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Just Cause 2

It would be easy to dismiss Just Cause 2 as a “typical sandbox game, but on a tropical island,” but it would be overlooking a crucial difference: freedom. Now, that also sounds like a synonym for “sandbox” but most sandbox games revolve around a huge world that you can explore, and then do stuff when you get to places. The problem with a lot of sandbox games is the tedious driving to get to the really fun stuff, or if you’re lucky, some kind of instant transport system to sidestep said tedious driving.

Just Cause 2 doesn’t want you to feel hassled. Ever. It knows that its ludicrously huge world would be a pain to navigate in traditional ways. So not only does it give you plentiful methods of transport, but it makes the journey possibly more fun than the destination. You don’t need to hijack vehicles to get around – all you need is your trusty grappling hook and parachute. In the original Just Cause, it was possible to grapple on to cars for some parasailing action, but now you’re not restricted by that pesky “needing to find things to grapple” problem.

Running on foot not fast enough? Shoot the grappling hook - now handily attached to Rico’s arm via a gauntlet-looking thingy - into the ground in front of you. Retract the grappling hook, yanking Rico into the air. Deploy parachute. In an instant you’re soaring over the landscape. Let’s say you’re at the top of a mountain, running down the slope. A simple jump initiates a skydiving freefall. Deploy a ‘chute to make some horizontal progress, drop the ‘chute whenever you feel like it, going back into a freefall, then deploy another ‘chute. That’s because ol’ Rico packs unlimited parachutes in his magic backpack.

Unrealistic? Who the hell cares when it’s this much fun? Remember, Just Cause 2 wants you to feel free - in your movement, and in your ability to destroy, kill, and humiliate everything in the world. It even encourages and sometimes requires you to do so. See, the game’s currency is known as Chaos, and you earn it by blowing the crap out of anything you see. Making a name for yourself by how much Chaos you cause gets you noticed, thereby opening up missions.

The grappling hook especially makes causing Chaos seriously amusing. Not only is it a mode of transport, but also a tool for all kinds of sadistic hijinx. After firing one end of the cable into something, you can attach the other end to something else. Begin to imagine all the evil things you can do. Here’s what we saw in our demo: 1) grapple attached to one guy’s chest, then attached to his buddy, and giggle as the elastic cable snaps inward, smashing both guys into each other; 2) attach grapple to a guy’s ankle, grapple other end to lamp pole, giggle as the poor sap is strung up, then shoot his face off as he hangs there; 3) grapple a guy standing in a group of other doofuses, grapple explosive barrel, snap, bang, boom; 4) grapple self up to tower where sniper is waiting, grapple him, then just yank is ass over the side; 5) grapple to incoming enemy truck, grapple other end to incoming helicopter, imagine following hilarity.

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.