Just Cause 2 Preview

A well-deserved second outing for the vertigo-inducing tropical terror? We check out an early Xbox 360 build.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, November 13, 2009

You probably won’t be working quite the same elasticated magic straight off the bat. The controls are of above-average fiddliness, with two pop-up D-pad inventories for guns and secondary items, and while the relatively inexact camera system is compensated by generous aim assist, grappling still requires some precision. It’s a struggle to distinguish targets from surrounding objects at range, leading to the odd spontaneous headlong assault as I harpooned intervening walls by accident; this became particularly troublesome during an attack on an underground silo, criss-crossed with girders and walkways. The spinning reticule which indicates a grapple-friendly object could be a little more obvious, as perhaps could the grapple line itself.

When roof-riding, you can still guide a vehicle with after-touch.

When roof-riding, you can still guide a vehicle with after-touch.

The demo introduced us to one of Just Cause 2′s three paramilitary factions, the Reapers. Having stirred up enough “heat” – an abstract measure of the extent to which you’re rocking the government’s boat, comparable to GTA’s wanted stars – to get the faction’s attention, I was asked to pinch GPS coordinates for an important witness from a mountainside base. Travelling around the island is a varied process: you can summon a black market operative (also Rico’s one-stop shop for equipment and vehicles, upgraded by collecting “Armor Parts”) to transport you instantly between unlocked areas,  purloin a vehicle or (most gracefully of all) flip open the chute, grapple somebody’s tailpipe and let them whisk you across the game’s startlingly mesmeric panoramas.

Having taken advantage of a convenient jump ramp, I made short work of the base (albeit with Al’s assistance) and siphoned the coordinates from a data bank. Next on the agenda, of course, was the witness himself, tucked away in the belly of an armored car convoy crossing the plains to the south. Vehicle combat in Just Cause 2 tips a nod to the most unlikely of forebears, the PSP’s long-forgotten Pursuit Force games, with players scrambling around the outside of a boarded car via tugs of the stick to escape the bullets of those within.

Helicopters. Easy come, easy go.

Helicopters. Easy come, easy go.

The storyline – unlikely to be a key selling point, unless you skipped the past 20 years of action cinema – clocks in at around 12 hours by Al’s estimate, but factor in side-missions and the obligatory frequent dose of impulsive, free-form violence and you’re looking at close to a hundred – more than enough bang for any open-worlder’s buck. Multiplayer’s a no-no, which is cause for some head-shaking in light of Saints Row 2′s successes, but in most respects Just Cause 2 is looking quite the sleeper hit – an unpretentious, deceptively gimmicky pantomime villain of a sandbox action fest, pitched somewhere between Spiderman and Mercenaries. Those shanty towns aren’t getting any fresher, but rural Dorset can wait a few months longer.

The game’s out next year for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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