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Summary20th Century American Foreign Policy: The Game
The GoodJust Cause 2 is not going to lie to you. It knows what you bought the game for, and it's not going to pretend that you're there for anything else. You're there to blow up things all across an island country, and that is precisely what the game has to offer.
The game offers far fewer combat options than older games in the same genre, but Avalanche was right to play up the importance of the grappling hook. The snap of grappling a building roof, opening your parachute, and using the momentum to fly over an entire town feels fantastic. There's also a variety of asshole physics tricks you can do with the hook to satisfy your asshole physics itch, but that's all they'll do. Your guns are always more effective than anything you can do with the hook.
The BadPerfection is not when you can add nothing more. Perfection is when you can't subtract anything else. Just Cause 2 takes place in an island country that is miles and miles wide, and there is no reason for it. After the first time you see the full island sprawled out below while you fly over it (which is honestly pretty great) the size of the island becomes meaningless outside some of the races. With exactly one exception (the best mission in the game) all the missions and objectives take place in single bases or cities. Two thirds of the island could sink into the ocean and nothing about the game would have to be changed.
I was unimpressed by the scale of the island and the cut-and-paste towns, both of which are big parts of the game. I was doubly unimpressed by how limited actually playing the game is. A game as simple as Just Cause 2 really needed co-op, or at least building destruction or airstrikes like the Mercenaries series. As soon as you trigger an alarm enemies swarm you endlessly, crawling out of the cracks all around you like a swarm of rats. About half-way through the game helicopters get added to the mix, turning alerts into a constant repetition of hijacking helicopters, getting shot down by the next helicopter wave, and hijacking a new helicopter.
On this next point I'm still not sure if I want to call this a positive or a negative, but Just Cause 2 is a thematically consistent game about American foreign policy, by which I mean it's absolutely vile. Your goal in the game is to kill a puppet dictator who decided to cut ties with the US. The method by which you do this is to cause Chaos (an actual stat in the game) by destabilizing the country through attacks against both military and civilian targets. As the country destabilizes the three revolutionary forces Rico allies himself with, all of which range from untrustworthy to criminal, expand their influence and fight the army on the streets (though not often enough to break up the monotony of traveling, sadly).
Rico is indisputably a force of evil, his contact Sheldon is a living personification of American Jingoism, and every other character in the game is so insignificant that they might as well not exist. The game only seems to have these characters at all because someone involved in the game was under the extremely incorrect assumption that anyone who played the first Just Cause cared for its story in the slightest. At least in that game you were blowing up military outposts to turn them into resort hotels, as ludicrous a concept as that is. In this game you convince the general populace to revolt by blowing up water towers in the desert and transformers in isolated mountain towns.