It's been some time since I last wrote a review here (search for my Nanoha review), and while I've wanted to do more I didn't have quite enough inspiration. However, after downloading the Just Cause 2 demo in my regular
scavengering browsing of the Playstation Store, I finally found just the thing to get me back in the swing of reviewing things, this time in the correct forum!
Of course, I won't be doing this alone. Instead, I'll be helped and trained back into this by a good friend of mine. Say hi, friend:
Pictured: A good friend of mine. If you watched the above video, this joke is funnier.
A random friend: Hello, forum, has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
...yeah, he's a bit odd, but really, isn't that the whole point and charm of non-expert guest reviewers?
A random friend: I'm not really good with video games, but ask me about Linux and I know what I'm talking about.
Me: It's OK, you can snark regardless of your gaming habits.
Onto the actual review, I downloaded the game since an open-world TPS interested me, and the Square Enix logo added to this curiosity (especially since I don't expect it anywhere near more "western" genres). When I started the demo, I was greeted with a cutscene involving the player character and some woman who is helping you for some reason. I can't pass judgement on the characters or plot, as neither is delved into much in the demo. Immediately afterwords there was a short (as in, 15 seconds) sequence on a helicopter, which made it very clear that you could skip it by pressing X. As Square published this, I'll go with the most amusing explanation and take it as a satirical jab at people who whine about cutscenes (I will admit that I'd prefer it to be a skydiving tutorial, though).
A random friend: At the beginning we were dumped on a desert island, and did what any sane human would do: shoot things.
Me: Actually, that's kinda the goal.
Friend: Sorry, I wasn't paying attention, I was texting.
As I mentioned above, the goal is to cause chaos, basically taking what people naturally do in open-world games but making it progress the plot. Of course, this comes with the caveat that your wanton destruction must be against inexplicably-marked government property, though this is less constraining than it sounds for reasons you'll later see. Some of your tools for the aforementioned blowing shit up, aside from basic things like guns, are a parachute, allowing you to implement suicidal jumps you usually make in jest by the blessing of quick-load, and a grappling hook, which feels something like Zelda's hookshot and mandates an overused joke.
Where are your necessarily-overused superhero references now?
Getting to the actual game, you land in a guardless village in the middle of a desert island. There are some shacks, inexplicably-marked government explosives, a few guns and grenades, and a nice view that, surprising to my understanding of technical limitations based on early-2000's PC games, wasn't a skybox. Yes, I know praising something like that this generation is like praising a post-Magnovox game for having colors, but the draw distance was still shocking to me, and even if some of that fog was there to obscure parts of the map, it was small and well-detailed enough to not be at all cheap. Getting past my unfrozen-caveman shock, though, the game initially didn't impress me otherwise, and in fact seemed empty, both world and content-wise.
First of all, the level design seemed barren. While I expect a good bit of that as it's a desert island, a map can (and obviously should) still be interesting with a barren feel to it. Just look at Fallout 3, a large chunk of it was wasteland (nuclear apocalypse and all), but it was spaced with plenty of random areas to explore and enemies to kill. This, on the other hand, just seemed like a bunch of desert with some mountains to run up and trees to grapple. The most interesting activity was getting to a high point and jumping off, though I give the developers credit for giving you a parachute and thus making these jumps substantially more interesting. Of course, that doesn't mean much if you don't have other goals and locations to make use of that tactic.
Secondly, the shooting and weapon mechanics aren't too impressive. I don't demand much innovation in my shooting mechanics; Half Life 2 impresses me with its levels, atmosphere, story, and setpieces despite mechanics hardly more advanced than Quake II (keep in mind I mean the weapons management and gunplay/cover tactics, please don't spam me with the Gravity Gun). However, even though I'm not usually the biggest fan, this game would've benefited from the Gears of War-style cover system seen in many other games as opposed to holding down the left analogue stick to crouch. That way shooting from cover wouldn't be as clumsy as it struck me, which is very important since the game uses regenerating health (hilariously, the game also has health packs despite this, which are time-savers more than anything, albeit crucial time-savers in firefights). Granted, you can alternate between crouching and ducking with the right analogue stick, and I'm nitpicking, but it's still rather annoying.
However, neither of those points matter for one fundamental reason, one that is best expressed by a picture:
Low camera-phone quality aside (couldn't find a screenshot), this is my character riding a fuel tank. This Penny Arcade strip comes to mind, along with the ending of Gurren Lagann's first episode.
If you recall me mentioning that damaging marked items wasn't such a constraint, well, you're falling into the standardized testing problem of reading (i.e memorizing). More seriously, this is exactly why it's not so problematic, because it means you ride goddamn fuel tanks. To tell you how I found this, I tried shooting a fuel tank and grappling it at the advice of my friend, not expecting it to work in the slightest. However, as you can see it did, and right after my first successful attempt I saw a mountain base and decided to parachute to it. Said base had a helicopter, which I hijacked and flew across the level with. The resulting exploration shot down my first point about the level design; there really were many interesting areas throughout. Hell, at the end of the demo's timer (visible in the screenshot), I jumped out of the helicopter and into a missile silo, in a way that resembles the other Rocky.
And his pal, Bullwinkle the moose!
Of course, there's one last negative I have to get out of the way: from what I can guess, the game may fall into the GTA-sandbox problem. To elaborate, it's when an open-world game that may be fun to mess around in has boring missions. While I mentioned that the goal was built around destoying things, something that I'd do anyways, I neglected to mention that you do so to unlock missions. However, from what I can infer there's hope that it averts this with interesting maps and the sheer thrill of grappling among other transportation options (again, fuel tanks). This remains to be seen in the full game, which I may be on my way to
adding to my workload alongside the rest of Valkyria Chronicles, God of War Collection and III, and Uncharted 2 playing thanks to the demo.
TL;DR version: play the demo right now for the fuel tanks, and also see if the game would be interesting.
And that concludes my second review. I hope you enjoyed it and that I actually wrote worth a crap.