The only way is up – Just Cause 2

Recently I have been exploring the new free-roaming island based game of Just Cause 2 on the 360. I was a fan of the original and anything that features a high degree of independence of action, not just on the rails story appeals to me. There is an interesting dynamic in such games though, that in not following the story all the time it feels as if you may be missing out, not doing as you are told. This may be my legacy of gaming in that much of what we have grown up doing has been to follow a plot. It is akin to listening to the radio rather than picking your own playlist on an MP3 player. The latter is rewarding but the former is much easier and my just lead you to some new piece of music you had not considered.
I have to say that Just Cause 2 has an immense map. You have 400 square miles of map to explore. Very importantly though that is not all, there is very much a use of height in this game. Buildings and mountains can all be traversed, and subsequently jumped off again with some fantastic base jumping elements. In addition you can take to the skies in helicopters, jets and commercial airliners too. Even without the use of the upcoming 3d it manages to generate a fantastic feeling of vertigo.
Just Cause 2
Another feature of a sandbox environment is the ability to deal with things in inventive ways. Your character features a grappling hook that does the basics such as hanging out of a helicopter even higher in the air.
Just Cause 2
However it also is able to be used as a tool by attaching both ends of it to things and using physics.
A prime example was when my car ended up on its side propped against a tree, yes I was driving up a mountain in a “I wonder if this will work moment”. It was an obvious thing to do to grapple the car, attach the other end to a very large rock and see what happened. It righted the car. It then made me feel I had been clever and inventive dealing with a situation of my own creation.
There are somewhat dubious references to the imagery of the gulf war in that the islands dictator has large statues dotted around the island. Part of your destructive game play means you can attach the grapple to the statue and then to a vehicle and attempt to pull down the statue.
Sandbox games are the closest to what we see in virtual worlds in crossover terms. Just Cause 2 is a single player game, in part because the destruction you create is really personalising your island. However the balance between “give me something to do” and “I am just going to find something to do” may be something the VW providers and content creators need to consider in helping people find a narrative, either social or business related.

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