Now that I’ve got the story out of my system, I can talk about why I’m having so much fun with Just Cause 2 (JC2).
The previous entry gives a rough idea of the tasks ahead of you in the game: blow stuff up. However, there’s so much more to it than that. You can also kill people by shooting them! Or using your hook wire to drag them to their doom. Or hook them to a gas cylinder and turn that into a rocket or …
Let’s take this piece by piece. There are settlements (villages, military bases and the like) on the absolutely huge map. Once you ‘discover’ one of these you can search it for upgrades (metal containers) that will either have weapon upgrades, armour upgrades or … well, money upgrades. That gets you part of the way to ‘completing’ (or cleaning up) the settlement.
The rest is the Blowing Stuff Up thing. Blow up transformers, propaganda wagons, fuel tanks, petrol stations … anything with the white and red Panau government logo on it. If you find all the upgrades, and blow up all the blowuppable stuff, then the settlement is effectively cleared of the military. This becomes quite ghost-town like when you’re talking a military base as it’s then entirely empty of people. On the other hand these do become nice little refuges to stock up on health, ammo and vehicles.
There are also various Colonels (who for some reason always stand out in the open at mostly military bases) that you have to wipe out. Just hitting them with the small machine gun doesn’t do much – they’re heavily armoured. Grenades, rockets and the cannons on helicopters do the job. Taking down one of these apparently lowers the military morale.
You can do ‘Stronghold Takeovers’ for factions, which amount to a kind of escort mission. You kill soldiers, open gates, and then keep the escort safe as they do whatever job they need to at the ‘control center’ of each stronghold. This usually means grabbing a Gatling style gun and mowing down soldiers, jeeps and helicopters. At least, that’s how I do it.
As you take over settlements, or do faction missions, then the influence of various factions changes and more missions become available. Also, more weapons become available from the Black Market.
Did I mention that? The Black Market in this game is run from a helicopter piloted by someone called the Sloth Demon – which has to be my favourite name ever.
In the beginning you only have fragmentation grenades and revolvers available. As you cause more Chaos, then more becomes available such as assault rifles, triggered explosives and far more. You can still get those weapons from downed soldiers, but they’re not really a guaranteed supply.
Sloth Demon will, after a short time, also agree to extract you to any location on the map that you’ve already discovered – a kind of quick travel.
That Sloth Demon’s helicopter has amazing carrying capacity as he can also drop off vehicles to you – as long as you have the money of course. Some of these vehicles are very large, so I’m assuming he’s actually got a TARDIS in there as well.
None of this has really told you anything about what makes the game fun. It just gives you the structure of what it’s about.
Your two major tools are a wire line with a hook at the end – fired from your left forearm – that you can use to pull yourself to just about anything within range (glass, wood, rock, metal …). The second is an infinitely deploying parachute. With both of these JC2 is a very vertical game. You’ll spend a lot of time either using the hook while the parachute is deployed to slingshot yourself around the place, or spending time on top of things after using the hook to climb up them.
So, you have a way to get around quickly and easily – even without vehicles, and a large, varied area to get around. That’s great fun for a start – especially when you start to learn how to control your movement to move faster, or ‘climb’ mountains without resorting to going up them one hook line length at a time.
You then have this huge set of islands to explore. Finding a new village or military base means new things to find and destroy – and possibly a new ‘haven’ if you manage to clear the military base out.
The more things you find, and destroy, the more black market items are opened up and the more things you can make go boom.
The challenge is kept high, however. The more you blow up (and raise Chaos), the more likely the military are to respond quickly, and with a lot of firepower. In the early missions you can almost stand wherever you want, and blow them away calmly. Now that I’m past 10% that’s a quick way to die. I need to keep moving, shooting while running, or doing ‘stunts’. This means you have to learn new tactics. Oh, they tend to pull in the gunships much more quickly now.
On the other hand: hey, free helicopter! You see, another joy is the ability to hook to a vehicle and try to wrest control of it from the operator. This is a Quick Time Event (QTE) driven part, but you get so much time to press each button that it’s almost quite lazy in its own way. And if you win, you get your shiny new (only dented by bullets every other Sunday by a little old lady who used it to blow up churches) bit of equipment.
After a while you learn tactics to clean each location out in the most efficient way. Which doesn’t mean that sometimes you don’t just go in guns blazing. With the maneuverability of either your hook/parachute combo, or using one of the vehicles, you can duck in, blow stuff up, duck out and come back later to finish the job.
Interestingly, that’s part of the appeal of this game to me: the contrasts between activities. You can go up high and serenely float back down to earth on your parachute, then you can enter a running gunfight where you need quick reflexes to collect, destroy and get of there alive.
To an extent you can also ‘stealth’ a location. Villages are a little more forgiving than Military bases though. You can often wander around a village (as long as you don’t blow things up, or use your hook when a military person can see you), but with Military bases being seen at all raises the alarm. That means you can approach the different places in ways that suit you – there isn’t always a ‘right’ way to do things.
So, why is this fun? You can blow things up. It has a huge, explorable area. There’s a lot to find and collect. There’s lots of things to blow up, there are a lot of ways to destroy things. The story doesn’t get in the way of the game. Things go boom. There are so many ways to get around that you can pick what suits your mood. Kaboom!
Did I mention the explosions?