Superhero Sandbox. Confused? Let me elaborate on what that is: a superhero sandbox game is a game that tosses you into the boots of a very talented/powerful/well-equipped character before throwing you into a beautifully realized open world that, essentially, becomes your playground. Grand Theft Auto wouldn’t fall into this category because the character you control is an average Joe with no real abilities, but games like Prototype, Batman: Arkham Asylum (to a degree), and inFamous would definitely be considered Superhero Sandbox games. And while the character you control in Just Cause is void of any mutations or even the modest ability to fire laser beams from his anus, he does have a rather badass grappling hook that more than makes up for it.
I apologize for throwing ‘anus’ at you earlier without a warning of some kind, even a “Beware, I’m about to say anus!” probably would’ve worked. Now that you’ve forgiven me, let’s get in to just how fantastic this game is, and what ended up holding it back from reaching its full potential.
First off, the game looks amazing, and it’s easily the biggest game in regards to sheer scale that I’ve ever seen. Take a jet and fly straight up until you can’t anymore and you’ll see what I mean. Just being able to fly through the clouds (the clouds being actual objects in this game), soaring above storms, and finally diving from my vehicle so I can feel the wind on my (virtual) face as I plummet to the ground for about 3-4 minutes. Just Cause 2 has a plethora of really cool and memorable moments like this; you just have to get clever.
When I’m playing games like these I tend to completely ignore the main story and instead spend the first 10-12 hours blowing stuff up, pulling off the best stunts I can, and getting the fuzz to follow me as I car surf so I can watch them crash into things when I tether their vehicle to toe ground (or even a helicopter, which I could only pull off once). Just Cause 2 is the type of game that might not stun you with amazing missions or beautiful set pieces, but it does have a bounty of unforgettable moments that are random in nature but easily end up making the game.
With that said, the story and characters is definitely one of the weakest elements in the game. Plot-wise, you control Agency Agent Rico Rodriquez on a mission that will have him weaving between the game’s three unique gangs. I’m a story guy. You could even go as far as calling me a story whore. For a game to get my attention and, more importantly, sustain it over 10+ hours, it needs to have a good story. Even though Just Cause 2 falls short here (and that’s not to say the story is bad, it’s just not terribly interesting), I find myself craving some relentless, illogical action that only this game can continuously provide.
There is a feature that is surprisingly absent from the game: some sort of co-operative option would’ve been nice and throwing in a second agent for another player to control could have taken this game from good to something you cannot miss. Something else that might just end up showing its face in the third game (should it happen) is a slightly more creative weapon/vehicle upgrading system. I like being able to upgrade but I really would’ve enjoyed the option of customizing my vehicles and weapons to suit my tastes. Instead, I just find myself picking up whatever items have been tossed about the game world.
When it comes to the replay factor I’m a bit torn. In a way, the game is unpredictable in its action, there are a handful of hidden areas (like Lost island) and there’s a plethora of items and resources to collect to make it worth going through the game to see what you can find. However, the lack of any multiplayer component is more than a little disappointing and the fairly linear story keep me from saying it’s definitely worthy of a round two.
As an open world game with completely unrealistic physics and a humorous mismatch of characters (there must be at least a dozen different accents, sometimes all are hilariously congregated into a single city), this game is second to none. It looks better than Prototype, plays better than Saints Row 2, and is exponentially more fun than Grand Theft Auto IV. However, the story is lacking, as are the characters, and for every enjoyable missions there’s one that falls short in the entertainment department, but if you’re like me you won’t even notice those weaknesses until you’re well into the game.