Xbox 360

It’s been just over three years since Just Cause 2 was released, yet it is one of few games that I just can’t help  revisiting every couple of months, either to work on the mammoth task of 100% completion or sometimes just to off steam. But what exactly is the winning formula that keeps me coming back?

Some games that we play simply do not have a ‘wow-factor’ that makes their appeal immediately apparent to the player.  However, with a bit of perseverance, what seems like a dull or generic game can often pleasantly surprise you.  I tend to call these games growers, or slow-burners and for me, Just Cause 2 falls firmly in that category.

Just Cause 2 throws you into the role of a mercenary named Scorpio and takes place in the fictional, South East Asian island of Panau. You are on a mission to find the whereabouts of your good friend and previous employer who has recently gone missing. You quickly befriend some of the local factions who are looking to overthrow the country’s despotic leader Baby Panau and take control. That’s where you come in.

It’s probably fair to say you’ve seen this story somewhere before, whether in a budget B movie, some low-grade jar-head literature or possibly even in another video game series. However, the real appeal of Just Cause 2 does not come from it’s plotlines, nor its characters but from the massive sense of freedom it creates for the player.

Following the first mission (which takes place in a small island fortress) the whole 1,000 sq km island becomes your open-world playground. You can drive and pilot any vehicle and go anywhere you choose without restriction. Armed with a grappling hook, which can attach itself to any surface,  Scorpio can literally scale any building or climb any mountain that he encounters. Scorpio also has a parachute, which he can use from any height. Experimenting with combining both these tools really becomes a joy when you start to attach yourself to cars and boats whilst gliding behind them with a parachute.

In addition to this, you can use the grappling hook to link any two surfaces or objects. This is a little more complex but can have great results. For instance, you can attach a car to a helicopter, hop in the chopper and carry the car (and occupants) off to another location. You can also hook enemies with this tool meaning that you can pull them out of high sniping positions or simply hang them upside down from a tree in a macabre display of rag-doll physics.

Weapons come in variety, as well as abundance, and much like the prequel, Scorpio has the ability to call in weapon and vehicle drops from his employers.

Some of the stunts that Scorpio can pull are far from realistic, such as surfing on top of a 747 as it glides through the sky and hijacking fast moving vehicles. However, the graphics are fantastic, with impressive lighting effects, water rendering and highly detailed textures which make make every setting in Just Cause positively stunning. Panau’s varied landscape with its mix of dense jungles, ancient temples, deserts, snow topped mountains, is reminiscent of Sri Lanka, really adding to the games richness and beauty.

Even after the main missions have been completed, there are countless side missions that can be undertaken as well as races, collectibles, easter-eggs and all the other features that we have grown accustomed to with open-world games.

The Sum Up

This is a fantastic example of how a sandbox game should be and after three years I am still finding new things that I love about Panau.

If you have not played Just Cause 2, I strongly recommend it. It’s free roaming madness at its finest with more action, explosions and madcap stunts than you can shake a stick at. Amongst the chaos, you’ll find moments of pure tranquility as you glide peacefully away from a burning crime scene, held aloft by your trusty parachute. The perfect contrast.

Where many sandbox games will promise a world of absolute freedom, Just Cause 2 is one of the only ones that truly delivers on this front. You can go anywhere, do anything and that is what makes it a timeless classic for me. Just writing about it makes me want to switch it on right now and drag som

What did you think of Just Cause 2? Do you have any ideas of the perfect formula for replayability? We’d love to hear your thoughts.