We have finally gotten our hands on Just Cause 2 from Swedish developers Avalanche Studios. These are our impressions...
Rico Rodriguez went for a major bender after liberating San Esperito. He left the agency and focused on his two favourite subjects - women and booze. But good things don't last forever, and just when you think you're out they pull you back in again. Rico's former handler and friend Tom Sheldon has gone rogue with a bunch of agency cash in the small island nation of Panau. Your job is to find him and retrieve him. And blow shit up.
It's the fourth or fifth time I see Just Cause 2. It's been a long road for Avalanche Studios and finally they are at a point where they feel comfortable handing me the Xbox 360 controller and have a go. The demo is made up of two faction missions and a race, but first you need to unlock the first mission and you do this by creating chaos.
Chaos is the currency that opens up new story and faction missions. It's not as simple as just blowing anything up. There are specific targets in each settlements such as a water tower or a propaganda van. You also get chaos points for picking up weapon parts and similar packs. These are located with a proximity meter that activates when you are close to a box. At first it seems like a lot of work just to pick up new weapon parts, but once you grasp the logics of their placement it becomes more natural.
Avalanche have revamped the whole structure of missions in this sequel. There are still races and stuff, but very repetitive side missions and settlement liberations have been cut out. Instead there are more of the over-the-top narrated missions. Only seven of these are your standard main story arch missions, and the rest of a total of about 60-65 missions are faction missions. You are going to have to do some of these, but not all of them. In the demo we tried, we got two Reapers missions.
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The original Just Cause was easy to grasp. Simple controls, that came natural. In Just Cause 2 the more advanced dual grappling hook paired with the new physics model and the parachute makes for a much deeper and also harder to master set of controls. It's like that old Yoda saying... "You must unlearn what you have learned." Standing with both feet on the ground and blasting at multiple enemies isn't your best strategy. Use your grappling hook to quickly zip around, open the parachute to gain a better perspective. Constant movement, use your grappling hook to send enemies flying over ledges or attach them to a helicopter for comic relief.
In one of the missions the Reapers leader tells us to find the location of a witness and then deliver him to them. You're going to have to go to a military base and locate a GPS tracker of the witness. Simple enough. I shoot my way through the base to the room, but unfortunately it's locked. An officer holds the key combination. I take him out, get the combination and acquire the witness' location. The reapers send a chopper my way and I grapple on to it as it closes in on the caravan that is transporting the witness. This is where my lack of skills will provide you with some extra insight into the different strategies you can employ in Just Cause 2.
On my first attempt I tried to take out the cars guarding the car with the witness hanging from the helicopter with my grenade launcher. It proved difficult, and at the same time I was an easy target. Game over. On my second try and grappled onto one of the cars that followed the witness car. I was successful and took a couple of bad guys from the stunt position. I then tried to grapple on to the car in front of me, accidentally grappled onto a lamp post. I scrambled to find another car to catch up, but got too far behind. Mission failure. On the next try I grapple onto the witness car straight away. The cars following me were really aggressive in boxing me in and after a short while the jeep started smoking. I switched cars, but I managed to leave the witness behind. I quickly put the reverse in, but in doing so I ran him over. Witness dead, mission failed.
On my fourth try I finally manage to complete the mission. I grappled on to the car with the witness straight away, and I managed to drive away from the pursuers almost all the way to the Reaper safehouse. I had to switch cars once, but this time I waited for the witness to join me before I drove off. Mission complete and the Reapers took care of the witness.
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Overall Just Cause 2 feels like a major upgrade to the original, even if the basics remain the same. The variation in gameplay and diversity of missions has been improved, along with much better physics and more varied environments. It takes a while to master the grappling and perhaps more importantly using the combination of grappling hook and stunt parachute, but once mastered there is a lot you can do making the combat a much better experience than the last time.