Tech Digest got to have a hands-on go with Just Cause 2 today, the latest sandbox adventure from Swedish developers Avalanche. It’s shaping up to be a bombastic romp, so read on for our initial impressions.
Our demo comprised of two of the opening missions and a quick run through the open world elements (which will be available in a demo later this week). The first thing you’ll notice about Just Cause 2 is its absolutely breathtaking visuals. Character models are nice and detailed, if a little unspectacular, but boy; those vistas! The fictional island of Panau stretches over 400 square miles. Anywhere you can see you can visit and interact with, with minimal loading times. The first mission has you sky dive out over an icy enemy base, showing off the magnificent night-time visuals and endless draw distance, as well as the more varied environments present in the sequel. Deserts, ice-caped mountains, oceans and jungles can all be explored.
Our hero Rico Rodriguez once again has a parachute and grappling gun, which when used in tandem can help you cover great distances at a time, sling-shot style. The grappling hook is available at all times now, making Rico feel a little like a Latino Spiderman. The grappling hook can be used to reel you into vehicles, hang from aircraft, or even as a weapon (more on that in a little bit). It plays liberally with physics, but Just Cause 2 is all the better for it. Whereas Grand Theft Auto IV took its series in a slightly more sensible direction, Just Cause 2 is a balls-out explosion-fest. There’s a real sense of freedom, with experimentation with the myriad ways to cause destruction offering as much fun as getting into the meaty, varied missions.
Rico was quite the showman in the first title, and he’s even more daring this time around. Fancy surfing a flaming aircraft? No, problem, hit the stunt button and you can pick off baddies whilst doing it. We’re told that there are roughly 450 vehicle variations on offer, each with their own carefully weighted physics and perks like mounted guns and armour. Damage modelling on vehicles is impressive too, with real time scrapes appearing on your motors, which in turn affect vehicle performance.
Combat is particularly outlandish; you have the usual array of machine guns and explosives, but the grappling hook is where the real fun lies. You’re able to use it to hog tie your foes, string them up to lamposts, toss them over the edge of sky scrapers or tie them to a squadmate. If you’re feeling particularly sadistic, you can even use the grappling hook to attach a baddie to a gas canister, set it alight, and watch your enemy be propelled into the distance.
Much of the environments can be blown up with Michael Bay style aplomb, which, while fun in its own right, is also an integral mechanic. Causing havoc is in effect its own sort of in-game currency, with “Chaos” being dished out for foiling the enemies, and used to unlock new missions.
We also got to see Just Cause 2 running in 3D, which PC users with an Nvidia 3D Vision set up will be able to enjoy at home. The sense of scale in Just Cause 2 greatly benefits from this extra dimension. Skydiving from a chopper and having the ground rush towards you and treetops fly past is so exhilarating in 3D that we forgot to open our parachute on more than one occasion. It’s looking set to be the best way to experience Just Cause 2.
We were sceptical going into the preview session, but came away totally won over by Just Cause 2’s exuberant attitude and “fun-before-realism” approach to the sandbox genre. We’d have loved more time with it and cant wait to get stuck into some review code.
Just Cause 2 is out on March 26th on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and you can download the demo from Thursday. We’ll have a full review up soon, as well as an interview with lead developer Peter Johansson, so keep those peepers peeled.