Just Cause 2 4-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - February 17, 2014
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Before launching Just Cause 2 you can imagine that it will have less-than-great graphics for two reasons. One is that it is four years old now and the other is from it being a large, open-world game. Fortunately neither reason seems to mean much as the game is still a pleasure to look at. Although, I guess the graphics are less-than-great, which I will explain in better detail shortly, but good and very good are both less-than-great, too.
Instead of waiting, I am going to jump right into the fluids - fire and water. With Panau being an island nation, there is a lot of water in the game. Just looking at it you see a moving, living body of water with constant waves, though often void of any foam. Interacting with it is when the water starts to look less realistic. Shooting water will create a small spire of water spraying up, and send some particles out as well. Driving a boat through the water will also throw up spray and flying over water will too, but all of these animations are just repeated and sometimes layered on top of each other. It all still looks good, but if you look at it too long, you will notice these little tricks.
There are two categories of fire in Just Cause 2; explosions and burning. To put it simply, the game could be called Explosion Simulator 2010 with what it allows you to do, and the visual effects do not let you down. They have a very realistic looking power behind them, as objects are broken and thrown about and particles fly everywhere. This makes it very rewarding to make things go boom.
Burning fires, however, are like the water animations; repeated and layered on top of each other. There is some depth and life to the flames, but really, it is nothing to be impressed by.
Now let us talk about the land, where most of the gameplay happens. Near your character, the detail is quite nice, and in some areas makes the world even vibrant (I would not describe a barren desert as vibrant). Plants may not stand up well when closely examined in screenshots, but when you are playing and moving through large patches of them, they do look very nice. As an added touch, driving through such plants and patches will cause plant-matter particles to be thrown up by your wheels.
At times though, you will almost be compelled to notice that textures and shaders are repeated. Ground, water, and ice all will use repeated textures at times, which can detract from the game's overall appearance, but not by much. Generally you can only spot this when there is a large plane, and except for the ocean around Panau, there are not many of those.
The terrain of the map is really detailed, with mountains and hills looking like real geologic formations. Combined with the game's lighting, casting shadows from the striations, you will almost believe the game is featuring real satellite telemetry.
However, one thing that will drastically break this impression is approaching the mountains at high speed. As one would expect of any game with a large world, the environment streams in so only what is nearest to you is being rendered in high detail. Instead of popping in, mountains will morph in, as apparently the highly-detailed meshes and lower-quality meshes can be noticeably different in size and shape. Not exactly a major issue, but it is hard to miss a mountain growing in front of you, especially if the snow on it is also shifting around.
Before moving on to performance, I want to mention the physics and lighting. Physics is actually fairly important in this game, because of how much you shoot, crash, explode, and otherwise destroy. In some cases, like the collapse of a giant radio tower, the physics are not completely believable and definitely canned. Seen it once and you've seen it all. There are other examples of this too, but the radio towers are unique in that when the giant pieces of metal fall, they do not cause any damage. When you destroy other objects, particularly with explosives, they do impact the world in a procedural way, so each time will be a little different, as it should be. Cars and other vehicles also appear to be damaged in a procedural way, so dents and dirt will vary with your escapades, as well as which door(s) fall off. However all cars of a type seem to explode the same.
By the way, the physics of a moving car are… unrealistic in my opinion. Of course that can make the game that much more enjoyable. One aspect of this that may be somewhat realistic, though possibly also exaggerated, is the vehicle handling. Different vehicles handle differently, with some making turns or losing traction more easily than others. That can be somewhat annoying when moving at high speed, when one mistake can cause you to lose control and crash into that small, solitary pole in just the right way to instantly explode and die.
The lighting of Just Cause 2 is actually really good, at least at a distance. The resolution of shadows is not always that high, but in many cases it is high enough to render a really beautiful scene, especially at a distance.
As usual, before talking about performance, here are my computer's specs:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
- PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
On the whole, the performance of Just Cause 2 is exceptionally good, considering how much can be going on at once, even at near-max settings. Two settings I had turned off were the Bokeh filter (because I do not like the look of it) and the decals. The reason the decals were off is because they can cause the game to be unstable and crash. I do not believe this occurs for everyone, but if you are ever playing the game and notice some weird artifacts and crashes, try disabling the decals to fix the problem.
Something else I have to mention about the settings is that I am not sure how valuable it is to push to the highest settings. The Anti-Aliasing setting can be set as high as 32xCSAA, and at that setting I could not notice an appreciable performance hit. I also could not notice any less aliasing than the 8x option, which offers similar performance. It seems to me that just because you can run this game at its highest AA setting does not mean you must.
Besides the decals issue, I also experienced a glitch a couple of times. For some reason when grappling to certain objects, there is a chance you will be thrown almost a kilometer. It is almost as though your character has entered the geometry of the other object somehow, and the engine reacts by snapping you out at high speed. When this happens, there is a chance you will be damaged by it, but I do not know if it can kill you, as it has not killed me before.
At times, typically when driving at high speeds, I also noticed some odd artifacting where black dots on a grid-like pattern appear. I am not sure what causes this, but I find myself unable to not notice it when it is present.
Overall, the performance was good and solid, with the noted exception, while the graphics are good, but not great. It is fair to make some allowances for games with worlds as large as Panau though, so I would not hold the repetitive graphics against Just Cause 2 in all cases. For a four-year-old game, it stands up very well for performance and appearance, and that is what should be taken away from this section.