Just Cause 2 - hands-on

Despite the endless fun of the grappling hook and parachute, vehicles have not been neglected in Just Cause 2. Like the bridge-tether awesomeness, the physics of vehicles has a nice weightiness that really lends itself to Michael Bay-style tumbling car wrecks. Everything handles differently, and we got a good sense of this during our next mission.

After completing the mountainside info-theft, a helicopter came in to pick us up. We didn’t need to climb inside – just grappling to the bottom and dangling was enough for a scenic ride. Immediately we learned that we had to rescue a hostage in a caravan of vehicles nearby. We had to somehow get inside the truck holding the hostage and steal it. As we approached the convoy, we thought we’d be clever and glide down on top of them. Unfortunately, we pulled a rookie move and dropped from the helicopter too early – as we floated slowly along, the convoy pulled away. Crap! We managed to drop to the ground and commandeer a cruddy sedan, and the chase resumed.

What could have been a simple swoop-and-grab turned into a protracted ground race, with multiple enemy vehicles trying to run us off the road. We got a good feel of the vehicles here, noticing the touchy handling and bouncy physics – you can easily roll your car in a turn or flip it on a jump.

After rescuing the hostage we decided to take a side mission – a race. We figured this would be a car race. Nope – we were pleasantly surprised to find a prop plane waiting for us. It was a simple “fly through the floating rings” race, but it was a fun diversion, and the flight model proved to be not super forgiving, which we liked, as it made mastering the subtle controls satisfying. We’ll look forward to testing our flying skills later on when the game lets you jump into the cockpit of a fighter jet.

For our final mission, we had to scale a skyscraper to deliver a guerilla message to the airwaves. Here Just Cause 2 smartly takes advantage of its potential for verticality. The skyscraper is not only huge, but also displays some futuristic, spatially interesting architecture. It’s made up of curving window-walls, bridges, and overhangs, forcing us to perform a switchback technique in order to scale it with the grappling hook. At the top we faced some standard combat fare, but the highlight of the mission was setting up explosives on the radar dishes, then BASE jumping off the tower roof, with the obligatory action movie explosion in the background.

We got the impression that we barely scratched the surface of Just Cause 2’s mission variety. The island of Panau – the game’s world – is huge, and there are so many ways to explore it. We even drove a go-fast boat in the tropical-blue sea and rode a fricken’ propane canister like a personal rocket. Of course, the danger in any sandbox game is that the design can become too diluted by the world’s size. We’ve seen enough of the missions to think that there’s a whole lot more to it than “go here, assassinate/collect/destroy X target.” We’ll have to see if the island is too big to maintain focus, but we know we’ll have hours of fun just exploring it and destroying everything in it – especially since random destruction actually earns you currency you can use.

For an idea of what we got to play, check out our highlight reel here:

Nov 13, 2009