Just Cause 2, a game going on 2 years old, still has the ability to capture my attention for hours and I have no idea why. On the surface, it looks like a non-AAA game that is given some AAA features. After a few hours of gameplay however, you get the sense that this isn't just another shelf-filler, those games that you see at the store but never actually look at. Once you've explored what this title has to offer though, it shines brighter than any COD-clone.
As far as graphics are concerned, which I and many gamers demand to be increasingly excellent, Just Cause 2 delivers for a 2 year old title. It's not DirectX 11, unless you give it the ol' OverDirectX, but it's only really missing out on tessellation. SSAO is implemented very well, providing a noticeable improvement to the graphics without a steep performance drop. The water is incredible, with realistic waves, swells, and tides at the highest settings. As far as I've encountered, it also doesn't have many graphical errors and bugs. For gamers with Nvidia GPU's, this game gets two additional graphics options, namely a Bokeh filter for improved depth-of-field and GPU water simulation, which makes water almost life-like. These two settings do put a toll on performance however. So for those looking to crank everything up to ultra make sure you have the hardware to back it up, as even mighty graphics cards like the GTX 570 and GTX 480 have their frames per second pulled down to the low 40's at 1080p. Anyone on an ATI card above the 6770 should enjoy ultra settings at 1080p without trouble, at the cost of some realism that isn't very noticeable.
Now we get to the quirky business. The only major quirk in gameplay is the third-person only camera. Audio though is an entirely different matter. The music is decent but lacks variety and becomes annoying and repetitive after a while. The cutscenes are wierdly animated and awkward-feeling, and it is apparent that not much time was spent on them. The voice-overs are laughable at best, and downright obtrusive and dumb at worst. Thankfully, only a handful of cutscenes can't be skipped and you won't miss any mission-critical data from an NPC's spoken words if you turn down the volume of voices.
The actual gameplay is actually pretty good. The controls are intuitive if you've ever played a shooter, and only a few issues stand out. Primarily, it's a good idea to use cover if you don't want to keep watching your character die. Also, the AI can get dumb at times by leaving themselves exposed and not recognizing the player quickly. However, these problems are outshined by the vehicle gameplay and grappling hook/parachute mechanic. Vehicles handle realistically and present a great facet to the game. For those who also own an XBOX 360, I recommend using the 360 controller while gaming because it makes vehicles much better in terms of control. When you couple this with a retractable grappling hook that can latch onto any solid object and a never ending supply of parachutes, and you also get a satisfying vertical vehicular experience.
Perhaps the best part of Just Cause 2 though is the sheer size of it's sandbox world. The publisher, Eidos, claims that it is nearly 400 square miles. That's a ton of space to do whatever you want. Objectives are plenty through this space as well. These add a sense of accomplishment and completeness to the game world. There are also several easter eggs to find and admire. No spoilers here though.
To sum it all up, Just Cause 2 is a great game that has a myriad of quirks that help it and hurt it. Namely, the NPC interactions are more ridiculous than an 80's B-Movie action film and the in-game physics are something to shake a stick at. The overall experience, however, is one that deserves to be played. It's almost like a gaming grab bag, there is something that everyone can appreciate. At US $15 on Steam, it's also a great deal. If you aren't convinced just grab the demo and see for yourself.