Hands-On Preview: JUST CAUSE 2 - Make Things Go Boom

Hands-On Preview: JUST CAUSE 2
Since E3 last year, after an amazing closed-door presentation, I've been anxiously awaiting Just Cause 2. The sequel barely counts as a second-in-a-series with how many new things it's doing, and honestly, most gamers should approach it that way.

With a producer on the game in town, I got to sit down with it for a little over an hour, playing through an entire main story mission. Variety is the spice of life, and it's clear that the development team has used plenty of that spice while making this game. Within the mission, there is an incredible amount of small objectives, collectibles, and things to go boom. Destruction of nearly every object, building, tower, and vehicle isn't just possible, it's actually encouraged, and required to earn more missions in the game. Anything that you can earn "Chaos" points for is marked with a just-subtle-enough red band, so you know what to toss grenades at, shoot with a rocket launcher, or crash a burning vehicle into. Getting 100% destruction in each area will take some time, but the physics-driven explosions are so spectacular, it just doesn't show any signs of getting boring.

There are of course enemies to deal with as well. They can be taken out in standard ways, like shooting them directly, shooting red, flammable barrels near them, running them over with a car or tank, or throwing grenades at them. The wrist-mounted grappling hook, however, makes things much more fun. Enemies can be connected to eachother on a spring-loaded rope to slam them together. Enemies can be connected to the back of a vehicle then dragged through the dirt. Enemies can be connected to a gigantic fuel tank, then blown up along with it when you set off your remote detonator. Enemies can be pulled and thrown from rooftops, connected to towering bridges; the list goes on and on. It's rare that a game will actually make you wish for infinite respawn, but this is definitely a case for that.

The grapple is used for far more than combat, though. Everything in the world can be grappled. Lamp posts, the ground (the ENTIRE ground), trees, buildings, antennae,  rooftops, storage containers, boxes, barrels, cable cars, trucks, tanks, helicopters; it's all grappling material. Once you grab onto something, you can do a few things. You can do the aforementioned hooking-someone-to-it, you can zipline to that point and hang on the wall, pole, etc, or you can use it as a launching point. When you are in the midst of your zipline, releasing your stunt-parachute launches you into the air. From here, you can grapple to higher points, hover around while shooting (and probably yelling "DEATH FROM ABOVE!" like I did), or quickly move to the next objective. It adds a completely new movement mechanic that takes the game from an already inventive third person shooter to an altogether new gametype altogether.

Aside from the main missions, there are over three hundred fifty (350!) locations to be explored on the 40 square mile island. Each of those has mini or side-missions, and plenty of chaos points to earn. There are also 3 other mission types. While Square Enix says you can "blow through" the game in a "mere" 16 hours, to get a 100% completion, you'd be looking at around 100 hours of gameplay in this single-player epic. With over 100 vehicles, tons of weapons (plus build-a-weapon customization), and all of the missions, this is a game that will take more than just a weekend rental to crack into properly.

The videos and demonstrations were amazing. The hands-on time was absolutely fantastic. Even with its advanced movement and combat options, the game was easy enough to get the hang of after the first 5-10 minutes of playtime. One hour was not enough with Just Cause 2 and come late March, I'll be dedicating a lot more time to it.

Just Cause 2 is scheduled to ship March 23, 2010 (US) and March 26, 2010 (EU) for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC

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