"I hate ninjas." Those words may reek of heresy if you've been raised on shuriken-related entertainment, but put yourself in the shoes of Just Cause 2 protagonist Rico Rodriguez--the very man who utters them--for a quick moment. After waging a one-man battle against heavily armed military forces, he's managed to complete a dangerous sabotage mission by the skin of his teeth. Exploding fuel tanks, rocket launchers, snipers--he's somehow survived it all. But right when the coast looks clear and just as Rico is about to secure the mission…yep, ninjas show up.
That's how one of the delightfully absurd story cinematics went in our most recent hands-on demo of this open-world action game. It's heartening to see that the storytelling is every bit as eccentric as the gameplay because what we've seen so far suggests a sandbox game designed for the type of players who'd rather go off and create their own mayhem than stick to a rigidly designed story mission. It's over-the-top action where hijacking vehicles often takes a backseat to BASE jumping from mountains or slingshotting into the air with a parachute and grapple hook.
This latest demo was among the most improbable yet. We started on a lush, tropical beach; hopped into an attack helicopter; and flew all the way up to a military base perched atop snowy mountain cliffs. Our task was simple: Destroy four vent stations, rescue a person of interest, and try like hell not to die. Just Cause 2 affords you the usual armory of submachine guns, grenades, and jeeps (which, if you drive like us, can certainly be considered weapons). But the real fun of this game lies in the creative combinations of weapons and tools. For example: You might launch yourself into the air with a grapple hook, open your parachute to begin floating effortlessly, and use your rocket launcher to unleash chaos without leaving the friendly skies. You can get even more creative and use your grapple hook to attach a vehicle to a helicopter then fling it into enemy strongholds like the most expensive wrecking ball ever.
On this particular mission, we elected to run into the vent stations and attach several satchel charges to the targeted equipment. Then, we detonated the vent stations--and all the enemies guarding them--from a safe distance. When the charges ran out, we stole an enemy tank and began blasting everything in our way that looked the least bit threatening. (And also trees. We might have destroyed some trees, too.) Eventually we succeeded in sabotaging all the vents, at which point it looked like Rico was on his way to a nice pat on the back. Naturally, that's when the ninjas showed up.
Clearly, what we've got here is a game that doesn't take itself too seriously. When you can send a human being into low orbit by grappling him to a gas tank and shooting holes in it (the tank, not the man), there's an obvious sense of levity to the game. The story and the denizens of this fictional South Pacific island nation seem to match that tone as well. Like, for example, the aforementioned ninjas. Out of nowhere, they simply show up and act as a sort of collective boss battle standing between you and your ultimate goal of rescuing a person of interest. It's a tough battle because of their ability to throw smoke bombs and teleport the second you start shooting them. But after some trial and error, we found a ninja's one weakness: rockets to the head.
A moment later, we almost had our VIP. But as luck turned out, what seemed a foregone victory turned into a high-speed vehicle chase across a frozen lake. While in a vehicle, Just Case 2 allows you to jump straight onto the roof to either start shooting at a nearby vehicle or grapple straight onto it. We did just that, zipping from our jeep to another, holding onto the outside of said speeding car, and shooting the ninjas occupying it when they stuck their heads out to fend us off. It was a pretty thrilling chase scene that ended with us finally, at long last, completing our goal.
With so many opportunities for chaos and a storyline that wears its ridiculousness on its sleeve, Just Cause 2 looks like an intriguing entry in the sandbox action genre. If there's one thing that remains to be seen, it's how exciting the game will be outside these set piece battles because the several-hundred square-mile setting means there will be a lot of traveling between missions. Look forward to more information on that as we get closer to the game's March release.