Just Cause 2 demo review

March 8, 2010

Having not published anything on this blog for a while, with all of my work appearing here, I thought that I would give a quick little review of a demo I played for action/adventure/sandbox game Just Cause 2.

I played the original a few years back when it was released, and I was pretty underwhelmed by the execution, though I did love the action film insanity of the leading character and the kinds of feats he could pull off. Fast-forward to the present day, and you have more of the same, but with bigger explosions and a whole heap of improved physics to play with.

The demo starts you off with a few explosive barrels to shoot at, having dropped you in the middle of a cut-scene that doesn’t make any sense. I spent a few minutes gleefully shooting the barrels and watching them skyrocket into the air. Then I realised that you can use your grappling hook to attach two objects together, and another ten minutes of my time was gone. I was having some real fun. But for how long?

I decided to ignore the mission which had been given to me, and go exploring. The island environment is pretty gorgeous, and the character models have been improved significantly, as have the effects on the explosions. There is a lot more polish to the game this time around. However, I get the feeling from the demo that it will suffer from the same lack of focus as the previous title. The main problem was that the missions of the main story arc were very hard to differentiate from the side quests which you could choose to ignore. GTA IV does repeat mission types fairly regularly, but it never overdoes it, and gives you some interesting one-offs to enjoy as part of the main story to make the narrative thrust clearer, and the action that defines your character more epic. With Just Cause, you have little incentive to get on with the main missions, because there is just not enough diversity.

The Just Cause 2 demo is very much worth a look, particularly if you have Steam on your PC, and you can download the 2GB file relatively easily. But the main game- well, I’m not so sure.

Since I first wrote this review back last year I’ve actually picked up Just Cause 2 and I have to say my scepticism about its potential quality was unfounded. Turns out it was one of the best games of 2010 thanks to its true sandbox nature and unlimited ways to cause chaos and have fun.


4 Responses to “Just Cause 2 demo review”

  1. justathought Says:

    I quite liked Just Cause on the PS2. It did not have any of the apparent bugs stated in the PC and xbox versions. Some elements were repeatative but that was expected in a game of such size. Anyway, moving to this generation, I downloaded the PS3 version and was very impressed. All the video demos I had seen were xbox 360 versions with horrendous game breaker screen tear. The 360 may have had sharper textures and a higher frame rate in the videos but it was so slight I did not notice any depreciation in the PS3 version. You may be able to see when played side by side,but the total lack of screen tear on the PS3 version was immediately apparent to me. I think I prefer a game that holds back on texture detail and frame rate in order to garuantee immersion is not destroyed with screen tear. Regarding gameplay, I thought it fulfilled its premise. It is a sandbox. You make your own story by using your own creativity. The scripted story missions are the icing on the cake to add detail to your progress. For example, GTA IV was great but it disappointed me because it was not a true sandbox. All the well scripted missions had to be done in order with very little creative input from the player. The JC2 demo had that sorted. I could either go in all guns blaising or sneak in like a real terrorist, plant triggered grenades on all the key targets, then retreat to the safety of a mountain to trigger it all. The result was spectacular. They even had the sound delay. You see the puffs of smoke followed by distant explosions echoing across the valley. Very impressive. Very cinematic but totally user generated in real time. The players who criticise games like this, cannot improvise and like to be led by the hand, so they never get to see moments like that unless it is scripted. With a true sandbox, no two players will play it the same way and have a different experrience. This was the case with Far Cry 2 as well. A lot of people slagged it, but if you were creative, it was a great game.

  2. fungalporpoise Says:

    Hi Justathought, cheers for the comment.

    I’ve not played the console versions of Just Cause 2, though I imagine the technical superiority of the PS3 could help out with the massive vistas and screen tearing issues. But being a PC gamer for the most part I don’t have those kinds of issues. I just have to worry about whether my hardware can handle new titles 🙂

    I like a certain level of linearity to a sandbox game, and I think that I fall into the camp of people who were irritated by JC1 and FarCry 2 for the lack of focus and drive. I’m glad you enjoyed FC2 for the freedom, but I like a narrower, engaging story, otherwise I don’t feel like I can be bothered to keep playing. For me GTA IV was the perfect hybrid, allowing some people to play around freely whilst others followed the story. In fact, perhaps FallOut 3 or Oblivion are even better sandbox environments, with true player choice and equally well scripted main missions and side quests.

    Intersting points 🙂

  3. justathought Says:

    The PC is definitely the best game platform, but the PS3 fits my budget. It suffers from a lot of screen tear if the developers don’t optimise the code for the PS3 multiple processors. Luckily they appear to have done a good job on JC2.

    I know what you mean about a good game structure. I did enjoy GTA IV but there was nothing to do after the story was finished. Red Dead Redemption looks promising due to the animal hunting trade, treasure maps and procedural events. It should also have a great Rockstar story structure.

    I suspect JC2 may have a diluted story due its large map size and emphasis on larking about, but that is a price I am willing to pay for creative freedom. It should give me many hours of fun until RDR comes out 🙂

  4. fungalporpoise Says:

    In theory I am all in favour of JC2, because it is a bright, vibrant looking game that gets rid of the gritty visuals and paradoxical seriousness of tone that many current gen games use. I just hope its more than a game made up of side missions. I want some scripted meat from time to time :).

    RDR – yes please! Cowboys are awesome, Rockstar knows its way around a story, and it has to be an improvement on Gun and the Call of Juarez series.

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