Lookin’ Back, Just Cause [The Overthinkery Reclamation Project]

This post is part of the Overthinkery Reclamation Project, an effort to reclaim some very old posts that I wrote a long time ago. This particular post was first published on October 2, 2015. (For the record, I ended up really liking Just Cause 3 too, though 2 remains my favourite!)

It’s been a long time since Just Cause 2. Five years, in fact, which seems astonishing considering that it’s still probably the game I play most frequently. It’s just such a great go-to game; yes, the plot is silly, the third-person shooter element rough and unpolished, and the dialogue cheesy enough to attract mice, but none of that matters. Why? Because it’s just so much damn fun, that’s why.

Just Cause 2 opens as it means to go on, with a vaguely Latino gravity-wizard jumping out of a plane surrounded by explosions and baddies with accents best described as ‘not American’. You the player, as dashing CIA agent Rico Rodriguez, plummet to earth with only a backpack full of limitless parachutes to slow your descent, manoeuvring through gunfire and anti-aircraft bogies through sheer force of will to catch up with your recently deceased comrade. (He happens to be the only black character in the game, as far as I can remember, but I’m sure that’s neither here nor there.) In midair you pilfer his PDA from his corpse, probably make a one-liner or something, and streamline yourself so as to glide directly to your destination, an ineptly-guarded military base. You shoot your way through a few guards, do whatever it was you came to do and bugger off via the sky, somehow using your magic parachute to actually gain altitude. Then, once a safe distance away, you release your chute (which presumably flies endlessly upwards until it eventually lands on a distant planet and colonises it) and descend once more, ensuring that you land safely and without pain by… reeling yourself into the ground via grappling hook.

That’s right. You can stop yourself taking fall damage by presumably increasing your speed just as you hit. It’s amazing.

Notice that all of this sounds both generic and really dumb. I haven’t bothered trying to explain the plot, and there’s a simple reason for that; it’s not that there is no plot, or even that it’s particularly bad. The story, such as it is, just has so little relevance to your actual experience most of the time that you’ll only care about advancing the plot because it unlocks new and increasingly ridiculous missions, culminating in a fight with the president of the game’s island setting which takes place on a flying nuke. It’s stupid and insane and I love it.

The reason I’m taking this dive into the past, much as Rico takes astonishingly frequent dives from rooftops, planes, helicopters, Jeeps attached to planes via grappling hook – the picture, I think, becomes clear – is because Just Cause 3 is rapidly approaching. Whilst I won’t be able to play it for a bit because I’m still about 20 years behind everyone else hardware wise, I’ll probably be spending a fair bit of time around its release date wistfully blasting around Panau and wishing I was in whatever Just Cause 3’s open world is called. So I’m looking forward to the next generation of Rico, and looking back at the last. I’m nostalgic like that. It’s times like this that I like to think about what needs to stay, and what doesn’t, so let’s run it down.

Keep

Vehicles

Just Cause 2 has my favourite selection of vehicles in any game. It’s one of the reasons I keep going back to it: there’s just no other game I’ve found that has such satisfying simulated aircraft in particular, at least that isn’t purely a flight simulator. And who wants to play a flight simulator when you’ve got Just Cause 2? Do you know any flight simulators that let you link up a boat to your plane via cable, take off, jump on the roof of your accelerating jet, leap from there to the boat, shoot a few bitches from atop your boat, get in the boat and finally release the cable so you soar gracefully down, triggering a remote explosive so your plane explodes in an epic cloud of gloriousness as you fall to earth in your boat?

I didn’t think so.

Missions

There are a lot of missions in Just Cause 2. A lot. They might not be particularly varied, but there’s at least a wide enough selection of objectives in a large enough map that you can pretty much just stick a race or a base takeover in a slightly different location and it’ll feel fresh as a daisy. A daisy that you can blow up, for points.

Bolo Santosi’s accent

Nuff said.

Not keep

There’s actually very little I would scrap entirely from Just Cause 2. There are improvements to be made, for sure; the gunplay is sloppy, the map is confirmed to be far bigger than JC2’s already enormous world, and more grappling hook connection options can be nothing but a good thing.

At the end of the day, I just don’t want it to get rid of the fun. Just Cause was never really about anything other than over-the-top, stupid, cheesy fun. So really, scrap the lists. As long as I can still feel like the most ridiculous human in the entire universe, I’ll be happy.

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