Your greatest weapon in Just Cause 2 is a grappling hook. That fact alone is enough to make it stand out from other upcoming open-world action games. Sure, you can give the lead character Rico a whole bunch of SMGs (submachine guns to you N00bs), pistols and shotguns, and there's a whole wealth of vehicles and artillery to unlock throughout the massive 400sq mile world map - but if you're not nimble enough with that tether then you're as good as dead.
An anticipated sequel to the surprise 2006 hit, Just Cause
(more on that here
), the new game sees you take the role of the covert operative, with an intent to dislodge a dictatorship by causing as much destruction and chaos as possible. Set in a fictional South East Asian tropical island called Panau, the game sees Rico sent in, out of retirement investigate the disappearance of his former boss in the region. Oh, and make sure you make life hell for its leader, Baby Panay.
When it comes to combat, you have to expect a huge number of enemies surrounding you ? especially as you initially have no friends in this land.
Starting my playthrough of the game with limited guns and ammo, focus had to turn to my basic equipment: the grappling hook, and the parachute. Used in conjunction, these items can provide a perfect vantage point, getaway or combat environment.
Once you're focused on a target, the LB button on the Xbox 360 pad shoots the hook, and either pulls Rico towards an object or flings an enemy in his direction. Generally, attaching the tether to an enemy will make him pause as he scrambles to detach himself; this provides you with an extra couple of seconds to plan your next move. Shoot him? Run up to him and melee him? Or fling him to another object altogether?
For in Just Cause 2
the grappling hook has been improved to include a double tether. By holding LB and successfully attaching one object, you can target another while holding down the bumper button and let go to shoot the second tether. This can allow you to chuck bad guys into trees, sling debris and rubble onto helicopters to blow them up, or direct two chasing cars into each other to create an epic crash.
Rico isn't the Terminator though, he has a health bar that is whittled down if he is hit by enemy gunfire. Having said that, Rico can take a generous number of bullets before being killed. So, if you get surrounded by soldiers you can take your time to play with the grappling hook without being forced to run for cover after ten seconds. This might have been purely for my demo run, but hopefully it will remain in the final game. The result doesn't make Rico invincible, but neither does it allow for his health to be rinsed in ten seconds, which means you to have ample time to play with the grappling hook on one or two baddies while others surround you.
Ultimately, you're going to be in a situation where you can't just stand there flinging people at walls, so getting away from certain situations is critical. Here's where Rico's parachute comes in; it can be activated at any point during a mid-grapple swing, and it makes life quite difficult for the enemy by becoming a flying, moving target. As the world map is so huge ? with a mightily impressive draw distance at that ? you might need the parachute as a form of transport if you continue to crash vehicles like muggins here.
The emphasis on Hollywood-style action is apparent in the vehicles too; Rico can easily perform stunts on top of, or from within cars and planes. When you're near a car, pressing the B Button makes Rico leap on the bonnet, while Y has him enter it to drive. After this point, the face buttons change in context to correspond to different actions, like hopping round to the bumper or leaping off with the parachute. Of course, whilst on top a vehicle, you can still gun down other vehicles in pursuit, which at one point resulted in an enemy Jeep losing control and dynamically crashing into a tree.
Just Cause 2
is full of explosions, actually, the game just encourages it. Primary missions aren't unlocked for play until you create enough carnage in a given area. Various dictator-led towns from different factions appear on your radar with a percentage of completion ? which is fulfilled by blowing up water towers, propaganda vehicles, symbols of Baby Panay such as statues; also by collecting hidden collectibles.
Alongside the assortment of items you can pick up from ammunition crates and dead enemies are three kinds of hidden treasures that will make Rico's life easier. They come in the form of Armour parts, Vehicle parts and Weapon parts. You can use these as currency to barter new equipment from the black market dealer that Rico is in contact with.
At any point you can call in the "Dealership" 'copter, who will allow you to buy new vehicles, guns and upgrade existing ones too. If you have already discovered a faraway location on the world map, you can also call in an Extraction to swiftly travel huge distances.
After a little exploration, it was time to do some serious covert work. In the missions I played, Rico was being briefed by a lady from one of the three guerilla factions in Panau: the Reapers, Roaches and Ular Boys. The first task handed to me involved infiltrating a power station facility, downloading information on a witness that has been arrested by the dictatorship, and rescuing and delivering the witness to a rendezvous safe house.
This almost went to plan, aside from the fact that in the last leg of the mission I overturned the hijacked car about three times. Luckily the witness escaped the vehicle before it exploded, and I just managed to get the guy safe before chasing soldiers blew his brains out.
Another mission I played saw Rico scale the towers of the island's television studios, redirecting the signals to allow the rebel faction to play a pirate broadcast, then climbing even higher to the top of the building to plant two C4 charges to the base of the antenna. Once rigged, I leapt off and skydived away as the camera panned behind Rico to show the impressive graphical splendour that was a squeaky-clean, white tower going up in flames.
I was told that action setpieces like these will be frequent in Just Cause 2
, a game that appears to be uncompromising in offering a balls-to-the-wall explosion-fest. Not all tasks involve destruction however, as I also flew a holiday plane around a set course around the island for more money and opportunities. It's unlikely that you'll be buying this game to meekly engage in its more sterile missions though.
Just Cause 2
is heading for a 2010 release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.