Lest you get the impression that this winter break was all about Man’s Eternal Struggle With Technology, I did take a few hours – okay, more than a few – and finished “Just Cause 2”, a game my wife has dubbed “Just ’cause” because it’s a game that makes you do crazy things just because you can.
Like, why would I steal a speedboat and then ram it directly into the nearest beach so I could marvel at the side of the explosion? Just ’cause.
Just Cause 2 features a reasonably generic Mercenary Commando Secret Agent Badass Man named Rico, though he goes by Scorpio.
Right there, you know he’s badass. I mean, getting people to call you “Scorpio” with a straight face?
Anyway, Scorpio has a wrist-mounted grapply hooky thingy, an unlimited supply of inexplicably-materializing parachutes, and the uncanny ability to correctly drive or pilot any kind of vehicle from a motorcycle to a jumbo jetliner. Oh, and he’s good at shooting things. Pretty good basic set of skills.
You, that being the player behind Scorpio, get dropped onto a Fictional Southeast Asian Country that’s recently undergone a coup, and your goal is to bust things up, find out what’s behind the coup, and install a new government.
Pretty heady stuff.
It’s not my normal kind of game, to be honest. Normally I like games where you go from level 1 to level 2 to level 3 and so on until the end credits and the heartbreaking bit after the credits where they hint at a sequel that will never ever come. Just Cause 2 has “story missions” but actually doing any of them is entirely optional and comes as kind of a side bonus to the main focus of the game, which is being a colossal jerk and blowing stuff up.
Looking at the Steam Achievements for the game, it looks like a lot of people choose that tactic – while 74.1% of people complete the first two missions, after which you’re given more or less free roam of the world, only 54.6% complete the third mission and the number drops quite quickly after that – less than 20% of people actually complete the seventh mission and “finish” the game.
See, the fundamental currency of Just Cause 2 is something called “Chaos” – blow up, say, an oil drum, you get 10 Chaos, blow up a surface-to-air missile launcher and you get 1500 Chaos, and so on and so forth. As you accumulate chaos, you unlock story missions, so the basic premise of the game can be boiled down to “build up 435000 Chaos and then do some rather short missions”
I was reminded rather a lot of Jak and Daxter, where I was always collecting small shiny things to unlock a mission and then I’d have to collect more small shiny things to unlock the next mission and so on.
Anyway, you are given more or less free reign in how you generate this chaos, so I spent a lot of time following this basic template:
1) Sneak into a military base, steal a helicopter.
2) Take off, blow up the SAM launchers that are now shooting at me, take heavy damage in the process.
3) Shoot up the military base until more helicopters are sent after me.
4) Jump out of my current (badly damaged) helicopter, grapple to one of the other helicopters, throw the pilot out and use the newly acquired helicopter to shoot down any others.
5) Go looking for another military base.
Also I spent a fair bit of time stealing jumbo jets and flying them under bridges, which didn’t generate me any chaos and wasn’t helpful in any way with advancing the plot, but which was awfully fun regardless.
The other game I was reminded of while playing Just Cause 2 was Katamari Damacy, which is probably the weirdest connection ever made but which I think applies.
See, in Katamari Damacy, you have lots of levels where you start off as a tiny tiny thing, then as you get bigger you see the same level from a new perspective, and this changes as you get even bigger, and pretty soon you’re rolling up things that were insurmountable barriers before.
Just Cause 2 sort of has the same thing going on. There was a bit where I had to go about 20 kilometers to get from Point A to Point B to continue with a mission, and of course I stole a jet for this and was merrily zooming along, and then looked down and realized that, if I’d wanted to, I could have run from Point A to Point B on the ground, swimming through watery bits or maybe taking a boat, maybe grabbing a motorcycle for some parts…I could freely “zoom into” the world at any point and there would be something there.
It’s pretty mindblowing thinking about how much work went into this game.