Just Cause 2: demo impressions

Open world games are very good at instilling a general level of madness and carnage as it can feel as though everyone and their rabid dog is out to get you. GTA often sends wave after wave of suicidal policemen your way who appear to have no desire to experience their children growing up, and Far Cry 2 has an entire nation of people turn against you for no discernible reason.

These seem like tame experiences full of cuddling and playful nudges however, in comparison to some of the madness that a few well placed bullets can rustle up in Just Cause 2.

Square Enix released a very generous demo last week on Xbox Live, PSN and Steam which we have very busily been sinking our grappling hooks into. The taster experience gives us 30 minutes in which to completely tear up a 35 square mile desert area filled with cars, buildings, helicopters and lots of stuff that explodes.

After a quick run around the starting area to get used to the basic controls, you hurl yourself off a cliff and start an exhilarating base jump waiting for a handy reminder to open your parachute. Being complete masters of everything in gaming, on the first attempt we pushed our luck and watched powerlessly as we started slumping down the face of a cliff, landing like a sack full of dead kittens at the bottom, realising that our chute opening response times were a little off.

Spherical landing zones have always been a bad idea

Very soon we found another high spot to try a successful parachute experiment, and a well timed button press let us hang in the air safely. It was only at this point that we realised what an amazing graphical achievement Avalanche Studios has pulled off. As far as we can tell, there are no draw distances, no distant fog that shrouds the environment ahead in mystery and hardware efficiency. Being able to look over hundreds of acres of pristine tropical paradise just shows off the huge scale of this game, and really makes us want to explore the rest of the island.

It was at this point that we landed in the middle of an enemy compound and found ourselves in a firefight. The on foot combat at a basic level feels similar to Mercenaries 2, with no cover system or Resi 4 style shoulder aiming to speak of. Fighting like this is going to get you killed relatively fast. This is where the game’s central gadget, the grappling hook comes into play, and boy, does it let you play.

As well as being a handy time saver when travelling, it can also be used offensively as a melee flail, tether guards to just about anything, and it lets you shoot up to that handy vantage point, away from the beeping grenade at your feet. It’s very satisfying to get yourself out of a violent situation by tying an unfortunate guard to the back of a passing car in the blink of an eye, just to watch him get dragged off into the distance like a rubbish water skier bouncing off tarmac.

The locals don't take kindly to freestyle hitchhiking

The grapple can also be used to fling you up in to the air allowing you to open your parachute, which makes clearing high obstacles and accessing rooftops easier than flipping a pancake with two frying pans. Once you get used to the slightly fiddly controls you will find yourself pulling aerial acrobatic stunts like these with no effort, as if you were James Bond, high out of his mind on ketamine and breath mints.

Even the relatively mundane task of driving everywhere has been spiced up, with the ability from the first game of instant parachute assisted bail outs returning, letting you watch your car sail over a cliff to its fiery demise as you float back to earth with the grace of a feather holding an assault rifle.

Add to this the ability to hop between cars like stepping stones whilst at motorway cruising speeds, and the whole thing comes together to give us an unseen level of insanity that has yet to be showcased in a game.

When trying to pull helicopters out of the air, anchoring points are essential

The Just Cause 2 demo has really left us short of breath and anxious to see just what the full game can deliver. If videos and screenshots are anything to go by though, it just keeps getting madder and madder, with cars tied to helicopters for use as wrecking balls, fighter jets being boarded mid air, and unfortunate henchman becoming cosmonauts when tethered to speeding gas canisters.

Look out for this one when it is released on March 26 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.


  1. Oni-Samurai /

    I don’t know how to tie people to objects using the grappling hook, but I sure did have a crazy amount of fun anyway. Reminds me of mercenaries on PS2, which was so much fun that I played 12 hours a day for 3 days consecutively and broke my PS2.

  2. KrazyFace /

    I couldn’t play it! All I wanted was to invert the X-Y axis so I could see who was shooting me, but my thumbs were convinced it was either my own feet… or the Sun. Does anyone know if the option to invert the X-Y axis is there, coz I just can’t find it?

  3. half_empty80 /

    The invert option is there in settings. It’s the first thing I do in any game. I quite like the Just Cause 2 demo, but I couldn’t quite get the controls to flow.

    • KrazyFace /

      Thanks half_empty, I’ll re-download it and have another look.

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