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Just Cause 2

Preview: Total freedom, total destruction, it's Rico time!

252,840 football pitches. Not even a 40-something journeyman footballer like Steve Claridge has come anywhere close to playing on as many grounds. I don't envy the guy who had to calculate such an exact number, but 252,840 footie pitches is apparently equal to 1000km - exactly the same size as the South Pacific island of Panau in Just Cause 2.

See the sights
As Rico Rodriguez sizes up the island from atop a cliff, who am I to argue? From here I can see miles of desert, land stretching out from the sea, and twinkling lights from a distant settlement as the day/night cycle kicks in. It's beautiful and daunting at the same time.

Zoom

"Everywhere you see, you can go. Every vehicle you see, you can get into," enthuses brand manager Steve Kelsey, no doubt noting the position of my jaw and wanting to lower it even further.

"We really want players to feel like they're in this huge playground where they can do pretty much anything they want," chips in Peter Johansson, lead game designer. "If players see something interesting, they can be sure there's something meaningful and fun to do there."

Still, there's nothing like first-hand proof, so I immediately base jump off the cliff, open the parachute at the last moment and make a perfect landing. The entire island is mine to explore, but for now I'm shown how the parachute can now be used as a form of transportation with the grapple. That's clever.

Grapple-gasm
"Just pull yourself around the island and get a thrust of speed in the air, or use it to get yourself out of danger," suggests Kelsey. "Because the grapple is now attached to Rico's arm, you can use it whenever you want simply by pressing the Left trigger. In the original game, the grapple could only be attached to a vehicle, but now it can be attached to anything in the world: buildings, vehicles, trees, people - you name it."

To test this, Rico starts blasting away in a small settlement, which provokes an immediate response. Soon he's forced to grapple between buildings and swoop around in his parachute to avoid fierce bouts of enemy fire.

Naturally, the grapple also doubles as a weapon, with Rico pulling a guard from a water tower with it who smashes his back on the way down and flips over twice. Havok physics at its grisliest best. Not content with that, Kelsey is quick to list what else the grapple does: "You can yank enemies from ledges, pull them over, haul them out of cars and even tether items together: people to people, people to vehicles, cars to bridges, people to helicopters, helicopters to helicopters..."

Zoom

Chopper catastrophe
Now this I have to see. Rico duly obliges by tethering two enemies together so they smack into each other in midair at high speed. It's like watching a cartoon where two dumb characters collide, and I half expect to hear a comedy 'boing' sound in time with the impact.

Killing via the more straightforward method of a big gun and lots of bullets introduces the revamped aiming system that gives you full control over the crosshair. You can line up critical shots to the knee or arm and watch enemies stagger around holding their injured limbs, or just blow brains out with a headshot.

Causing all this wanton destruction achieves more than giving you a good laugh. There's an actual 'Chaos' meter, and if you keep filling it you unlock more story missions. Kelsey elaborates on the reason for its inclusion: "In the first game it was very much a case of just working through the key missions - in however many hours - and there was nothing really stopping you from doing that. Now we've got this idea of chaos being the motivator for progression."

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