'Just Cause 2' an addictive, bloody game


I'm not sure how many video gamers are clamoring for a new "Grand Theft Auto" copycat game. For that matter, I'm not sure how many gamers are clamoring for a new "Grand Theft Auto."

The genre is so old at this point, it has whiskers and a walker.

But here's the rub: "GTA" copycats keep getting better and better. The latest is bloody "Just Cause 2," an embarrassingly addictive adventure, where (of course) you hijack vehicles and kill people.

But hold on. It's far better and more creative than that description allows.

You portray a vaguely foreign-tongued supersoldier. Your goal is to work with three rival militias, while blowing up towns, in order to create havoc that will inspire islanders to rise up against their evil dictator.

But unlike the usual "GTA" outing, you are armed with a supernatural grappling hook. You can stand in a forest, point it at a bad guy's helicopter, fire the hook at the helicopter, zip line up to it, throw out the pilot, then fly it.

And instead of running (since running is so 20th century), you fire the grappling hook at a tree or a car (or vertically up to the top of a building), then you zip line really fast to that point.

That means you typically zip across 100 meters in one or two seconds. And if you jump off a building, you are equipped with an always-reusable supernatural parachute that lets you float to safety.

In other words, "Just Cause 2" feels like "GTA" but with some "Spider-Man" abilities to pull off superhuman stunts. The game makers have executed this great idea excellently.

The scope of this game is unbelievable. You are on a gigantic, gorgeous island that makes "GTA" cities seem small. The island has jungles, cities, snowy mountain towns, and even a stripper pole-laden disco airship, which is carried in the air by two zeppelins. (I love that disco airship!)

To get to that disco airship, hijack a helicopter and land on its bridge. Oh, that reminds me: This is the best helicopters-battling-in-the-air game I've ever seen. They are oh-so-fun.

I've played this game for about 11 hours, and I believe I've explored only about 8 percent of the island.

Unfortunately, the game starts ploddingly and too easily. At first, it seems like any average solo adventure, before it turns entertaining and sometimes hard to beat.

And the controls can take some getting used to. I threw hand grenades instead of my grappling hook about 12 times before I stopped making that mistake.

But after a few initial missions, I got the hang of it all: walking with an enormous machine gun; using my grappling hook and parachute to slingshot for 100 meters at a time; and blowing stuff up real good.

I have to say, from bazookas to triggered explosives, I am enjoying "Just Cause 2" more than I enjoyed "Grand Theft Auto IV." I know -- that's heresy! But whatever. "Just Cause 2" is good stuff, copycat or not.

("Just Cause 2" by Square Enix retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 -- Plays very fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "M" for blood, drug reference, language, sexual themes and violence. Four stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

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