Just Cause 2 ImpressionsBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Nov 13, 2009
Avalanche Studios’ third-person action-adventure shooter Just Cause certainly had its issues (see X-Play’s review for a brief refresher), but it’s tropical setting, highflying acrobatics and over-the-top stunt mechanics gave the game a unique identity and style, even if the gameplay and writing left plenty to be desired. With Just Cause 2, Avalanche is looking to expand and improve on every aspect of the previous title, and based on my brief time with the game, the result is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Franchise protagonist and CIA black ops badass, Rico Rodriguez, is back, and this time, instead of attempting to overthrow the dictator of fictional nation San Esperito, Rico finds himself on an assassination mission to take out his former commanding officer, Tom Sheldon, who has nabbed cash and valuable intel from his former employer, the Agency. Rico tracks Sheldon to an island called Panau, which is run by a dictator named Baby Panay, and also happens to be torn apart by a violent three-faction gang war.
One of key narrative forces in the game is its Chaos system, which Rico will use to coerce the warring factions to help him overthrow government strongholds, and expand his influence over the various sections of the island. Raising the Chaos level can be achieved in countless ways, thanks to the insane amounts of activities and objectives there are to complete, which include everything from blowing up installations, hijacking vehicles, assassinating high-ranking officials, and so on. You can complete these mini-missions in any order or combination, which means you’re in complete control over how the events of the game unfold.
The world of Just Cause 2 is simply massive. The map is a cool 400 square miles (not counting elevation), and contains all manner of environments (snowy mountains, beaches, deserts, etc.), and you can travel across the entire thing without a single load time (outside of mission induced ones). During my hands-on time, one of the developers commented that the game map is roughly the size of a small crater on the moon. In short, this is one of the largest sandbox environments you have ever seen.
Let’s Go Grapplin’
Dynamic, fast-paced, explosive shootouts with tactically sophisticated enemies are at the heart of the game’s combat. The first of the two missions that I had the chance to play through started off as I hurtled myself off a sizable cliff, and gently parachuted down to a small village below. While gliding through the air, I pumped a few rounds in some giant gas tanks, causing them to erupt in giant fireballs. Upon landing, I quickly used my Batman-ish grappling hook to pull myself up to the top of a building to give myself a better vantage point from which to pick off the converging baddies, before heading to my objective and blowing it all to hell.
A quick note about the game’s all-new grappling hook mechanic: it’s awesome. Not only can you use it to pull yourself to any surface (or pull any movable object towards you), you can also use it to pin objects to each other. For example, you can stick an enemy to a pressurized canister, shoot the canister and send the guy rocketing into the air. Also, by using the grapple hook while your parachute is open, you can glide along indefinitely, assuming you have a surface to grapple and use to propel yourself. The grapple can also be used in combat, like when I hooked an enemy by the chest, and as he floated in the air, I unleashed a steady stream of automatic machine gun fire, sending the poor sap cascading through the air in a cloud of red mist.
For the second mission, I had to hack a computer terminal housed inside a heavily guarded industrial compound. Along the way, I found myself engaged in a high-speed chase/shootout with several enemy vehicles. Thanks to the game's super smooth stunt and grapple mechanics, jumping between vehicles is a snap, and so satisfying. But once you land on a vehicle, that’s when the gameplay really opens up, because you have tons of options in terms of not only how you take out the enemies behind the wheel, but the vehicles themselves.
From the hood of a car, Rico can do a number of different kick-ass things: shoot enemies that are hanging out of windows, plant explosives on the hood and jump away before the car explodes, climb onto the back or front of the car Indiana Jones-style and pick guys off or shoot out tires, grapple enemies from one car to another car and watch as they are pulled out of the car and dragged to their deaths, or, once all the enemies have been dispatched, simply hijack the vehicle and drive it yourself.
The variety of gameplay and the fluidity with which it’s all delivered took me totally by surprise, and it’s these elements, combined with the staggering scope of the game’s environments, that could truly make Just Cause 2 stand apart from the pack when it’s released next year.