Better in Pairs
December 11, 2009 – The original Just Cause had a great concept, mixing an open-world third-person shooter with tons of stunts and acrobatics. Unfortunately, it could have also used a few more months of development time to fix all of the issues that detracted from the overall experience. The game was plagued by brain-dead A.I., numerous bugs, and repetitive missions. Luckily, even with its flaws, Just Cause managed to sell well and garnered a decent fan base, allowing for a sequel to be made that will hopefully fix many, if not all, of the things that kept the original from reaching its true potential.
As with the original, you’ll be taking control of Rico Rodriguez who is essentially an acrobatic one man army. In this adventure, Rico will be scouring an entirely new island named Panau in search of his mentor Tom Sheldon. Of course, things are never as simple as they initially seem, so Rico will also have to contend with a ruthless dictator and his armies along the way. Panau is a huge island with a good variety of terrain ranging from deserts to snow covered mountains, all of which providing Rico with a vast playground in which to show off his skills and to create as much government destabilizing chaos as possible.
Chaos will be a prominent element in Just Cause 2, helping you to overthrow the island’s dictator and set its inhabitants free. Destroying government occupied buildings and communications antennas will not only set your enemy back, but it will also net you chaos. The more chaos you earn throughout the course of the game the more help you’ll receive from various guerilla factions around the island who wish to achieve the same ends as you. This seems like it could create an interesting dynamic in the game but won’t be necessary in order to complete the campaign.
However, like most games, the success or failure of Just Cause 2 will come down to its gameplay, and things are already looking really good in that department. Unlike the original’s somewhat clunky implementation of the grappling hook, requiring you to select it as though it was a weapon, Just Cause 2 takes a more Bionic Commando approach. For anyone who didn’t like that title don’t let this comparison frighten you, I simply mean that the grappling hook will be constantly attached to one of your arms and can be used at any time. In fact, this time around it is also much more useful and has a range of 200 feet, pretty much ensuring that if you can see something you can grapple to it.
The new and improved grappling hook was recently shown off in a demo level and it looks great. The mission involved trying to locate and free a witness so that they can provide testimony. It started off with Rico trying to get through a security gate and past numerous armed guards. Using a combination of the new grappling hook, guns, and his parachute, he made quick work of his opposition. As with the original, using the grappling hook can give you a brief burst of speed and then quickly deploying your parachute gives you a useful floating vantage point from which to shred your enemies with gunfire.
Rico then encountered more opposition when trying to break into a facility to find his target’s whereabouts. Here the new features of the grappling hook were really put on display. Rico can now choose two targets with his grappling hook, essentially binding them together with its springy cord. While this may sound somewhat mundane, it actually provided some extremely hilarious and useful results. Targeting a soldier and a wall will leave your foe swinging and dangling helplessly until you decide to finish them off with a few shots. Grappling two enemies together will cause them to spring towards one another, smashing their heads when they meet in the middle. However, my personal favorite had to be attaching your two grappling points to an enemy and a pressurized canister. Once these two have been grappled, a few quick shots to the canister will send it and the attached foe violently in whichever direction it happens to fly.
After humorously taking out the opposition and finding his target’s whereabouts, Rico took a brief grappled helicopter ride to catch up with the convoy of trucks transporting the witness. Starting from the last vehicle in the convoy, Rico showed off some more combat variety. Dangling from both the fronts and backs of the vehicles, Rico was able to shoot enemies hanging out of the doors while using the vehicle itself for cover. There was also some more grappling hook hilarity on display. Some examples were grappling an enemy to the moving vehicle and leaving them dragging behind, grappling a foe to a stationary object and watching them fly helplessly off of the vehicle, and, best of all, grappling a vehicle itself to a stationary object which violently stops and damages the vehicle.
Nobody is going to say that the action in Just Cause 2 is realistic, but that’s likely why it will be so much fun to participate in. This is clearly a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but instead provides players with an extremely large sandbox in which to pull off ridiculously funny stunts and humorous combat tricks. The addition of a second grappling target as well as the ability to grapple at any time to just about any object should also make Just Cause 2 much more fun to play than the original. So, if any of these antics sounded fun to you, make sure to keep an eye on Just Cause 2 this March when it’s released.
Jumping Into the Blue…Again!
February 19, 2008 – The original Just Cause is a third-person action/adventure game that involves beating up some bad guys, exploring a tropical paradise, blowing some stuff up, and performing some outrageous stunts using a parachute or a grappling hook. It was a pretty fun game, but it was not without fault. Poor A.I. and repetitive gameplay made Just Cause feel shallow and the presence of more than a few glitches and bugs pointed to a game in need of some serious polish. Luckily that polish is coming in the form of a follow-up, predictably titled Just Cause 2.
Just Cause 2 will feature most of the same elements from the original. You will once again step into the shoes of Rico Rodriguez, a CIA Black Ops agent who just so happens to be on vacation in beautiful South America. However, it is soon discovered that an ex-CIA agent has gone rogue on a nearby island to try to steal some extra cash, so it is up to you to save the day.
Although the story is completely fresh, most of the gameplay will seem familiar. Just Cause 2 will feature the same sandbox-style gameplay as the original. You will essentially have free reign over the island and be able to explore anywhere you want. A big improvement for the sequel will be the more intuitive interaction with enemies on the island. The original game suffered from A.I. that was predictable to a fault. Characters would wander around the island in very predictable ways, and a few well-times shots could dispatch these guys a little too easily. But the A.I. in Just Cause 2 has been upgraded ten-fold. Enemies this time around will have the ability to chase as well as cover, and will be anything but predictable as they actively strategize and adapt to your movements.
In addition to the varied A.I. in Just Cause 2, there will also be quite a variety of terrain to cover. The island that will be your sandbox features almost every type of environment possible including everything from wintry mountains to tropical beaches. There will also be several unpredictable weather elements that correspond to each section of the island. Thunderstorms, blizzards, and other inconvenient natural disasters will occur on a random basis, so you can expect the unexpected when it comes to your interaction with nature in this game.
Weaponry and vehicles have also been greatly upgraded. Weapons are now fully customizable and feature an almost limitless amount of add-ons and upgrades. Vehicles are much more responsive this time around and feature handling that actively adapts to terrain. Vehicles will adapt to the diverse environments differently, and it will be more of a challenge to seek out vehicles that are best-suited to deal with each type of terrain.
But of course what most people who are fans of Just Cause are interested in is the stunt facet of the gameplay. The stunts in Just Cause 2 have been expanded via an all-purpose grappling hook. Now you may remember the grappling hook from the original game, but the one in Just Cause 2 will be special because it will be able to hook on to almost every surface in the game. This makes stunt possibilities limitless, and gives you a very good amount of freedom when exploring the island. In addition to the improved grappling hook, the all-purpose parachute will be back as well. The parachute physics, however, have been tweaked a little bit to add a little more realism to the game. Vehicle stunts will be slightly tweaked as well. Instead of just hanging off vehicles to perform stunts, you will have more control over your actions when you are performing a vehicle stunt. You can hang on to different parts of the vehicle (such as doors, mirrors, etc.) and actively dodge obstacles.
One element that is completely new to the game is the “chaos” system, which takes the place of the side missions that were such a source of frustration for some in the original. Instead of going on random side missions that seem to have no purpose at all, you will instead be able to perform “chaos” missions that will get local factions on your side. These local factions will be a big help when you are trying to infiltrate certain governmental buildings or going up against bad guys. I would imagine this system to work somewhat similar to the “save citizen” missions in Assassin’s Creed: not necessary to play the game, but definitely useful if you want to put the time into it.
Just Cause 2 looks like it is going to be a great sequel. The original Just Cause had a great premise, but many of the facets of the game just didn’t feel quite right. But Just Cause 2 seems like it is picking the ball up right where it fell off from the first game. With better game structure, more customizable options, better A.I., and of course, better stunts, Just Cause 2 is looking pretty promising. We’ll have to wait and see how much this game will actually benefit from all these improvements, but so far everything seems to be looking up for this upcoming action-packed game.