I’ve been playing Just Cause 2 (JC2) to death lately. I keep trying to write about it by starting with something like “I’m going to ignore the story and world, as that’s a mere frame of tissue for the rest of the game.”
The only problem is, I keep wanting to talk about the story, and the world and so I’m going to get that out of my system first.
You play as Rico, a mercenary like agent of ‘The Agency’. You’re on a mission to Panau, a fictional Asian island. The President has been assasinated by his own son, who then took control. Even worse, the agent who mentored you has gone dark, and the Agency fears the worst. You’re here to find out what happened to him and, if he’s gone to the Evil Side, deal with him.
I think that intro manages to tick most of the Action Hero style checkboxes.
Oh, apparently also anything we can do to help destabilise the Government while we’re here will help us in our search for our missing colleague, and be really helpful to US interests too!
In pursuit of this lofty goal, you can team up with one, or all, of three rebel groups. Whether you work with any of them, or go solo, you want to cause as much ‘Chaos’ as possible. This is done by blowing stuff up. The best things to blow up are government owned installations such as fuel tanks, Surface to Air Missile (SAM) launchers , radar, propaganda wagons and the like.
Apparently, we really are only here for the political machinations since killing the civilian populace in support of these goals doesn’t seem to be a problem. You’re never reprimanded for collateral damage, no matter how great the damage.
You’re also not reprimanded for making those surviving civilians’ (you did let some survive, didn’t you?) lives worse. Destroy their water tower, leaving their village without fresh water? Go for it. Take out those transformers so that the villagers have no electricity? No worries. Blow up the local petrol station so that whatever cars you haven’t destroyed or stolen are useless? Be my guest!
As long as you’re destabilising the region, anything goes! Remember, this is all in the service of finding your lost (possibly now evil and wearing a goatee) colleague, and helping the US save the island from the Evil Dictator™!
The script walks a somewhat fine line between satire, and taking itself too seriously. There were times when listening to an impassioned speech by one of the Rebel Leaders that I began to think “You must be joking!”, and then the twist came, and I realised that no, this was satire all along. It’s very much like that one friend who’s sense of humour is so dry that newcomers think they’re serious, and even old hands aren’t always sure …
One thing that makes this game better, story wise, over some other sandbox games (Grand Theft Auto V, I’m looking at you), is that the story is light, and there isn’t that much exposition. This story just wouldn’t hold up as either a story, or full on satire, for a whole game; the joke would wear very thin. In this case, the fact that there’s so little story, makes it just the right amount of story.