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‘Just Cause’ Sequel Packs Over-The-Top Fun

It might not have the marketing muscle of recent action sequels like "God of War III" or "Splinter Cell: Conviction," but the follow-up to 2006's "Just Cause" is generating a lot of online buzz among thrill-seeking gamers.

Available now for Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Windows-based PCs, "Just Cause 2" reintroduces Rico Rodriguez, an undercover U.S. operative on the fictitious Southeast Asian island of Panau, assigned to track down a former friend and mentor turned rogue agent.

The cliched-but-acceptable story also involves the island's oppressive dictator, Baby Panay, as well as three rival gangs involved in a deadly power struggle to overthrow the corrupt government.

Like its predecessor, the game delivers a huge, open-ended "sandbox" in which to accomplish your missions - and there are many - which range from search-and-rescue to demolition to assassination. Special effects, such as a major explosion caused by blowing up a gas station, serve as a gratifying visual reward for a job well done.

Avalanche Studios' Mature-rated game delivers an exhilarating action experience because of these varied and dangerous objectives, spread throughout the island's more than 400 square miles of jungles, cities, mountains and beaches. The game also features dozens of land, sea and air vehicles you can jump in and control. Need to take down a radar tower? Sure, you can enter on foot with guns blazing, but it's more fun to pilot a plane toward it and then jump out at the last moment.

Speaking of which, you'll also master the use of a parachute and grappling hook to pull off crazy stunts while completing missions and fighting or evading enemies. For example, you can dive out of a helicopter or off a building into a gunfight, or fire the grappling hook to stop a vehicle or reel in an enemy.

As you might've guessed, "Just Cause 2" is a blast to play, but there are some minor issues in this third-person adventure. For one, gunplay is inconsistent. In some missions, it's too easy to take down enemies because of the game's arcade-like auto-targeting feature, but in other instances your bullets don't affect them even though you're aiming perfectly. Secondly, while the visuals are quite impressive, the game has some graphical glitches that can remind you it's just a game. Finally, there is no multiplayer mode, which is disappointing because the over-the-top stunts would be fun to share with a friend.

Overall, however, this surprise sequel delivers an explosive adventure for older gamers. At the very least, action game fans should rent this disc for the weekend to see what all the deserved hype is about.

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