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Just Cause 2 is THE KIND OF GAME WHERE YOU'LL APPRECIATE EXISTING, AND THEN YOU'LL BE BRUTALLY MUTILATED. I like to spend my Sunday afternoons in the car with the radio on, driving around my busy little suburban town in my '93 Corolla. I get a lot of pleasure from this. There's something about watching the world careen past you through a sheet of glass that is one of life's small marvels - the feeling that you could go anywhere and do anything exists for a few moments when you take an impulsive turn down a street you've never ventured. There's some sort of elusive pleasure from justbeing, a kind that I hardly ever have time for now that I'm nearing 20. It's like that happiness you felt when you were a kid and would get the urge to just run around and frolic, when you would look at a tree or a big pile of dirt and feel the irresistible impulse to conquer it. Rico Rodriguez is the playful protagonist of Just Cause 2. He's a suave-as-hell grown- man whose preferred method of travel is a flamboyant combination of parachuting and hook-shotting, a physically impossible technique that mimics man's dormant wish to burst into flight. Dumped onto the island of Panau, Rico is told to cause chaos to elicit the retaliation of an oppressive government, to save the people of Panau – it's liberation through explosions, violence, and terrorism. The only place it could exist as a legitimate solution to any problem would be in the mind of a child, running around the old construction zone with a newspaper hat and a pea-shooter with his friends. You are the hero, Just Cause tells you. Here are some guns, some big trucks, some planes, and a parachute. Every impulse is sanctioned, any urge condoned. Even though nearly every action will progress you towards “beating” the game, there is no real sense of progression since every instance of forward momentum points back to causing chaos, a kind of ball-and-chain that asks you to be destructive and have fun with it. The island of Panau is a humongous sprawl rivaling the Washington DC of Fallout 3 in terms of scope, but is ultimately no more than a giant playground for Rico to scale mountains, jump motorcycles, and generally act like there were only five minutes left of recess. Every interaction with the island is destructive. Interactive structures are marked with a white star, denoting that they can be destroyed. Destruction alerts the government, your only interaction with whom is to kill. They shoot you on sight - which, who wouldn't shoot the maniac attaching explosives to everything not glued down? Luckily, this destructive interaction remains entertaining for quite some time. Just Cause does a good job of making the destruction viscerally satisfying. Rigging a whole fuel depot to blow and triggering it from the next town over is a rewarding process that doesn't get old too fast. Like the cops-and-robbers fantasies we played in our backyards, it's fun to horse around and pretend like the world depends on us enjoying our fun. All the production value of Just Cause 2 serve that. But I find a more simple, innate joy out of the island of Panau. The sprawl of the island is enormous. If you grabbed a speedy motorcycle and rode it from one edge of the island to another, the time would probably clock in at a bit under an hour. It's a beautiful sprawl, though, one with vistas like that of a paradise, with unnatural and erratic climate changes between mountainous colds and balmy beaches. It's expansive and built to be aesthetically pleasing, and it never seems to end. It's so large that you could spend an hour or two in a beat-up truck driving past the rural fishing villages and up a mountain road, hopping in a plane and flying over the ocean. You could fly a helicopter to the tip of the clouds and skydive to the sunset, or find the highest mountain and parachute off of it, just to watch. It's a surprisingly serene backdrop for such wanton destruction, and it's a shame the game doesn't ask you to spend more time just being in it. During my travels in Panau, I was floating above a mountain range with my parachute, and I saw a cluster of pink- looking bushes. I was curious and released my parachute to skydive down for a closer look. I'd found a field of vibrant cherry blossom trees, an oasis of pink vegetation pocketed in the folds of mountain ridges. It served no purpose - there was really nothing else there, except a stone tower from which to admire the field. Just Cause 2 is the kind of game where you can steal a motorcycle intending to reach an objective a kilometer or two away and find yourself side-tracked by the pleasure of simply being in the environment. You'll feel the impulse to drive as fast as you can and scale everything you see, and the ease of traversal fills you with an efficacious energy to just enjoy this little slice of paradise on your screen. You might even feel something profound. And then you'll accidentally crash your motorcycle and watch it destroy everything, forgetting about all that.


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