The original Just Cause had some big ideas. It thrust gamers into a gigantic tropical sandbox and invited them to tinker with some interesting gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, glitches and an overall lack of variety kept the game from being anything above mediocre. There was the potential for a truly unique game, but it was buried under the repetitive gameplay. Fortunately, Just Cause 2 looks to be anything but repetitive. In our brief demo at E3, we got a glimpse of a handful of the game's missions. This time around, Avalanche Studios has done a lot to ensure that players will feel anything but bored.
Just Cause 2 is a direct sequel to the first game. Players once again take the role of Rico Rodriguez, a CIA agent with a talent for taking down corrupt governments with guerrilla warfare. He's been tasked to do that again, and this time, he must do so on the tropical island of Panau, located somewhere in Southeast Asia. His goal is to take down a dictator known as Baby Panay, who is ruling the islands with an iron fist. However, there is a complication in this particular mission. Rico's former boss, Tom Sheldon, has betrayed the government and absconded to Panau, so not only does Rico have to take down a corrupt government, but he also has to find and silence his former boss.
Just Cause 2's basic gameplay is very similar to the first. It's still an open-world sandbox game, and you still have the prior game's iconic parachute, which allows you to skydive or base-jump onto targets for an aerial assault. Just Cause 2's biggest change appears to be an increased focus on the grappling hook mechanic. The grappling hook, attached to Rico's arm, now has a wide variety of uses, almost all of which improve your combat abilities. The most obvious is the ability to grapple onto an object and fly toward it, allowing you to move across the stage with great speed even without a vehicle.
The fun comes when you start using this hook in unique ways. For example, players can grapple onto an enemy and fly toward him Bionic Commando-style. They can grapple onto a helicopter and ride it around, firing at enemies as they do so. By far the coolest new feature is the new "duo hook" feature, which allows Rico to attach a tether between any two points and use the physics to his advantage. Rico can attach a fast-moving enemy vehicle to a stone wall, which ends badly for the enemy. He can tether two enemies together and watch them fly into one another. The demonstrator even mentioned that you can attach a jeep to a helicopter, turning the jeep into a makeshift wrecking ball. The possibilities seem almost endless. You can also use the hook in conjunction with the parachute to "parasail" and get some real air, allowing you to cross huge gaps that you might not be able to with either item alone or to gain some airtime during an intense gunfight.
During our demo, Rico completed two missions. The first was simply to take out an enemy oil refinery, and we quickly saw that there was a lot of freedom in how to take it on. We began with Rico on a mountain, and he base-jumped down to a nearby river, where a boat was waiting. The boat allowed him to sneak up on the base in a more subtle manner, which gave him the advantage of surprise once he launched his attack. Rico was a blur of motion as he attacked, with the demonstrator zipping around with his grappling hook and never staying still for more than a few moments. He would occasionally deploy the parachute to make Rico hang in mid-air, allowing him to fire upon enemies from above for added surprise. Finally, Rico blew up the nearby oil tanks and stole a helicopter to escape. It was an extremely intense sequence and gave a very good example of the sort of gameplay we can expect on a regular basis.
The second part was a more classic Grand Theft Auto-style mission. One of Rico's contacts had been caught in the upper floor of a posh hotel and was engaged in a running gunfight on one of the hotel's glass bridges, which is located near the roof. Fortunately, Rico already had a helicopter and could fly up with great ease. From here, we saw a few different ways to handle the enemy situation. Rico could disembark and take them on foot, use the helicopter's built-in weapons to blow the crap out of the enemies, or even hang from the helicopter and use his own guns while flying overhead. Eventually, Rico hopped out and swing down toward the contact, and after a brief cut scene, the two of them leapt out of the building and parachuted down to the contact's waiting car. The car had ended up in a ditch during combat, and the contact refused to leave it behind. With enemies rapidly incoming, Rico had to pull the car out of the ditch by using the duo hook to attach the bumper to a nearby car and then using the other car as a makeshift tow truck.
Once the car was free, the chase was on. Rico rode on the roof of the car while the contact drove, and what followed was a very intense chase sequence where Rico had to protect the car from enemy gunfire. Fortunately, he had a tremendous number of options on how to handle these things. He could use his grappling hook on enemy cars to send them flying off the road with a huge explosion or tether two cars together to force them out of control. For a more personal touch, he could leap onto the enemy cars and take out the drivers and gunmen with his own weapon. He could even hijack the car by playing a Quick Time Event mini-game and using one of the enemy's own vehicles against them. The entire sequence was lengthy and gave Rico a variety of opportunities to use multiple tactics to take down his foes. Once the pursuers had been taken down, the mission was over.
Upon completing the mission, Rico was rewarded with Chaos, which is an experience point/mission progression currency. He'd been earning Chaos throughout the situation, and as Rico does things that destabilized the island's government, the Chaos on the island increases. The more it increases, the more influence Rico has and the more missions he can take on. The developers opened up the in-game map, which showed an extremely large area peppered with buildings and objects. On this map was a small circle, which was Rico's sphere of influence. In that sphere were the two earlier missions, only a few inches apart despite the helicopter flight and car chase. It looked like a fairly healthy game already, but then they decided to show us the full-scale map. The camera zoomed back … and back … and back, until the demo area was nothing but a dot on a tremendous map, absolutely filled with various mission icons. There seems to be quite a lot to do in Just Cause 2.Just Cause 2 is one of those rare games that just looks fun. From the beginning to the end, the demo looked like free-roaming sandbox fun, with a focus on giving players the freedom to do whatever they'd like. There are a number of fun and intuitive solutions to deal with enemies. The improved grappling and parachute mechanics look like a blast, and players who are eager for more grappling hook action after games like Bionic Commando should be very pleased. Just Cause 2 looks to follow in the vein of games like Mercenaries, where the fun is in seeing how you can use your abilities to blow the heck out of a small nation. The creativity involved in dealing with missions makes the game look like a blast, and if Just Cause 2 can keep it up for the entire game, Avalanche and Eidos could have a hit on their hands.
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