have to wait.

  18. Ginger Yellow says:

    Based on the 360 demo, are the cut-scenes still un-skippable?

    All skippable on PC.

  19. IdleHands says:

    How can you not love the voice acting? It’s hilarious, every single character’s voice comes straight out of a stereotype (the American sounds like boss hogg from dukes of hazzard). Yes it’s awful, but it’s so awful it’s great. The best is the Reapers leader elongating words, seriously I can amuse myself for a day just imatating her.

    I completely agree with your complaints. Why is my health rip apart like toilet paper at every turn? Do the developers want me to use cover and be tactical? The same developers that let me grapple my little plane to a passanger plane so it could pull me into the air? It doesn’t add up.

    The heat levels can be unforgiving too, I mean once I was just flying my normal civilan helicopter around wondering what to tether it to and suddenly someone raised an alert for no reason, I hadn’t killed anyone or done anything wrong (maybe he saw the mischievous look in my eye). Before I knew it an army of men and helicopters were deployed, and again I still had done nothing but fly around.

  20. mcwizardry says:

    Does anyone know if there’s a fighter jet with rockets in the game? . I’m trying to recreate the bridge scene with the Harrier Jet from True Lies. :)

    • Plinglebob says:

      No Harrier, but there are 2 jets with rockets for you to play with.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      One of the jets does look awfully like a Harrier. I spent a good few minutes trying to figure out how to hover when I first got in one.

  21. Oozo says:

    Seems to share the central flaw with “Mirror’s Edge”, come to think of it – another game that was brillant at heart, but tried too hard to be just like the others, and lost itself a bit on the way.

  22. Koozer says:

    Sorry, but I’ve got to disagree on the lack of ammo. It’s all over the damn the place, I never have to drop my dual revolvers. Giving infinite ammo for rocket launchers and the like just takes all the fun out of finding one and unleashing destruction for a few sweet shots.

    Putting it on Casual takes some of the fun out of it too for me, where’s the fun in just standing there taking all the hits, when even on Normal you have more of a reason to dodge around and accidentally fall off a cliff, to try and hide behind a building only to find an unoccupied armoured car waiting for you, to make a cunning escape from the choppers by weaving around buildings with your parachute.

    Oh and another thing, I wish the heat ramped up more, I only get attacked by maybe half a dozen soldiers at a time, then a chopper or two shows up. This is about 14 hours in by the way. I haven’t noticed soldiers getting stronger with time either, but I wish they did.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      Part of the problem is that you really have to upgrade the hell out of equipment. To really properly destroy an oil rig, for example, requires a lot of remote explosives, but they give you a paltry 10 at the first level. Upgrading them to 5 will usually give you enough to really do everything you need, but I still think more ammo for each weapon would be good.

      Saying heat should ramp up more quickly seems pretty nutso. When you’re trying to capture a military base, for example, helicopters will show up very quickly. Trying to capture a helicopter is hell because the people on the ground have the most accurate guns in the world, then when you do capture a chopper, SAM sites will shoot you down very quickly. Plus, just getting into a helicopter for a brief period of time will send a call in for more air support. Once the heat gets past level three, it’s practically a death sentence. You’re right, you can run away and hide, but I’m not sure why that’s fun.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Trying to capture a helicopter is hell because the people on the ground have the most accurate guns in the world, then when you do capture a chopper, SAM sites will shoot you down very quickly
      This is why the first thing I do when I attack a military base is to blow up the SAMs. Basically my preferred method is to fly in by Havok and take out as many of the SAMs as I can. If I get shot down, I make my way to the remaining SAMs and take them out, before stealing the base’s chopper and taking to the air again. The reinforcement choppers are pretty easy to deal with if you’re not worrying about missiles from the ground. Once I’ve destroyed everything I can from the air, I land and get all the collectibles and any remaining government property.

    • Arthur Barnhouse says:

      See, I always get gunned down by the choppers before I can reach the SAM sites.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Huh. 90% of the time for me the choppers don’t show up until I’ve blown a few things up.

  23. Clovis says:

    How is this game running on slightly old systems? I can play Crysis at like Medium-High right now. I keep meaning to do a mb/cpu/graphics card upgrade, but haven’t really been inspired yet.

    • Ian says:

      @ Clovis: You’d probably be okay on medium/decent settings. I can run Crysis low-medium but struggled to get this running particularly smoothly with settings all way down so I’ve gone to the new Dragon Age game while I get a new graphics card and some RAM.

      Neither thank or curse Nuffle. You’ll get punished either way.

    • Zyzzi says:

      You should be fine running it. I don’t meet the minimum system requirements (I have a 3800+ AMD processor instead of the required 4200+), but 4GB RAM and a 9800GT, and I can run it on Medium (for shadows) and High (everything else)

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      phuzz says:

      @Clovis why not download the demo and find out for sure?

    • Clovis says:

      @phuzz: Yeah, I realized that obvious option after posting. Zyzzi was exactly correct. The game looked really really good and ran flawlessly. Hurray! So, am I supposed to be happy that consoles are slowing the developement of PC games then, since it continues to extend the life of my current box?

  24. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    Does the game instantly put you at heat lvl 4 when you enter towns later on then? I really hope not as that would make it near impossible to do the collect and destroy objectives, as you’d simply be running away from agro all the time and most likely dying very quickly.

  25. choconutjoe says:

    Is my criticism of it here simply because I want to play it differently than is intended? Am I supposed to be using a different set of tactics, managing things in a whole other way?

    I suspect that might be the case. I seem to have ended up with a slightly different playing style, and I don’t seem to run into any of the issues mentioned in the review.

    I’m about 20 hours in on Normal and the difficulty seems just right to me. I hardly ever die, but I seem to be forever having close shaves where I just escape, usually by some dramatic, death-defying means. I think if the game were any easier I’d miss that element.

    Even when you do die, in practice all that happens is that you respawn somewhere else. There doesn’t seem to be any penalty for dying as far as I can see.

    Also, you can have ammo flown in to your current location pretty much wherever and whenever you like. I seem to have more money than I know what to do with in this game so I rarely run out of ammo.

  26. JuJuCam says:

    The game regularly pops up “The military response has increased” messages, I believe it means that maximum heat levels are going up or that heat fill speed is increasing, the mechanics of it are a bit unclear. Eliminating certain targets pop related messages – Corporals pop one about military morale going down, comms towers and aerial masts pop a message about military communications being disrupted and I believe it all has something to do with the heat gauge.

    The upshot is if you’re the type to meticulously destroy everything in every town and especially military settlement you come across you’re probably going to have a generally easier time of it, although it’s a balancing act with you most likely on the losing end as military response probably goes up with pure headcount or sabotage count.

    Anyways it’ll need more research than the pure conjecture I’m stating here, so what are you waiting for? Hop to it!

    • IdleHands says:

      This is what I really want to know as well. It says it has some form of effect but I can’t really see it work while I’m playing. Though I think that the effects only affect the area you did it, I’ve noticed reinforcements not getting called in at some areas and others increadibly quickly. I haven’t done the research either but I assume that I was in the area I took out a communications array.

      I’d also like to know what 100% a town does. Does it mean less military presence? More friendly AI?

    • Jesse says:

      It has seemed to me that when I’ve completed a town or small base (haven’t gotten 100% on a large base yet), the armed response has slowed to nothing or to a trickle of single soldiers on foot (who may not have been freshly respawning but rather arriving late the far side of the base). Of course once a location is complete there’s not much reason to stick around, and all the reason in the world to grapplechute away to torch something else, so I have no proof. Am I right? I haven’t unlocked the fourth level of Heat yet, so I don’ t know if that changes anything, but it did appear to me at times that I could in fact outfight a location and leave it more or less empty.

      Also we should try diving around when under fire. The game tells you to do it but I’ve ignored it so far. Tom Francis says it works wonders.

    • JuJuCam says:

      I suspect we mostly ignored diving because the default [tab] keybind is awkward, although I can’t see a better option with the already fairly cluttered (but still surprisingly easy to get the hang of) config.

      And yes, I can say with certainty that 100% bases of all shapes and sizes completely fail to respawn enemies. I know because I used the BOLOpatch on the demo and in about 3 hours had cleared the map, and the only enemies that existed were patrols on the road, and never enough to get heat high enough to be at all interesting. Part of the reason I’m not in a hurry to clear every area in the full game. Not that hurrying would make it go any quicker, there’s a lot of stuff to blow up!

    • MWoody says:

      This is probably my biggest complaint with the game. Early on, those messages – which I’ve now decided are flavor text – make it seem like you’re beating back the enemy, breaking their spirit, and disrupting their capacity to field troops. In time, you learn not only is it doing nothing of the sort, your accumulated chaos is resulting in military upgrades. It’s like the infamous Oblivion leveling treadmill, only this time, your actions are actively making the game harder.

  27. Adam Blue says:

    I agree with the review. While the game looks better and has added mechanics not found in the first. This game is still ultimately the first with restrictions. Ammo being the main one. It’s still a good game, but it’s funny to see how many people shot down the first (sometimes without even trying) and now they are all over this one.

    Again, many good points in the review, because for this PC version, tweaking it will make it very similar to the first game, which was a lot more fun. And collecting boxes to get the 100%? That just ruins the flow of freedom. Bad move there.

  28. Phoshi says:

    No, why didn’t you say it was rubbish! Now I have to justify to myself buying a DX11 capable graphics card :(
    (I’m poor, darn it!)

    • malkav11 says:

      No, you don’t. I am currently running the game at 1440×900 with everything turned up all the way on a decent AMD quad-core and a 9800GTX+.

  29. Arthur Barnhouse says:

    I had a terrible time just getting through the story missions. 100%ing towns doesn’t give nearly enough chaos to push the story forward, so by the time I had gotten to the last story mission, I had finished all the stronghold missions, and 2/3rds of the faction missions. That seems insane to me.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Sounds about right to me. Why shouldn’t it be that way. If anything, I thought the story missions popped up too quickly – or to be more accurate, there weren’t enough of them. I don’t think I’d done half of the faction missions when I finished the game. To be fair, I did spend a fair bit of time blowing up random bases and finding faction items, but I was still only on 30% completion when I finished. I had kind of expected not to be able to finish the story without completing at least 50%.

  30. Barts says:

    What about hardware requirements? I have Dual Core 2GHz, GeForce 9600GT and 2Gb RAM – I am afraid it’s not enough for all this. Or is it?

    • Psychopomp says:

      My Dual Core 2.8GHz, Radeon 5750, and two gigs of RAM maxes it out at ~40+ FPS, if that helps any.

    • Collic says:

      I think you’ll be fine. It’s a mid range card, but it’s dx10 native. You might not be able to crank everything up to high, but I think you’ll manage okay.

  31. Brulleks says:

    Another quick pro-tip: Don’t discuss playing Just Cause 2 in public places within earshot of XP users.

    I might have a little sob after reading this : (

    • D says:

      It’s not as good as they say. They’ll get over it soon enough and I’ll bet by next year they’ll be all “JC2 sucked” – as this game is exactly like JC1.

    • malkav11 says:

      It is exactly like Just Cause 1 except with the fun switch turned on. (That is to say, it shares some characters and a love of having a vast environment to play it and grappling hooks, parachutes, and stunt jumps and not much else.)

  32. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Wow! Dammit John. That’s just one awesome review. You did more convincing me to get the game, than the whole marketing around it. You really did. And for a guy that tends to steer away from most AAA titles these days, that’s one bucket of cold water yelling “Wake Up Sunshine!” in a thousand voices you wrote there for me.

    Brilliant piece of writing. Many thanks.

  33. Tei says:

    Whould you play a Chess game or a Strategy game where the computer cheat? I will not. And for the same reason Red Faction Guerrilla make me very angry. All my strategize is for nothing (not even minor tactical tricks) because it respawn mobs just behind me. Is a asshole cheap tactic that make me really angry. And this game looks like more of the same (even with the positive review here). I don’t know, maybe I have played too much Planetside and Battlefield games for this type of dumbed down GTA gameplay.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      I hate to break it to you, Tei, but the computer cheats in 99% of strategy games above normal difficulty.

    • Tei says:

      Is painfull only if is soo obvious.

  34. Jimmy Jazz says:

    This is wonderful, entirely true.

    and now? time to go restart my 13 hour game on Casual.

  35. Smurfy says:

    I only played without BOLOPatch for about an hour, at which point I realised “holy crap I’m playing with BOLOPatch!” So I installed it and the game was fixed.

  36. The Innocent says:

    @Hat Galleon

    I upgraded to win7 from xp, and upgraded my rig, solely for this game, and for me it was completely worth it.

    On another note, I agree with John entirely. I had a similar experience, starting on normal and then restarting on casual and having an absolutely lovely time for about twenty hours until every guard had a machinegun and would show up with their football team of buddies. I’m still loving it, though yes a bit less than before. I’m tempted to try the BOLOPatch, but I really would like to know how stable it is before I wreck my saves and crash every half-hour. One of the things that I’ve been impressed with is the general stability of the game (astounding for a port), and I’d hate to jinx that.

  37. Vinraith says:

    I thought RFG was fun but got awfully repetitive after about 10 hours, and the narrative did nothing to carry it. Of course the OS requirements will keep me from buying this one until it’s cheap anyway, so it probably all works out fine. Anything that tries to capture that Mercenaries feel is worth a shot, anyway.

  38. Rubbish says:

    Yes as soon as you 100% a military base the alarms shut off and reinforcements are no longer called in. Also enemies don’t respawn in cleared bases while you’re on the other side of the island, but empty helis and tanks do.

  39. Lucas says:

    I’ve finished the main story and 35% or so of everything (on experienced difficulty), and these are my tips.

    There’s plenty of ammo, but you need to switch weapons and use upgrades wisely. Fixed vehicles and weapon pickups respawn very quickly.

    Sometimes the best move is to kill ALL the enemy troops as fast as possible, because if they can’t see you, they stop calling for more reinforcements!

    I think the alert meter can be instantly cleared by getting far enough away fast enough. Also, if it turns yellow, they can’t see you, and you can hide or stay put for a bit to let it decay.

    Crouching lets you fight from behind cover. Aiming will make you stand up until you stop.

    The amount of health you regenerate is based on how low your health gets. Never stand around soaking up fire. Always run/roll/slingshot around. Stay out of trouble until your health stops regenerating, or hop into a closed vehicle. It’s better to be semi healthy if you have to make a blitz for a first aid box.

    The difficulty setting apparently changes the health regen level and maybe how much damage enemy weapons do, but not heat or alert levels or enemy spawning.

    Listen to what the enemies say on the radio. They may call for air support but not get it! If they say a helicopter is inbound, go hide and then take it. If they drop paratroopers, just leave, or take a heli/tank.

    SAM sites are my highest priority target, and can be destroyed with a single 3* level grenade. When you capture a stronghold though, SAM sites will attack enemy helicopters, so leave them for last there. You can often dodge missiles in a heli, so if you do have SAM launches and survive, try to hide at lower altitude than the launchers and make “pop up” attacks to kill them.

    The combination of wide field of view, blurring depth of field, and enemies that can be hard to see, will eventually give me a headache or eyestrain or slight motion sickness. Take a break! This game goes on forever, and it will be right where you left it. 4 hour intervals are ideal for me.

  40. Muddy Water says:

    People keep mentioning RF:Guerrilla. I am not a fan of that game. The destruction engine was glorious, but after the thrill wore out in three or four hours, the rest of the game just didn’t hold up. It was all so incredibly mediocre. In fact, the mission design was so piss-poor that it remains one of the very, very few games that I own and haven’t bothered to finish.

    Can someone please tell me that they had the exact same opinion of RFG and it doesn’t matter and I will love this game?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Red Faction has always been about pointless destruction. The first one was impressive because it allowed you to bypass things like doors by shooting through a rock wall.

      Really, if a node of the Hivemind can’t convince you, nothing will.

    • Tyshalle says:

      I get your complaints Muddy Water, about Red Faction, though I did like the game enough to finish it.

      Let me put it this way, though. They’re two different animals who share a common love for destruction. Just Cause 2 is better, and more exciting, though it doesn’t have nearly the destructibility of RF. But seriously, you won’t regret getting this game.

      Even if you don’t finish it, it’ll provide you a bare minimum of like 25 hours of gameplay before you’ll even approach anything of boredom. I’m about that far into the game right now, and there’s still an entire third of the game map that I haven’t even gone into yet. I can see myself easily putting another 25 hours into this game before I’ll get bored completely of it.

      I’m not sure if I’ll wind up finishing the game, as the reason for playing this is not the story. But there’s just so much here that it’s well worth the money.

    • Muddy Water says:

      Thatnks, Tyshalle. That’s pretty much what I wanted to hear. See, I want to get this game. Just wanted to remove any last shreds of doubt that I might regret it.

  41. ChampionHyena says:

    Getting it.

    Thank you, John. I was so on the fence after the first Just Cause turned me off. But after all the critical praise and YouTube videous and testimony like this? I can’t ignore it anymore.

  42. gryffinp says:

    I feel like I’m doing something wrong.

    I tried the Just Cause 2 demo a few days ago, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. for one thing, I felt a bit aimless, and I feel like the reason there just wasn’t much opportunity for large-scale destruction, nor did the game give you any direction at all. I just ran around a bit and shot some explosive barrels and dicked with the grappling gun a bit.

    But the one thing that made me almost vomit in my mouth was the horrible, horrible mouse control. Did no one else experience this? It seems to me like there’s somehow negative mouse acceleration. The view actually seemed to move farther in less time if you moved it slower rather than faster. Did no one else notice that? Is this some kind of crazy ultra specific bug?

    • Tyshalle says:

      I noticed the mouse issue in the demo too. I’m not sure if it went away in the full version or not, but I can tell you for certain that if the issue still exists I have not noticed it. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to it, but I recall it being very jarring in the demo, where like after turning the camera a bit I’d stop moving the mouse and the camera would continue to slowly move in a very gliding, subtle kind of way. I haven’t noticed if it’s still there, but if it is it doesn’t get in the way of the game for me anymore.

      The only thing that really sucks in terms of mouse control now is trying to pilot helicopters. Maybe I’m doing something wrong but I have like perfect control over my character when he’s on foot, or even when he’s gliding around with the parachute, but when I get into helicopters, especially one of the more advanced ones, I have to constantly move and move and move and move the mouse just to get it to turn like 30 degrees. It’s an enormous pain in the ass.

      I experienced the same aimless pointlessness in the demo that you’re describing too, though I don’t really feel that anymore in the full game, despite the fact that mechanically, nothing’s really changed. There are lots of missions you can take, and to my recollection there weren’t any missions in the demo. Maybe that’s part of it, but I think a bigger part is that you really only got to experience like 2% of the entire map in the demo, and when it all opens up you’re pretty much guided by your whims. It’s nice.

    • Plushpants says:

      @gryffinp: I also noticed terrible mouse lag with v-sync on. I don’t know why, but JC2 seems to suffer particularly badly with this issue. The solution is to force triple buffering using D3Doverrider, a great little program that comes with Rivatuner. You can use it to force triple buffering in all direct3d games (I recommend you do) which greatly improves any input lag related to v-sync.

  43. morte says:

    Not finding heat that much of an issue (on normal), I thought the escape and evasion part of the game it creates was actually quite a significant part of the fun. I’ve done all kinds of crazy stuff to get hidden for the heat to die down.

    Ammo I am having an issue with though and is spoiling the fun, other than dead soldier drops, just where the hell is it?

    Also it’s a bit of a party pooper when you get a heli, I always seem to get instant heat and blown out of the sky, no matter how innocently I take it!

    • a.nye.123 says:

      If you have the money, you can order in new guns or vehicles from the Black Market. I’m not sure of the k+m control, but it’s D-Pad Down, then Y, on the 360 pad.

  44. pyide says:

    I have the same problem with Just Cause 2, gryffinp. So you aren’t alone, I’ve seen other people discuss the shitty mouse input at random places around the internet as well.

    http://forums.eidosgames.com/showthread.php?t=102177

  45. Zambo says:

    I’m with you gryffinp, the mouse control was terrible. Demo did feel aimless, but this looks more like a “wait for a sale” game to me.

  46. Rath says:

    I seem to be getting through this game at a rate of 1% per hour, judging by the comparison of my last two saves. For those wondering about the island in the top left of the map, I can confirm that your plane WILL automatically explode after encountering a lightning storm, on approach to its’ southern beach at least. Oddly, while on said beach and in neighbouring jungle, the mini-map showed I was still in the ocean.

    Speaking of the map, has anyone noticed that it’s in 3D?

  47. WTF says:

    The mouse controls feel weird (and are a little odd in places) but most of the weirdness can be removed by disabling motion blur and turning of the (horribly performance destroying) Bokeh filter.

    As to being aimless: The demo is a bad example for the game. The full game makes a lot more sense and large scale destruction is not a possibility, it is a necessity!

  48. Walsh says:

    The whole point of the demo was to experience a variety of the towns, bases, etc. You could do the story mission if you wanted, or go blow up the ICBM site, or just fuck around.

    I don’t understand how someone can say an ‘open world’ game demo was aimless, the whole point of the demo is to show you a slice of the crazy things in their world to get you enticed. It was a great demo.

  49. MWoody says:

    A tip I’ve discovered to manage HEAT: don’t treat it like GTA or Saints Row 2 or any other games’ star/aggro system, where you need to play nice to make it go down. Namely, kill everyone who is shooting at you. I’m not entirely sure why this works, but it seems to be that you gain HEAT for enemies seeing you do bad things. So if everyone nearby dies quickly enough, you can often find yourself free to do whatever you want: no one is around to get angry or call for help. Military bases in particular can actually hit a point where everyone is dead and you’re left to roam free, as unlike small towns, no guards are likely to wander in on a patrol (though you won’t get any support from allies, either).

    It was this revelation that turned the tide for me, transforming the endless stream of enemies into something more manageable. It’s partially the games’ fault, actually, as your review touches on: in the first 10 hours or so, it’s rarely worth your time to fight back, and the average player will learn to just ignore bullets and run to a target. But as your enemies get better weapons/accuracy/numbers, it’s time to relearn how to deal with encounters, as aggression becomes the better part of valor.

  50. MWoody says:

    Oh, and a random question: without spoiling the actual reward, does anyone know if there’s any in-game (not achievement) bonus for getting the hidden skulls/black boxes/drugs? A few years ago I’d be able to assume there was, but GTAIV apparently decided an achievement was enough, and other games have followed in this depressing trend.

    • V. Tchitcherine. says:

      I believe it’s just an achievement which is incredibly disappointing and and demoralising considering the lack of incentive other than some inner-completionist masochism and an achievement. There is the 2,000 dollars you receive per item which is an inducement to collect them nonetheless but how great would it be if you received some kind of faction-specific tank with unbreakable grapple-winch!?