In many ways, Just Cause 2 is the sandbox game that everyone has been waiting for. Ever since the heyday of Grand Theft Auto III, a huge majority of gamers have always taken frequent pause during sandbox adventures, and just treated the games like what they really were: playgrounds. If a mission or task was too tough or lengthy for your liking, you were always free to run off and find out how much havoc you could cause before being gunned down by the law in a blaze of glory. And the novelty of that has never subsided.

Just Cause 2 isn’t just aware of this fact, it has customarily built itself upon it. The cinematics will probably call to mind the movies of Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Willfully dumb and innocently good-natured at the same time, it perfectly evokes the spirit of a goofy 1980’s action flick, and the lack of any faux-adult seriousness or pretentious storytelling ambitions, makes for a cocktail that is quite frankly beyond refreshing.

As in the enjoyable (but considerably less industrious) Just Cause, you play as affable CIA Black Ops agent Rico Rodriguez. He’s an enjoyably unpredictable character, and the game’s development team Avalanche Studios have described him as James Bond, Mad Max, Rambo, Tony Montana, Han Solo and Che Guevara all rolled into one. He’s both strangely moralistic and a maniacal  and murderous daredevil, and his attitude to the world (and to the fictional tropical island of Panau, where the game’s action takes place) perfectly encapsulates the ludicrous air of the game as a whole.

As in its predecessor, you are almost encouraged to ignore the game’s plot, and just run around causing as much trouble as you can instead. This time around though, these events result in “Chaos” points, and they unlock almost everything in the game, from extra weapons (available to buy via the black market) to both main story and side quests, to power-ups and vehicles. The difficulty also adapts to your skill and progression, so as you level-up and become more confident with causing carnage, so too do your enemies. Just Cause 2 is a game that delights in keeping players on their toes.

And perhaps best of all, experimentation is to the fore. The utterly ridiculous grappling tool (the use of which is one of Rico’s core skills and available from the very beginning) moves Just Cause 2 one more step away from reality, and it is one of the most whole-heartedly amusing gameplay dynamics to appear in any sandbox game in recent (and not so recent) memory. The number of hilarious things to do with it are basically insurmountable. Our favourite moment involved spontaneously hooking two approaching gunmen together, and watching as the chord accidentally got snagged on the stabiliser of a nearby helicopter during take off.

So you’ll laugh hard, and often. But you’ll also thrill at the pyrotechnics, at the breathtaking visuals that comfortably reside alongside some of the finest of this generation, and at the audacity of an action game that has the cajones to prize its daft sense of humour over almost everything else… bar experimentation. If you’ve ever toyed with the boundaries of a sandbox experience (and that should refer to anyone who’s ever played in one even momentarily) then Just Cause 2 is sure to be, in every sense of the word, an absolute blast.

Watch the Just Cause 2 trailer here…

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