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Justified Excitement: Just Cause 2 Extended Hands-On

We spend several hours with Avalanche Studios' open-world action-movie fever dream.


 A hard man makes a soft landing.
Released in the strange twilight between console generations, the original Just Cause was an overlooked gem, a game that had the markings of yet another open-world GTA clone, but offered something intoxicatingly ridiculous. That “something” being the ability to use a stunt parachute and a high-powered grappling gun to uniquely traverse the landscape and hijack any vehicle you saw fit--land, sea, or air--the laws of physics be damned. It was an intermittently sublime experience that was admittedly hindered by fundamental mechanical issues with the driving and the shooting--key components in a game of this nature.
 
As a bit of a Just Cause apologist, it thrilled me to no end when some friendly folk from Eidos dropped by the Giant Bomb offices to provide us our first hands-on experience with Just Cause 2, which is now just a few weeks away from release. The various trailers and gameplay demos that developer Avalanche Studios has been trickling out since around E3 last year have suggested a game that learned from its predecessor's mistakes in some key ways while also discovering some new, even more ridiculous ways to extend the concepts introduced in the first. After a few hours with Just Cause 2, it would seem that this is not only looking like the game that the original should've been, but also the game that Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and last year's Bionic Commando should've been as well.
 
The goodly folks at Eidos have requested that I not mention any of the specific story elements in Just Cause 2--an almost absurd request that I'm happy to abide by, largely because plot machinations weren't the first game's strongest suit. Suffice it to say that you're back in the saddle once again as the black-clad international man of mystery and scorpion enthusiast Rico Rodriguez, and the game brings plenty of bombastic pulp to his exploits on a new tropical island apparently suffering from a deficit of explosions and generalized chaos. Chaos, in fact, is the literal currency of Just Cause 2, and the game judges your performance based on your ability to blow stuff up, unlocking new mission types as you do so. In a nice bit of visual shorthand, just about any structures on the island that can earn you chaos for blowing up features some telltale red markings, making them that much easier to identify as you scan the landscape.
 
 Get over here!
Also facilitating all the anarchical merry-making in Just Cause 2 are some significant improvements to how Rico's grappling gun and stunt parachute work. For starters, the grappling gun isn't much of a gun at all anymore, instead taking the form of a permanently equipped gauntlet. Not having to equip it as a weapon means that there's a lot more interplay between using the grapple ability and the plentiful firearms that Rico picks up. Even more so than in the original, the grapple is the key to unlocking freedom from the laws of physics in Just Cause 2. No longer limited to attaching itself to vehicles for the purpose of hijacking, you can grapple structures for rapid traversal of short distances and grapple enemies to pull them towards you, making it much easier to gun them down as they flail through the air.
 
You can also use the grapple to tether stuff to other stuff, which can have a variety of delightful effects. For example, you can tether an enemy to, say, an exploding barrel, then shoot that barrel, bringing quick, fiery death to the hapless grunt. If you're feeling a little more sadistic, you can grapple an enemy to a vehicle, then hop in that vehicle and drag them to death. Or, if you're more of a slapstick appreciator, you can grapple two enemies together, causing them to fly towards each other and, if you're lucky, die from the impact. Though the game noticeably limits where you can go while you're on an active mission, this is sandbox play in the truest sense. Of course, you can still use the grapple to zip onto any vehicles you see, assume the famed stunt position, and then proceed to hijack it. If it happens to be an antagonistic vehicle, you'll have to do a little quick-timing before you get behind the wheel, and you may also have to deal with gun-wielding passengers as well, requiring you to use the vehicle itself as cover from the enemies inside it. I learned one of my favorite grappling tricks during a chase sequence where I was defending a vehicle while standing on top of it. I could've grappled my way over to the other vehicles and dealt with the passengers up close, but it was far more hilariously efficient to tether the pursuing cars and trucks to the side of the bridge we were crossing, and then watch them go flying through the air and over the edge.
 
One of the subtler, more clever uses of the grapple that I saw came while gliding around with the stunt parachute. With the right angle, you can grapple onto the ground in front of you, using that forward motion to provide you with additional lift, extending the length of your glide.The dynamics of the action in the first game were what made it so special, but all the base-jumping and mid-air skyjacking and leaping out of vehicles as they careen off cliffs would leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere more often than they ought. Using the grapple to make the parachute more useful helps in this. Having a direct line to a black market dealer that can airdrop you equipment and vehicles, or just give you a lift to a specific location, doesn't hurt either.
 
 Whatever happens next is clearly bad news for this guy.
A key advantage that Just Cause 2 has over its predecessor is that it's no longer technologically limited by the requirement that it be able to scale down to run on the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox hardware. Running on Avalanche's new, proprietary engine, Just Cause 2 renders an island paradise that's not bigger, but remarkably denser and more detailed. There's still some open-world jank, but there's such a enthusiastic B-movie energy to Just Cause 2, and it plays so fast and loose with physical law anyway that it doesn't seem like it'll break the experience.
 
If you played the first game, the learning curve on Just Cause 2 is pretty mild, but for newcomers, there's admittedly a lot going on, with many of the primary buttons on the controller performing drastically different functions depending on the context. Turning with the parachute can still be a little tricky, particularly when you're trying to multitask. The gunplay feels much, much better, but weapon management can be pretty confusing--sometimes you want to tap a button to swap weapons, sometimes you want to hold it, and the interface didn't always make it clear which action performed which function.
 
I'll admit, my fondness for the first Just Cause is probably disproportionate to its actual quality, though even I knew that its recommendation came saddled with some significant qualifications. Even in its unfinished state, Just Cause 2 is looking like a more well-realized game, and I'm eagerly looking forward to more island chaos when it hits later this month.  
45 Comments
Posted by Ryan

 A hard man makes a soft landing.
Released in the strange twilight between console generations, the original Just Cause was an overlooked gem, a game that had the markings of yet another open-world GTA clone, but offered something intoxicatingly ridiculous. That “something” being the ability to use a stunt parachute and a high-powered grappling gun to uniquely traverse the landscape and hijack any vehicle you saw fit--land, sea, or air--the laws of physics be damned. It was an intermittently sublime experience that was admittedly hindered by fundamental mechanical issues with the driving and the shooting--key components in a game of this nature.
 
As a bit of a Just Cause apologist, it thrilled me to no end when some friendly folk from Eidos dropped by the Giant Bomb offices to provide us our first hands-on experience with Just Cause 2, which is now just a few weeks away from release. The various trailers and gameplay demos that developer Avalanche Studios has been trickling out since around E3 last year have suggested a game that learned from its predecessor's mistakes in some key ways while also discovering some new, even more ridiculous ways to extend the concepts introduced in the first. After a few hours with Just Cause 2, it would seem that this is not only looking like the game that the original should've been, but also the game that Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and last year's Bionic Commando should've been as well.
 
The goodly folks at Eidos have requested that I not mention any of the specific story elements in Just Cause 2--an almost absurd request that I'm happy to abide by, largely because plot machinations weren't the first game's strongest suit. Suffice it to say that you're back in the saddle once again as the black-clad international man of mystery and scorpion enthusiast Rico Rodriguez, and the game brings plenty of bombastic pulp to his exploits on a new tropical island apparently suffering from a deficit of explosions and generalized chaos. Chaos, in fact, is the literal currency of Just Cause 2, and the game judges your performance based on your ability to blow stuff up, unlocking new mission types as you do so. In a nice bit of visual shorthand, just about any structures on the island that can earn you chaos for blowing up features some telltale red markings, making them that much easier to identify as you scan the landscape.
 
 Get over here!
Also facilitating all the anarchical merry-making in Just Cause 2 are some significant improvements to how Rico's grappling gun and stunt parachute work. For starters, the grappling gun isn't much of a gun at all anymore, instead taking the form of a permanently equipped gauntlet. Not having to equip it as a weapon means that there's a lot more interplay between using the grapple ability and the plentiful firearms that Rico picks up. Even more so than in the original, the grapple is the key to unlocking freedom from the laws of physics in Just Cause 2. No longer limited to attaching itself to vehicles for the purpose of hijacking, you can grapple structures for rapid traversal of short distances and grapple enemies to pull them towards you, making it much easier to gun them down as they flail through the air.
 
You can also use the grapple to tether stuff to other stuff, which can have a variety of delightful effects. For example, you can tether an enemy to, say, an exploding barrel, then shoot that barrel, bringing quick, fiery death to the hapless grunt. If you're feeling a little more sadistic, you can grapple an enemy to a vehicle, then hop in that vehicle and drag them to death. Or, if you're more of a slapstick appreciator, you can grapple two enemies together, causing them to fly towards each other and, if you're lucky, die from the impact. Though the game noticeably limits where you can go while you're on an active mission, this is sandbox play in the truest sense. Of course, you can still use the grapple to zip onto any vehicles you see, assume the famed stunt position, and then proceed to hijack it. If it happens to be an antagonistic vehicle, you'll have to do a little quick-timing before you get behind the wheel, and you may also have to deal with gun-wielding passengers as well, requiring you to use the vehicle itself as cover from the enemies inside it. I learned one of my favorite grappling tricks during a chase sequence where I was defending a vehicle while standing on top of it. I could've grappled my way over to the other vehicles and dealt with the passengers up close, but it was far more hilariously efficient to tether the pursuing cars and trucks to the side of the bridge we were crossing, and then watch them go flying through the air and over the edge.
 
One of the subtler, more clever uses of the grapple that I saw came while gliding around with the stunt parachute. With the right angle, you can grapple onto the ground in front of you, using that forward motion to provide you with additional lift, extending the length of your glide.The dynamics of the action in the first game were what made it so special, but all the base-jumping and mid-air skyjacking and leaping out of vehicles as they careen off cliffs would leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere more often than they ought. Using the grapple to make the parachute more useful helps in this. Having a direct line to a black market dealer that can airdrop you equipment and vehicles, or just give you a lift to a specific location, doesn't hurt either.
 
 Whatever happens next is clearly bad news for this guy.
A key advantage that Just Cause 2 has over its predecessor is that it's no longer technologically limited by the requirement that it be able to scale down to run on the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox hardware. Running on Avalanche's new, proprietary engine, Just Cause 2 renders an island paradise that's not bigger, but remarkably denser and more detailed. There's still some open-world jank, but there's such a enthusiastic B-movie energy to Just Cause 2, and it plays so fast and loose with physical law anyway that it doesn't seem like it'll break the experience.
 
If you played the first game, the learning curve on Just Cause 2 is pretty mild, but for newcomers, there's admittedly a lot going on, with many of the primary buttons on the controller performing drastically different functions depending on the context. Turning with the parachute can still be a little tricky, particularly when you're trying to multitask. The gunplay feels much, much better, but weapon management can be pretty confusing--sometimes you want to tap a button to swap weapons, sometimes you want to hold it, and the interface didn't always make it clear which action performed which function.
 
I'll admit, my fondness for the first Just Cause is probably disproportionate to its actual quality, though even I knew that its recommendation came saddled with some significant qualifications. Even in its unfinished state, Just Cause 2 is looking like a more well-realized game, and I'm eagerly looking forward to more island chaos when it hits later this month.  
Staff
Posted by project343

So excited. Literally, my most anticipated game of the spring. :D

Posted by Erik

Can't wait for this game!

Posted by Rayeth

This looks pretty fun.  I wonder if the PC version will stand up to the console versions?  This feels like a console game to me.

Posted by buckybit

so many words, Ryan Davis! Do you get paid by the word-count? ;)

Posted by Godlovesugly

Too....many....games *gasps for air*

Posted by Conker

Sweet, can't wait for this!
Posted by ObsideonDarman

Great Preview Ryan, can't wait to play the Demo this Thursday - will you Guys be doing a Quick Look of it?

Posted by HistoryInRust

This game has sky-rocketed within the last week on my list of intriguing games. Excited to see the demo. Then we'll talk turkey.

Posted by buckybit
@ObsideonDarman said:
" Great Preview Ryan, can't wait to play the Demo this Thursday - will you Guys be doing a Quick Look of it? "
Duder, that's a no-brainer. I bet they will - and want to do it.
Posted by JoelTGM

great

Posted by Balaamsafe

This should be a Quick Look: EX.  Still a great read though, anticipation is high.

Posted by armaan8014

Damn! Im SO excited for this one!!! aaagghhh!!

Posted by InFamous91

Can't wait...The demo will be arriving this week, so I'm most certainly stoked for that. 
 
Also, GREAT PREVIEW RYAN!!! 

Posted by SPACETURTLE

Awesome preview! I am STOKED about this game. From what I've seen of gameplay so far, the animations looks really good. Also, which is probably the selling-point of this game, the action look retarded sweet! Have you seen the one with the propane tank?? Damn!

Posted by hi_im_rob

This game looks amazing.
 
What are the chances of a Late Title Card?

Posted by SlowHands

I shall assume the (stunt) position.

Posted by DarkPredatorUK
@Sir_Ragnarok said:
" This game has sky-rocketed within the last week on my list of intriguing games. Excited to see the demo. Then we'll talk turkey. "
Ditto
Posted by TheYear20XX

This game looks awesome. Why? Just 'cause.

Posted by TheHBK

I am still amazed that this is my most anticipated game of the year so far.

Posted by PhantomZwei

There's so many games I want to play coming out this month, but Just Cause 2 is certainly near the top. Can't wait to get a closer look at this one.

Posted by Milkman

I can really appreciate the insanity of Just Cause but I'll be the first to also say that the original Just Cause was a not a good game, in fact, it was bad. But as long as Avalanche is looking to not only up the crazy but also improve the gameplay mechanics then it should be all good.

Online
Posted by HT101
@MisuseOfLasers: I think you mean Just 'cause 2.  Ammiright?  No one else?  All right.  Time for me to leave.  Leaves sad and alone.
Posted by Xeiphyer

DEMO THURSDAY!~

Posted by Cheapoz

You bet there's open-world jank.

Edited by wiII

I really enjoyed the first, glad I rented it even though it got average to low reviews.  I remember really liking it and blasting through the main story  
in a week or so.   I would have to disagree with anyone saying it was a bad game,  sure it was an average TPS, but bad?  Mercs 2 was bad, Just cause was average.

Posted by ScottG13

This one is SOOON. Can't wait. What a surprisingly great early part of 2010 for open world games. Red Dead not long after this.

Posted by ProfessorEss
@wiII said:
" I really enjoyed the first, glad I rented it even though it got average to low reviews.  I remember really liking it and blasting through the main story   in a week or so.   I would have to disagree with anyone saying it was a bad game,  sure it was an average TPS, but bad?  Mercs 2 was bad, Just cause was average. "
I think it's one of the better games I've played this generation personally.
Everything in is was so good that it totally made up for the horrible driving controls - the game's only (tho huge) flaw.
Posted by clubsammich

Me want.

Posted by Metiphis

I can't wait to tether jeeps full of dudes to planes taking off!!

Edited by DrPockets000

gaaaaaah can't wait!!! 
 
Great preview though.  I thirst for ever ounce of news on this game. 
 
EDIT: or rather, I hunger for every "byte".  That's so stupid I can't believe I even put it down.

Posted by Mattalorian

I like explosions and tethering stuff to other stuff! Sign me up!

Online
Posted by Winternet

I am in Stunt Position. FOREVER!

Posted by Cetra

Still on the fence about this game. It definitely looks awesome, but march is jam-packed as it is. Will most definitely be keeping an eye on it as it gets closer to release.

Posted by Sunjammer

Whatever man. Bionic Commando was badass.

Posted by natetodamax

Ridiculous, but in a good way.

Posted by lockload

Big improvements over the original looks graphically much better, day one purchase for me

Posted by fallen_elite

Good game with simultaneous PC release, hell yes I'll buy it... if I have any money left over this month. The talk about the game on the podcast has me very excited.

Posted by MadeinFinland
@Sunjammer said:
" Whatever man. Bionic Commando was badass. "
I agree, I love that game. And I hope this one delivers as well.
Posted by The_Laughing_Man
@natetodamax said:
" Ridiculous, but in a good way. "
I wanna hook a guy to a jet and hit mach 1 and see what happens. 
Posted by bjorno

demo out this thorsday

Posted by koala

I had literally never heard of this game before GiantBomb posted a few videos last week, and yet Ryan's excitement for this game has really caught on to me. 
 
If what bjorno says is true, a demo this week will make me very happy :)
 
Also, the Plane vs Firetruck video was so anticlimactic... I'll have to amend this when I get my hands on it!

Posted by Jacy
@koala: Indeed it is. It's out on the 4th, and it's 35 square miles of open world goodness, apparently.  
  
Hey, Ryan (or others in the know), being a Just Cause fan, and being a fan of certain elements, I'm sort of curious about what you said: Is the world in fact smaller this time around? The vastness isn't hurt, right? It feels like a giant world that should take a long time to get from point A to B yeah? Also, the capturing of zones is still intact right? I haven't seen any videos regarding the revolutionary activities of this game, and I'm worried the story missions will be more tailored to your goal of killing your mentor, rather than toppling the government. Maybe unfounded fear about these things, but I want to love this game. Truly truly. 
Posted by DrPockets000
@Jacy: According to Avalanche, the game is very close in size to the original game in terms of square mileage.  HOWEVER (and this is a big however), they've also added tremendous verticality, such as many more cliffs and mountains.  The best indicator of the vastness of the game?  IGN, in yet another of their smashingly well-written and clearly proofread (/fail) articles, complained that it was too big and that it takes too long to get from one end of the island to the other.  I'm not sure if you can still capture the zones, but I am led to believe that you can.  Avalanche is still keeping the story under wraps.
Posted by buckybit

[UPDATE]  
 
now the STEAM VERSION OF THE DEMO IS OUT - check here . They make a fuzz about the size and scope and replayability of the demo.  
 
rePLAYAbility seems to be an incorrect word, spell-check is telling me.