Everything you can see can be accessed. Ridiculously distant snow-capped mountains, that would normally be a 2D sprite, or barred from access by ‘invisible walls’ in most games – are accessible. Not only that, but they’re intricately detailed, densely populated; a patchwork of settlements and military bases all teeming with activity and chaotic opportunity.
And the imagery is amazing. Terrain changes from sparse desert to thick jungle and snowy mountains. Archipelagos of rugged islands fill crystal blue oceans and reefs. Sun rises on the back of a thunderstorm showering the land with burnt oranges and blood reds.
There is a full day/night cycle and active weather changes. Snow changes Rico’s appearance for example. As does water – from rain as well as dips in the ocean.
It is one of the most gorgeous sandbox worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. And all of it runs blissfully smooth with barely any hints of frame rate stutter or slow down.
There’s a distinct lack of audio activity outside of vehicle noise and chaos/mission explosions. For a world of this size, with the population expected and the abundance of space and settlement, it would have been nice to have some radio stations or some form of ambient life, beyond the occasional “radio announcer” letting the people of Panau know that the Stronghold you just blew up, resulting in a massive explosion that rocked the populace, was actually just a controlled demolition of a disused Government facility..
Vehicles are unique in both appearance and sound, however. Jet fighters for example have an incredible sense of speed thanks to the nimble control and convincing sound effects. Machine guns have a weighty noise under fire as opposed to pistols which are much less flamboyant.
The sound effects department have made sure each and every vehicle and weapon was accurate, again contributing to the immersion in such a massive sandbox environment.
Voice acting has definitely not been a high priority, in comparison to a game like GTA IV for example, but the point of Just Cause 2 is not serious, story-driven dialogue. Its cheesy, comical delivery and light-hearted banter. And in this function, it succeeds.
Without a doubt, this is the largest, most active and most chaotic open world environment ever seen in a game. There’s plenty of missions to keep the interest level up and so SO many distractions it’s almost daunting. Those who are a little bit inclined to obsessive compulsive disorder can look forward to a good 80+ hour game hunting that elusive 100% completion.
Just Cause 2 offers a diverse world, with three major environment variations, all easily accessible with an abundance of vehicles from ground to air – and the addition of the wonderful grapple/winch mechanic which, when coupled with your ‘reloadable’ parachute sets no location off limits.
All that Just Cause 2 lacks is a stealth/low-key attack ability. Sure, it may have been against the grain of what Avalanche set out to offer, but sometimes, walking into a tiny village to destroy a water tower with a Triggered Explosive from 500 metres away – only to have three army helicopters, boats and a small army swarm you, seems a little unnecessarily over-enthusiastic on their behalf.
Truth be told, I’ve struggled to find fault with Just Cause 2. There are some minor glitches here and there, like progress towards collectables during a mission are all lost if you die, but for the majority of the time they’re confined to odd deaths and unexplainable faults of the physics engine. Which you then have a laugh about – upload to YouTube and share with your mates.
Simply put, it’s fun. Insanely good, addictive fun. What every open-world sandbox game should be. Enjoyable chaos. Power and access limited only by your imagination.