Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just Cause 2 is Just Bottomless

After playing Just Cause 2 for hours upon hours at a clip, jumping from location to location and not leaving any until I have 100% complete of that area, I'm hesitant to believe that this will ever, in fact, end.  This is despite direct knowledge that it will - it simply feels that way because no matter what I do, it's simply a drop in the ocean.  Strangely enough, it does not discourage, but encourage further playing, since I do realize that it adds up and I do know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Still, it's quite an imposing thing, having as big a map as the one in Just Cause 2 with as much to -do- in it, since it is far and beyond what other games would logically have.  I suppose I could say this as a positive and a negative thing, whereas some other aspects of the game unfortunately come across as merely negative.

One of these aspects is the rather lop-sided reaction of the Panauan Army, which I have come to loathe tremendously through my experiences with location hopping, as it directly interferes with my ability to do so in an enjoyable fashion.  You see, to explain my circumstances, I feel I have to explain the game a little, so allow me to do that really quickly.  The locales of the game can be categorized pretty easily:  you have (Military) Communication Stations, Military Bases, (Military) Harbors, (Military) Airports, Cities and Towns.  (I might be forgetting something, but if I am, it's not important right now.)  Now, as you might realize, they're fairly differentiated by what you would expect the most military resistance from and what you wouldn't expect a lot from.  As in, if I were going to storm a Military Base to blow stuff up, or run into a town and blow up a solitary Propaganda Truck, I would expect the former to be the more difficult task.

Just Cause 2 thinks otherwise.

I can storm a Military Base and spend ten to twenty minutes looking for everything contained within, and not have so much as a call for reinforcements come across the radio.  Even as I'm shooting guard after guard in the face with my Super Shotgun and blowing up giant tanks of gas and shit, nobody thinks I'm causing enough of a problem that they can't handle it themselves.  Or....something along those lines I guess.  The point is, from start to finish, I can 100% a Military Base with no problem, getting, at most, Level 3 Heat for my troubles.  I guess, on its own, this isn't too surprising, nor is it something to seriously consider or worry about.  After all, level 3 in a 5(?) level system is pretty high after all, and the upper tiers are likely reserved for story purposes and times when you just do not stop causing chaos.  At least, that's what you might think.

The problem comes in when I see a Propaganda Truck in a town or a city.  It is a problem because they are usually flanked by a couple of soldiers which, on their own, isn't too bad, or barely any resistance if you have a fully upgraded shotgun.  However, approaching said truck invokes a reaction that confuses and infuriates me, as I can literally watch the Heat Gauge go from one to two to three before I even throw a grenade inside of the truck and when I do and it explodes, I have level Five Heat out of fucking nowhere.  Because I brazenly blew up a truck that was spewing a recording of the President to the townsfolk who, by all accounts, have probably learned how to tune it out, what with having to live with it and all. 

From this moment after the truck detonates, the game harkens back to the days of yore, the days of Grand Theft Auto III, when the commonplace was to cause chaos until you had a five or six star wanted level and make a dramatic last stand because there was no fucking way you were surviving that.  While not quite that impossible, Level 5 Heat has afforded me plenty of experience in hijacking helicopters (one session giving me nine hijackings, on top of the likely half a dozen helicopters I simply shot down from my own copters) simply because they will not stop fucking sending them after me and the whole while I am simply left in shock of the fact that I am getting shot at by three military helicopters at the same time because I blew up a truck.  There is something wrong with this.

As you might imagine, this exercise in frustration has given me pause when it comes to completing Villages as locations as, if there is a Truck present, I simply have to destroy it, and of course in doing so, it means that I will then be stuck spending the next fifteen or so minutes fighting and evading my way out of a level five heat so that I may continue playing the game without having helicopters trying to examine my head with rockets.  Conversely, I exhale a sigh of relief every time the next undiscovered location turns out to be anything else, as it means that I will simply not have to deal with that awfulness, but rather, I look forward to the eventual cat-and-mouse game that surfaces at 92-97% completion, wherein that last piece of something beckons me from its hiding spot, as if some perverse game of Hide-And-Seek, wherein the goal is to find and consume or destroy, depending on that which is sought.

Still, the important part is that Just Cause 2 is fun, even after all these hours I've put into it.  I may have, in anger, once exclaimed at my television, "THIS.  SHIT LIKE THIS IS WHY YOU'RE TWENTY DOLLARS!", but I do consider it a success for gaming if just because it has raised the bar in crafting an open world that is truly that, as well as giving you the means to explore every inch of it in a way that is both enjoyable and interesting.  While the world isn't bursting with life, it has its own quirks and it has raw size if nothing else to make it feel like something worth celebrating in this particular way.  In many ways, I look at Just Cause 2 as something to show off potential more than anything else, since where the game isn't tight enough for me to consider it 'great', it's good enough to be quite fun, and it offers me plenty of times to say "Man, if only someone who churns out top-shelf quality could get a hold of this", to drool at the possibility therein.  If only, indeed.

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