When you have a solid concept, the rest depends entirely on the effort and skill of the developer involved. The original Just Cause had a fantastic concept, but due to several severe gameplay and technical shortcomings, it turned out to be a merely average game that fell short of expectations. While one might be able to categorize the game as a "sandbox style" approach – traveling with a parachute and being able to jack vehicles GTA-style – there was still a linear path to follow. It was a fun game, but Avalanche Studios has some cleaning up to do with the sequel, and thankfully, early details point towards a variety of gameplay improvements. This one is coming some time later this year for the PS3 and Xbox 360, and if the team comes through on the technicals and controls, that excellent concept will carry the day. The first step to creating an awesome interactive experience is the idea; the foundation of the project. They've already got it, so now they just need to add the required polish and refinement.
Our brave – and slightly rash – hero, Rico Rodriguez, has returned to once again tear up a gorgeous tropical paradise. However, while the original story's protagonist is coming back, we're leaving San Esperito behind and are now headed to the island of Panau, which is loaded with intriguing Pacific culture. We do find it a little odd that Eidos has said the island is actually smaller than San Esperito, just because we always figured the theme behind a sequel was "bigger and better." Well, actually, even if Panau isn't "bigger," it should be a great deal "better." There's going to be more diversity, for instance, as we will explore everything from deep, dense jungle to several modern cities complete with skyscrapers and all the current amenities. But perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the weather and climate will change depending on your location; obviously, it's going to feel different being in the mountains than carousing on the beach. Strangely enough, all of this is in stark contrast to the island itself, which is apparently extremely difficult to find. How do modern cities pop up on a tiny piece of land that's as mysterious as the one in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune ?
One of the first gameplay enhancements we've heard of is the increased AI. We distinctly recall some pretty lamebrain artificial intelligence in the original Just Cause , so we're very happy to learn of Avalanche's efforts to make it better for the sequel. Enemies will now be able to shoot from vehicles – not so easy to carjack now, punk! – and we will encounter a larger number of diverse missions this time around, despite the smaller locale. You'll be chasing around after the prime foe, who goes by the nickname, "Baby Panay." He's a little, evil-minded thief who isn't about to give up his fortune just because Rico is hunting him, and Panay has quite the rogue army at his disposal. Just about everything regarding combat and how we interact with the environment will be more realistic, too, thanks to an updated gameplay mechanic that should fit in nicely with this new generation. And that's exactly what we're looking for in Just Cause 2 : updates. Lots of them. Like we said, there's no need to rework the concept, so provided they iron out the serious kinks found in the first title, the sequel should be well worth playing. C'mon Avalanche, come through on this one!
Oh, and if you're wondering about that handy-dandy grappling hook of Rico's, don't you worry. It's coming back, and it'll be just another feature that should be updated and more realistic. If you're not familiar with this cool little tool, imagine being able to snag just about anything ala Spiderman-style, swinging off of trees, buildings, and just about any object that will hold the hook. It was one of the highlights of the original, so to get rid of it wouldn't make much sense, right? Now, considering Rico will be traversing a wide variety of landscapes – mentioned above – we're already excited about how the grappling hook will be able to latch on to a million different things. Think about it: from the palm trees to the skyscrapers to the snowy cliffs…fling that hook far and wide, fellow action aficionados! As for the game itself, we're expecting a longer adventure with the sequel, especially because you'll have to complete several side-quests before being able to advance the plot forward. Remember being able to beat the original in like six hours if you weren't interested in doing anything extra? Well, they're gonna force you to branch out a bit in the sequel.
Lastly, we'd like to touch on the added freedom we'll have. This one won't be quite as linear, and it will adopt that same GTA-style approach to missions. In other words, regardless of the situation, you should have a choice as to how to handle each quest; are you more comfortable sneaking in or do you prefer running ‘n gunning? According to GameSpot, Eidos talked about one particular mission that would allow you to either attack a fortress from the ground or BASE jump off a nearby mountain. How sweet is that? Now, the parachute thing isn't entirely without precedence ( Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas let you do it), but it should be taken to a whole new level here. One of the reasons why the GTA titles are so unbelievably appealing is the freedom; the ability to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want to do it. It doesn't matter how you go about completing your task, because all that matters is you complete it. The ends justify the means. That appears to be the central theme in Just Cause 2 , and we have to say, things are looking good right now. Let's just hope they come through this time.
We'll let you know as soon as Eidos issues an official release date. For now, though, "TBA 2008" will have to do.