More Just Cause 2

Sandbox games usually have a problem – they tend to need to appear realistic and grounded, and yet they also need to enable the player to go over the top and be excessive. A dichotomy, if you will (checks; that’ll do). Grand Theft Auto 4 leaned heavily towards realism; if you wanted to go across the map without getting into another tedious shooting match, you needed to drive there and respect the traffic around you. I believe the original Mafia went this way too, but took it even further – the cars were 50s models, so they were slow as fuck, and being caught speeding was a recipe for disaster. Speeding! WTF LOL etc.

These games inherently let you go over the top though. In GTA4, you can easily acquire an AK-47 and a rocket launcher, get on the roof of an office building downtown, and pick off bystanders until the SWAT teams and helicopters come looking for you. Half the thrill is seeing how long you can last until you need to get the fuck out of there and heal your wounds, but when you do need to leave in a hurry, the game uses realistic methods to stop you. If you steal a car, then the police further up the road will put spikes on the road to burst your tires. This escalates the difficulty and the tension even further – just how far can you go in a car with two tires, or even none? The answer is usually not very far, not with SWAT team vans in hot pursuit anyway, but it’s a thrill. Eventually though, it gets depressing – you know you’re not going to live long. The game always wins eventually.

The other type of sandbox games throw realism off the side of a clown car, run it over, and drive into the sunset cackling. Saints Row 2 would have you run around in a pimp suit slapping hookers while a TV crew were filming a Cops style reality TV show. Or something like that. I’ve only ever played it a few times, and although the comedy stylings were sometimes proper funny, they distracted from the tasks at hand. For me, anyways. I’m probably not their target market.

But Saints Row 2 had the same problem as Grand Theft Auto 4 (among others). It was too hard to get away from the law. You could only do so much, and then the game decided enough was enough – it would spoil your fun.

And now for Just Cause 2. Playing it on medium or hard difficulty settings gives it the same difficulty as the others. You can cause shit, but you won’t last long. The difference here, though, is that Just Cause 2 gives you tools to escape at any time; your character has a grappling hook and a parachute at his disposal constantly. These things are glorious. The grappling hook can pull enemies from rooftops or guard towers, or used up close as a melee weapon. The parachute (parachutes really, they’re just infinite) can be deployed whenever you get off the ground, and can help you get out of trouble. Grappling across the ground while using the parachute lets you pull yourself away to safety, or lets you swing yourself higher and higher so you can drift for longer distances. The essential point is that in other sandbox games, you get into trouble, and then it’s up to you to hunt for a decent way out of it (like a car or a helicopter or something). In Just Cause 2, the two best methods for escaping are always on the pad. Two buttons. Press one, then the other. You are now safe.

But. But! It’s frustrating. Medium and hard make the enemies crack shots. Doesn’t take much to kill you. You’ve got about fifteen seconds since firing your first shot before you are swamped. And then you parachute away at the very last second, and your health is fucked, and you have to find a health kit, and when you do an enemy sees you, and it starts again… Frustrating. You’ve got a fucking mental grappling hook! You’ve got infinite parachutes! You’re the agent in Crackdown, but with even more badassery! This is not how an agent rolls. Agents kick fuck out of people and walk away slowly whilst looking pimp. Agents walk away slowly from fucking massive explosions going on behind them, also whilst looking pimp.

So you do the unthinkable, and you stick the game on the easy difficulty. And with one button press, the entire game becomes what it arguably always should have been. You can still die at the hands of your cursed enemies, but it’ll take them that little bit longer. No more repeated hit and runs to completely destroy an enemy settlement; you’re fucking badass. You can walk through that place with the biggest chain gun you ever saw, mowing down soldiers as you go. You can run around chucking grenades at everything you see, and you know you’ve got a good five minutes before you have to run for cover. Hell, you can even stick triggered explosives on anything that’ll explode, and casually mosey out of town as you detonate everything else on screen.

That’s why I’ve been a big pussy and put it on easy. That’s why I’m still playing it. That’s why it’s my favourite game for at least this week. No frustration. Just fun.

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