There aren’t many video games that will let you hijack an airliner and send it hurtling into a skyscraper while you leap out at the last second and grab on to a passing helicopter for a slick getaway. Just Cause 2, Square Enix’s action/adventure sequel, does. And while it’s not the jihad terrorist simulation I may have made it sound like, digital chaos is definitely on the loose.
Gamers play as Rico Rodriguez, a nearly indestructible operative from a CIA-ish agency called, appropriately enough, The Agency. Tough guy Rico is sent to the fictional South Asian country of Panau—a large island paradise that’s recently been taken over by a Kim Jong Il-like dictator.
But Rico’s not there for the flower-strewn fields, the majestic mountainsides or the propaganda-laced broadcasts, he’s on the trail of his former mentor Tom Sheldon, who skipped off with a bunch of Agency secrets and a big bag of cash. Rico’s mission, if he chooses to accept it (and if he didn’t there’d be no game), is to find Tom and end the spy’s roguish ways.
Burning Cities, Big Hurrahs
How you get him to that face-off confrontation, however, is pretty much up to you. You can go anywhere on the 400 square miles of city-dotted landscape and do whatever you want. And since all those miles are “to scale,” Rico has a fancy grappling hook strapped on his arm that helps him move Spider Man-like from here to there. Or if he wants to go old-school, he can also commandeer and motor around in over 100 different vehicles—everything from a motorbike to a military jet to a tank.
As Rico zips about, there are a series of unlockable Agency and rebel faction missions—such as rescuing captured agents, destroying military bases or carrying out deadly assassinations—that move him ever closer to his end goal. The only requirement, really, is for him to incite as much explosive bedlam as possible along the way.
Thus, igniting fuel depots, detonating broadcasting towers or demolishing statues of the high-lord dictator are the kind of torch-the-world activities that panic the populace and make up the heart and soul of this title. The more devastation caused, the more chaos points Rico racks up. Accumulated points open up new obliterating and blood-spilling missions, and can also translate into new weapons and vehicles. (Weapons range from pistols to high-powered shotguns to massive turret guns.)
Speaking of blood-spilling, in this boom-bam celebration, friend, foe and foreigner are all fair game. Rico’s official orders state that “civilian casualties are regrettable but sanctioned.” After all, when you’re raining hot lead on a crowd it’s hard to tell which pool of blood belongs to whom.
Reckoning the Ruin
Less lax but still a problem is the game’s approach to salty and sour language. Enemies spit out “b‑‑tard,” “d‑‑n” and “son of a b‑‑ch” when provoked. And an inebriated compatriot complains about his “effing” car. That same guy is usually seen with an open bottle in hand and a cigar between his teeth.
Drug drops are also part of play. As are sexual innuendos. And Rico gets transported to an airborne brothel/lounge dubbed “The Mile High Club.” Women dance in skimpy bikinis and men saunter about in their Chippendales “best,” sporting nothing more than tight shorts and a bowtie.
These M-rated elements may not be as gruesome, foulmouthed or sexually edgy as some other titles in the genre, but Just Cause 2 still gives gamers more than enough, um, cause to just stay away. Few people will ever have the opportunity to steal a gun-laden helicopter and blow up city streets in real life. And, thankfully, that’s as it should be. Here they can. And when they do, the game gives them a big thumbs up for the effort.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.