Just Cause 2 – hands-on

We recently got another chance to test out how well Tarzan (er, Rico) the secret agent swings in the run up to his launch into the public sphere in late March. And it turns out that he’s swinging rather well, as it happens.

Let’s do a quick recap for those who haven’t been here very long. Rico is a sort of Hispanic James Bond, but with an even more uncanny ability to dodge death and defeat evil. His latest adventure takes him to the huge south-east Asian island of Panau, where Baby Panay is having his wicked way with the inhabitants. As Rico runs amok through the various environments of Panau, he’ll be getting involved with a twisting, turning plotline of deception, intrigue and dirty tricks, nothing of which we can reveal here, for both legal and moral reasons.

Suffice it to say that Rico’s adventure won’t be an easy one, with hundreds and thousands of machine gun-toting enemies wanting him dead, blown-up and/or carved into little pieces. That’s what you’d expect. Just Cause 2’s not going to tear up the rule book in that sense, but what it is going to do is maybe cross out some sections and write some cool notes in the margin, most of which will have to do with the concepts of destruction and swinging (not that kind).

There’s a veritable treasure trove of guns to acquire in the game, ranging from your usual Uzis and pistols to a detachable mounted minigun. Bolted onto the large complement of death-dealing devices are a rocket launcher with laser-guided projectiles and a one-handed grenade launcher, for when you absolutely, positively have to be doing something else with your other arm. Carrying the detachable minigun perhaps. That’s a dual-wield combination we’d love to see, it has to be said.

Also of interest might be the addition of a rather unusual new vehicle to the mix. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, yes, it is. A Boeing 737 to be exact. Not the most nimble of aircraft to be flying about in on a covert mission behind enemy lines, but it does make for one hell of a fun starting point for a reckless skydive.

In our hands-on, we were given the chance to see what happens at the beginning of the game, which involves falling out of a helicopter and parachuting into a well-fortified enemy base.
This provided a good initial section to really put the swinging action into practice. At first you’ll naturally be a bit clumsy, but it won’t take long before you’re sweeping across chasms or tethering a bad guy to an explosive barrel, shooting it and watching the barrel rocket off into the air, dragging the unfortunate minion along with it.

Avalanche have seemingly nailed this element - a crucial and hat-hanging aspect of their magnificent octopus. It’s going to be in this area that your core enjoyment of Just Cause 2 lies. It’s shaping up to be what Mercenaries 2 wanted to be, but failed in doing so. You’ll be able to use the grapple to cause loads of structural damage, not to mention the various comedy ways you can use it to inflict death on Baby Panay’s goons.

Which is all well and good, but there’s a little potential problem. The worry is that it might just be a bit too easy, a bit lacking in real challenge. Like the first game, you take farcical amounts of damage from the throng of enemies pumping Rico with bullets. Farcical in the sense of “hardly any”. This was our main problem with the first game, so regardless of fixing all the other issues, which it seems as if they have almost certainly done, the one crucial element has remained.

There’s a caveat here – the game was fixed on the easiest difficulty setting, so come review time, that statement could be proved hideously and utterly wrong. Let’s hope so, because there’s little worse than never feeling that thrill of danger or peril in an action game. Remove that and you’ve got nothing. There’s too much to like in Just Cause 2 for it to be spoiled by this though. Zipping all over the place and pulling off high-risk manoeuvres is the core of the game, but remove the high risk and you’ve got nothing.

This could be just the explosion-filled ticket many have been itching for, and could become the most fun we’ve ever had playing games.

Feb 26, 2010