As much fun as we used to have with the Grand Theft Auto games (we’re making an exception for GTA IV because that was too dour, repetitive and dull for our liking), the separation between ‘game’ and ‘messing about’ was always pretty off-putting. Your character would be roaming around blowing up half the city, ploughing through bystanders and dodging speeding cop cars for five minutes, but the moment you started a mission all your chaos would evaporate and you’d be locked back into the in-game narrative. It’s a design that actively fights immersion.
Not so Just Cause 2, the hilariously OTT new game from Eidos. Set in the South-East-Asian island country of Panau (with 1,000km of jungles, cities and deserts rendered in stunning detail), it tasks the player – as CIA agent Rico Rodriguez – with overthrowing the government by causing as much chaos as possible. Only after creating a certain amount of havoc (largely based around attacking military installations, if you’re squeamish about GTA’s civilian-killing ethos) will your next story mission be unlocked.
The result is a beautiful, seamless series of user-generated action set-pieces. Parachute into an airbase, sneak up to an oil pipeline and detonate it, drawing the attention of the guards while you mow them down from an armoured turret. Then grapple onto an escaping jet, surf it off the runway, steal it in mid-air and fly it like a missile into the face of an evil colonel while you parachute to the road below. And relax.
It helps that the developers are more interested in making a fun game than a hard one. Just Cause 2 is happy to give you an infinite number of detachable parachutes and an unbreakable grappling hook, plus absolute freedom to tackle things as you please. Want to swap to a passing sports car in the middle of a race? They’ll let you do that even if it makes the mission easier. Want to buy an armoured car in the middle of a gunfight? Go for it. Every time the developers had the option, they picked ‘fun’ over ‘reality’, and made the game all the stronger. The script is laughable, the acting is guff and story is bobbins, but when you’re up to your knees in spent shells and debris, you won’t give a damn.
(PC, PS3, Xbox 360)