Just Cause 2

Developer: Avalanche Studios | Released: 2010 | Genre: 3PS, Sandbox

This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the games I played many years ago, translated and adapted from Danish. There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.

February 22, 2013

I finally started the sequel to the Swedish open world agent-style game – now from 2010. I ended up playing three hours over two turns. Although the game was basically just a strong embellishment of the same game rules as in the first one, the gameplay, the graphics and the atmosphere were still improved so much that I thought significantly better of it and even seriously considered playing it through properly.

The 3D engine in particular was unparalleled. It had a totally unobstructed view to all horizons and no immediate corner cut to achieve this. Huge mountains and volumetric clouds with beautiful sunsets, foaming waves on the beaches, detailed forests and palm trees, large cities with skyscrapers but also small villages with huts on stilts. Cars and people were finely detailed, and textures were of a reasonable high quality. There was a world of difference since the first game from 2006. The music was also of a more symphonic and professional quality – although I still missed the furious Spanish guitar a bit.

The gameplay was also both adjusted and improved in a way that clearly showed that the game developers really wanted to make it as fun and outrageous as possible. The biggest improvement was my grappling hook. Instead of it being a separate “weapon” it now had its own hotkey, and that made a huge difference. Now I could throw it off to automatically pull myself onto rooftops, cars, skyscrapers, helicopters – anything you can imagine. Later I also learned to lift myself across the landscape by pulling, deploying the parachute (which was again always available) and maybe pull myself up again. Sometimes I tumbled down and had to start all over again, other times I could lift and float several hundred meters that way – as fast or maybe even faster than if I had used a vehicle. Another cool variation was swinging myself onto rooftops by shooting the hook up onto the edge of a roof and releasing the parachute as I was pulled up, followed by closing it again in the same away to land with my feet on the rooftop itself. However, this seemed to be easiest on flatter and wider houses. With thin towers I easily fumbled and had to try many times.

But in essence, the grappling hook was the whole core of an incredible amount of sandbox fun to be had in Just Cause 2. It was also possible to tether cars, planes, helicopters and people while moving, hold down the hotkey for the grappling hook and move the mouse cursor over something else, and then release the key to tether it to this target. That way I could tether jeeps (during a runaway in one of the first missions) to the tarmac so they would flop around and fall backwards; I could tether people to a lamppost, to each other or to an explosive barrel, and many other things. The game allowed an incredible number of combinations and often it just required me to be quick enough with the mouse and keys.

Right off the bat it felt like same type of fish as in the first game – Grand Theft Auto with lots of traffic, the cops coming after me if I didn’t behave properly (again in multiple steps), pick ups, random missions for factions, crazy stunts onto the hood, pulling people out of vessels and take them over, and so on.

But on closer inspection it turned out that the game developers had really refined and improved all the things that might have seemed a bit half-hearted before. Collections, for example, could really be used for something now. All around I could find boxes with collections of parts for weapons, vessels or armor, and this could be used as a kind of coin on the black market to improve these things – more stars up to six for more ammo and better damage. Of course, there were also the more normal collections, typically for the factions. For example, there were cyan dots on the map for sticks with skulls on them in an area for the faction that paid tribute to these.

My map was now shown in full widescreen, but it was still a mess with quite a few icons for missions, collections, cities, what I had conquered, and so forth. There was even a database with information about everything possible in the game. The mountains on the map moved a bit in 3D, which immediately made me think of Skyrim. After a little bit of close reading of the map and database, I also learned that the game not only encouraged sporadic sandbox play by attacking and taking over targets such as harbor areas, bases, oil platforms and the like – it was actually necessary.

One thing was that I earned “chaos points” from smashing everything possible – tanks, cannon installations, radio masts, etc. – I also got an increased percentage for the area in question, shown below my mini map. If I damaged enough (and also found all boxes of parts) and achieved 100%, I not only got extra chaos points and money, I even got to unlock the area as an extraction point with the summoning of a helicopter. This too was improved since it was now a combined black market dealer and extraction point. I could use the collected parts to improve the things I mentioned before, I could buy unlocked vessels and weapons, and I could choose one of the extraction points to be flown to where I had achieved 100%.

Reaching 100% was not always straightforward – one thing was the heap of attacking guards (maybe even a helicopter or a gun turret) but destroying everything occasionally required more running all over the place to find the last damn generator behind a building.

So achieving 100% like that set up the ultimate bout of OCD, because there was an endless cornucopia of villages, ports, bases, and everything else across the islands. This covered a colossally large area that would make even Far Cry 2 cringe in its mouse hole. Worst though was that chaos points needed to be collected to increase some yellow bars that showed when I could get the next mission from factions or in the main story. That’s exactly what I meant by the sandbox game being mandatory.

The missions themselves were enjoyable enough. In the first mission I attacked a large base and was helped in a helicopter by the blonde lady from the first game. In the second mission, at a casino with two large towers, I had to grapple up and defuse bombs (complete with QTE in the form of four random numbers to be pressed in a row), attack a helicopter up close (again the same minigame to whack the pilot) and rescue a Swede in a closed bridge between the two towers. The Swede then took over a car and I shot pursuers from the roof. I amused myself by pinning many of their jeeps to the asphalt, smashing a gas station into a car, and whatever else belonged in the most noisy and explosive action movies.

I now had the world at my feet and so I visited the first faction, the Ular Boys, and got the first few missions from them. The first was to attack and take over a stronghold together with a group – one of which was a technician that I couldn’t drop too far behind from or the mission failed. The next was to find three laptops and download data from them. As story-based games go, they were all interesting and varied enough.

But then the problem with earning chaos points started as mentioned earlier and again this part of the game felt a little too much like Grand Theft Auto for my taste. Droning around all these villages and bases playing James Bond with a grappling hook and a parachute is fun enough, but I don’t know how cool it is after the umpteenth base, knowing that it can’t be avoided to unlock the next missions. Here, for example, Far Cry 2 was better on that point in that I could take the missions straight on without this kind of nonsense in between. The fact that the game is enormous at the same time is a contributing factor to why I’m not sure if I want to complete it. But as I said in the first paragraph, it’s still so much better than the first one that I’m definitely considering it more thoroughly this time.

Among other details, I can mention that the game no longer has a box in safe houses with save games of checkpoints. Now it autosaves after missions and otherwise automatically for everything collected and earned from more arbitrary little things like parts from boxes, percentages of intake, chaos points, etc. If I die, I typically respawn back at the first stronghold I took over together with the Ular Boys faction. The last phase of the attack on this stronghold – while I was sitting at a gun turret and shooting a dangerous crowd of incoming guards – was well concluded with cheering shouts in the background by the faction members, all while the technician was breaking a code lock. “Scorpio! Scorpio! Scorpio!”, they yelled.

But again, it was not without its problems. An annoying lack of ammunition resulted in empty weapons of all kinds very quickly, so I found a so-called BOLOPatch on the Internet – a mixture of a trainer and a mod, which could give me infinite ammo. I was content to cheat with that, but it can also provide much stronger and more ropes to tether with. It will have to wait.

Other moments of irritation include the fact that I occasionally had to lift myself up under a roof edge in such a way that I simply dangled just below and could not climb up. Nothing else to do but get down and try again. Houses without overhanging roof edges were preferable. I also thought that the few helicopters I tried today were quite slow. It took an eternity to fly over to various targets – it didn’t feel much faster than driving a motorcycle on land, for example.

February 24, 2013

I’m really warming up and can now better swing my way across the landscape. I have to admit that it’s often fun, and some things are surprisingly easy to do. For example, shooting a rope up to a shooting helicopter, plugging the gunner and then pulling the pilot out so I can take over the helicopter.

I took over two more strongholds for two other factions (there are a total of three in the game) as well as doing faction missions. One was to destroy a fuel chute and another to grab a VIP in a white limousine and take him back to the faction’s hideout. The latter could have gone really wrong many times, but I was lucky and managed it on the first try. I swung across the landscape with a grappling hook and a parachute and thus roughly kept pace with the car in its hairpin turns. After taking care of the two bodyguards in the car I drove it to the faction. It was teeming with thugs and police there, and at one point I smashed the car to pieces as I knocked it against the tree trunks through forest corners. Unbelievable that the car didn’t explode just before the finish line.

On the other hand, I died in the mission with the fuel shaft, and so here I enabled infinite health in the BOLOPatch. After the third stronghold (a port with a bunch of big cranes) I took the last faction mission for tonight. Here I had to rush through a big city with the grappling hook and parachute at full speed to reach four bombs and dismantle them with a minigame (five random numbers from 1 to 4 pressed in a row) and along the way be picked on by both bandits and a helicopter. Each bomb counted down from approx. 3 minutes and it was stressful, but it went pretty much smoothly for the first three of them. The fourth one, however, was on top of a tall skyscraper, and here I unfortunately started to fumble with the hook. I only barely managed to dismantle the bomb at the last moment. As you can probably tell, I was definitely not a fan of this faction mission – I hope there isn’t too much of that kind of time pressure stuff.

I also did a lot of pranking on the sidelines outside the missions, for example picking stragglers from rooftops with a sniper rifle, toppling a large statue by pulling it down with the hook attached to a large fire engine (which, oddly enough, was located right next to it) and finding several skulls on sticks up on snowy mountain tops. In the latter situation, I got to test fly a new small helicopter for black market delivery. It was called the Rowlinson K22 and was somewhat more nimble in maneuverability than the usual helicopters, which was often steering like a ferry. Not bad actually – just legitimately realistic.

I actually gave up on using the sniper rifle over time. There was often too much chaos for it to be cool to use – i.e. no peace and quiet to get the target properly in sight. Too many other thugs and guards picking at me from all sides. Then it was mostly better with regular automatic firearms and hand grenades.

Among other details, it can be mentioned that vessels bought from the black market (the helicopter called in with a signal light) is a one-off deal. It might be logical enough in a way – but I was still a bit disappointed to learn this. If I crash a helicopter bought on the black market, I have to shell out the same amount again. You get money fairly easily in this game, so maybe it doesn’t matter that much in the long run. I have cheated with ammo and later with health, but not with anything else.

And speaking of health itself, it should also be mentioned that the first half does regenerate itself – so occasionally it pays to take cover – but the top half needs to be patched up by finding a medicine cabinet with a green cross on it. However, these medicine cabinets are pretty rare, so it’s nice that the first half health is mostly adequate. It takes many enemies shooting at me at once before they do worrisome damage, and I usually try to take over any helicopters that are bothering me.

February 26, 2013

Finished two more main story missions. There are seven in total. It may not sound like much, but each mission typically have several steps. For example, I first had to save a contact from being executed, escort him to safety, follow him on motorcycle on his way to an American (which our hero had been after all along), shoot a colonel in a camp and take his computer device, getting shot in the throat with a stun dart and rescued by Sheldon from a hanger in the ceiling of a cabin, then shooting us out of a temple ruin with Rico himself wielding a heavy minigun – and that was just the first mission of two in the main story.

It turned out that Sheldon – the American with the orange tourist shirt in the previous game – had always been the secret trader on the black market until now.

The next mission – the fourth one – involved rescuing Jade Tan from captivity in a rather large military base. Jade was a gorgeous doll with black hair and a leather suit. In addition to destroying stuff, I also had to blow up four fan stations. The base was so large that it had several factories and even a cable car, and at one entrance I was even surprised by a small group of ninjas. Jade was transported from the base in one of three cars across a frozen lake. I swung down to the car with a parachute and the hook, took over the car, and then finally Sheldon picked us up in his helicopter. Fourth mission completed.

In between the missions I also did a stronghold and made a lot of the kind of chaotic mess in certain cities and bases that the game was so great at luring me into doing. Especially towards the end of the session, I went particularly crazy in a village – I fought many soldiers and helicopters for a long time. I had infinite health and ammo and that was excellent, otherwise I would definitely had died at least half a dozen times here. Not that it was generally that difficult – I probably just went too crazy and as a result had too much opposition called in – full heat. There was also a minor disappointment – a scoped rifle purchased as downloadable content in Steam wasn’t quite as cool as hoped. It was only semi-automatic.

February 28, 2013

I didn’t make it to the next mission in the main story tonight – I was missing too many chaos points before I was allowed to take it. Instead I wreaked more havoc, completed three faction missions, as well as a single stronghold. I collected quite a lot of drug cases and even tried a couple of races.

The first faction mission took place on a remote island in the far northwest that was shrouded in fog. It turned out to be home to Japanese soldiers who still believed World War II was taking place. Here I had to take care of three towers and then escape in a truck with the cargo on the bed. In another mission, I had to pick off an assassin in a military base – rather uninspired.

Inside a big city, I spent most of the evening hunting down drug trunks (collections) and doing the third and final faction mission. Here I had to catch up with a paparazzi on his motorcycle and kill him. I chased him with my grappling hook and parachute, but I kind of regretted that I hadn’t taken a motorcycle or a sports car myself, because he was going fast and it took a long time to catch up to him. At one point, however, he made a fool of himself and rammed into another road user, took a lot of damage, and then I was finally able to get rid of him – just as I was about to screw it up myself.

As mentioned, I also tried a few races just to experience this part of the game. As expected, it was really frustrating. It’s just typical computer game racing – it always has to be a pain in the ass. The first one was completely impossible for a fumbling fool like me. I had to hook and parachute my way through some checkpoints – big rings of fire – but I couldn’t even make it through the first three before I miscalculated, and the timer for each checkpoint was ridiculously short. I gave that up.

Instead, I tried a car race. I summoned Sheldon in his helicopter and bought him a sports car. Again there were checkpoints in the form of rings of fire and updating the countdown for each one, but the raceway itself had a handrail most of the way and the rings had clear directional arrows so it was always very easy to see where I had to go in case there were ramifications. The races in Scrapland sure could have used that. I managed the race on the first try – racing by myself on time – but if I had fumbled just once (and it was long enough that there were plenty of opportunities to do so) I would have failed again for sure. No more racing for me and it’s fine that they are totally optional. You get 20,000 in cash for completing a race – never mind that. It’s easy enough to make money in all sorts of other ways in this game.

Common to both the lorry with its goods and the sports car in the race was that haste made things much worse. I failed the faction mission two or three times until I was driving the truck calmly. Also in the race, I didn’t drive quite as fast as I could in certain places but instead aimed to slip in between the slower road users, who didn’t care that there was a race going on in the city. But otherwise I have to say that I often feel like a klutz, especially when the stake increases due to e.g. a quick goal. Then I suddenly crash into house walls and trees in a way I don’t normally do when I take it easy. Although the game is fun and beautifully made, there is sometimes an urgency about certain missions that makes it clear that it is still not my favorite genre after all. Then there is more peace and quiet to be found in e.g. RPG.

There are two types of bombs in Just Cause 2 – hand grenades and C4. Hand grenades can be “cooked” first by holding down the key before releasing it. C4 sticks to an object and is released by holding down the same key at a good distance from the object. Here, the game developers have committed the stroke of genius to make it possible to throw one C4 after another at all possible installations in the enemy base, and then run away and destroy it all at once by holding down the key. In theory, I could blow up the entire base’s installations that way, but in practice there is too much shooting and enemies and booms and bangs and a technician who needs to be escorted and so on, so it often doesn’t amount to more than a few installations or three, at most, before I feel the urge to press the shutter. And often it doesn’t even come to that – it’s usually much easier to just throw in a couple of pineapples or three.

March 2, 2013

Did a single mission in the main story and on top of that a lot of faction missions and strongholds to get to the permission for the next one in the main story. I didn’t manage to do that tonight though.

I completed enough strongholds – probably 4-5 of them – to reach a total of nine in the game, which is the maximum. In theory it’s nice to have a place to spawn after death outside of the missions, but now that I’m playing with infinite health and ammo, it’s not a problem. In the missions themselves, dependency errors can occur, but here I just start a bit earlier in the mission, which is nice. Among the faction missions were intercepting an officer in a car on the road and downloading his information, smashing jet fighters in a base, as well as releasing a guy from a container in another base and fleeing with him in a car. There was also one about taking down three helicopters before they destroyed a silo – it was a close call.

One mission in the main story was about flying with Sheldon in a helicopter up to the roofs of a hotel consisting of three tall skyscrapers. On each of the three roofs there was a boss fight against each of three bosses. The first threw C4 for some dodging, the second had a tank flown down and shot at me from its gun turret behind cover, and the third had a satellite zap me from above. Despite infinite health, I failed the mission a few times, because if I was thrown away by an explosion, I could risk falling too far from the roof before I regained control of Rico, and then I was out of range – mission failure. The fact that I never fall back very far for repeated attempts, however, must again be credited to the game developers.

March 3, 2013

Got through the last two missions of the main story, six and seven, after taking enough faction missions and wreaking enough havoc to unlock them. When the main story was over I watched the end credits and then I dropped back into the world in a mercenary mode. Here I could continue with the many faction missions, collections, 100% in properties, all that sort of thing. It’s actually quite possible that I’ll mess around with the faction missions, and then this won’t be the final session.

The faction missions were, among other things, plugging a colonel at his mansion, sitting at a gun turret on a boat and picking off other boats and helicopters, as well as opening a lock and later sending another craft into a larger group of mines. I had to dismantle three bombs in the back of three jeeps at full speed (the kind of QTE that grew more and more digits) and I had to assassinate another colonel – this time with a sniper rifle. I also tried to fix two oil rigs out at sea. There was a dangerous amount of fuel tanks and other debris to destroy, and it was best done from a helicopter. On board it was actually so narrow that our hero and the enemies almost stepped on each other’s toes. It was mostly thin walkways and not very large spaces. The white arrows for exciting boxes popped up two or three at a time.

The sixth mission in the main story started with me choosing one of the three factions to assist me in finding and killing President Baby Panay. I naturally chose Reapers with the sexy brunette Bolo Santosi in the lead. I got half a dozen of her soldiers into a strip of bases in a mountain where three big AA guns were to be destroyed. Inside an Asian temple I then met Baby Panay, who was, however, ambushed from behind by the Swedish drunkard from another mission. A hand grenade seemed to kill them both when they fell off a roof from a pagoda. On the way out, a panel had to be hacked (with QTE) and then I had to make haste to avoid the countdown of a destruction, but it wasn’t that difficult – I didn’t have to go far.

Then came the seventh and final mission where I took a helicopter out to what Sheldon thought were oil rigs to be protected, but when I got out there was a big nuclear submarine instead. Inside, our hero found Baby Panay, who amazingly survived the sixth mission – he himself claimed to be immortal, thus playing down a bad burn on the right side of his head. Boss fight. We both shot with RPG and there were no real tricks, but he was assisted by teleporting ninjas.

When Panay lost, he escaped up a ladder to four nuclear missiles that were launched with the president himself at the head of one. The protagonist also shot up with his line in a cutscene, and then ludicrous boss fight number two ensued on the four missiles at full speed against their respective superpowers. Think Superman reaching for the missile in the first film from the 70s, and you’ve got the right atmosphere. I had to jump around on the four missiles and disable them in the usual QTE mini game, which by now had reached a whopping eight figures in a row. And to make matters even worse, Panay shot at me from the front of the missiles. I had to shoot back at him to be allowed to complete each mini game without being interrupted. Panay himself was squashed inside the fourth and last missile and sent down into the oil field, so that the whole thing blew up in a huge nuclear explosion. Of course, our hero managed to fly away in his parachute. Rico and friends celebrated with a drink on a boat, and then the end credits were scrolling.

It took almost 17½ hours to reach the end of the main story, but I also took a lot of faction missions and other goodies along the way. Remember, it was also necessary to even unlock the missions for the main story, so I can’t see if it could have been done much faster. In addition to the 7 main story missions, I did 17 faction missions, all 9 strongholds, a single race completed by car, 79 locations discovered, 26 of them destroyed at 100%, 348 resources found, 75 faction gizmos found, 5 statues destroyed, and 10 colonels killed. In total, a paltry 29.32% of the entire game. You can go on for a very long time in Just Cause 2.

Both in the faction mission of deactivating bombs in the back of three jeeps at full speed, plus in the sixth of the main story missions, I was a bit annoyed that I wasn’t allowed to complete the QTE mini game and punch in the many numbers before a shot or two from the side interrupted it all. It had to be typed a bit quickly, and preferably after I had reduced a lot of the trigger happy soldiers from all sides.

A very funny detail during the entire game was that the destruction of something – for example an entire military base – was often denied on the islands’ radio. It reminded me a bit of “Comical Ali” in 2003, which claimed that the US had it all wrong during the war in Iraq.

March 6, 2013

Completed five faction missions. The first involved picking up three chemical samples at a base and then delivering it in a freeze compartment in another city before time ran out. A helicopter was too slow here, so I bought a jet. Next was to attack a base in a stolen jet fighter, then I had to disable four bombs in time via motorbike, again in the next I had to rotate four satellite antennas on top of a skyscraper and then blow up the main antenna as soon as Bolo Santosi had broadcast a message to everyone.

In the last mission I had to pull the head off a large statue after an APC and drop it off somewhere else. Of course while the streets were teeming with plenty of stragglers – but respawned human opponents are always plentiful in this game. It’s a bit too much of a good thing in my opinion.

March 16, 2013

Managed a few more faction missions. I am now up to 31 out of 49 completed. I stole a tank, protected a hacker on a skyscraper from attacking helicopters, abducted a pilot from an airport, transported a truck with the rickety goods in the cargo hold, escorted an NPC by car, and drove a doctor down to a hotel at a ski resort. Now I’m feeling even more burned out than before – I should definitely put it aside and start doing something else, and then possibly only pick it up again when I need a distraction.

August 27, 2013

I received a new graphics card today, and to celebrate that I took on 5-10 faction missions in Just Cause 2. I haven’t played this game since March, but I still quickly got into the controls – especially pulling myself across the landscape with the grappling hook and the parachute deployed felt like riding a bike again.

The faction missions again varied greatly, both in design, task and frustrations. Some were easy, such as hooking three cars on the way away or destroying two speedboats from my own orange speedboat. Among the stupid ones was, for example, shooting down three satellites on top of three rockets followed by a fourth on its way away. Here I failed quite a few times before I accidentally flew my jet fighter into the rocket itself and parachuted out. Although it wasn’t meant to be, it did the job nicely.

Another mission bordering on frustrating was about catching a rare racing car at speed and then racing it home. Close to the goal I had eventually dented it so well during the firefights on the roads along the way that it was a split dog’s hair away from exploding and failing the entire mission. Even worse, I even got even closer in another mission by car, where I had to drive a VIP to the airport. Again, our car was completely cannonballed along the way by the superior force on the roads, and when we arrived at the destination it actually exploded just as we jumped out of the doors at exactly the same second. I actually thought I failed, but the VIP just about made it. Luck follows a certain kind of people, as one of my friends used to say.

I was also given a slightly different faction mission of landing on the flying strip club “The Mile High Club” and tapping three laptops for data, followed by deactivating a bomb below. The club was a floating kind of gondola under two huge balloons, and on the deck a dance number played with a heavy bass.

But otherwise, I was reminded again today of how meddlesome the game could be in general. Alerting the police and military often felt as easy as just crossing a road, then all hell was loose. In no time, helicopters interfered and it became a vicious spiral. It was usually difficult to get out of that situation again.

August 28, 2013

Finished the last handful of faction missions which brought the total up to a full 49. Silos had to be fixed, a statue butchered and its head flown elsewhere hanging from a helicopter, a temple defended, and much more like that. One of the more memorable ones was escorting a lady in a long, pink limousine. Completing the many faction missions didn’t give any extra movies or rewards, which actually disappointed me a bit.

When I finished, I also just found the four most interesting “Easter eggs” – a look on the Internet gave me their coordinates on the map. There was a snowman, the secret hatch from the TV series Lost (closed and completely unnumbered – which was a bit disappointing), a hot air balloon (dull as hell) and a beached whale. I could blow the whale’s belly out with explosives to access a white box with armor.

After 6 sessions of completing the main story – and 4 more sessions for the faction missions – I finished the game in a total of 24 hours and 42 minutes.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Just Cause 2
2010 Avalanche Studios24h 42m 6

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