I saw plenty of games this past week. Some good. Some bad. Some worse. But only one game could be the best-looking thing I saw all week. And that game was Just Cause 2.
Just Cause, released a few years back now as a GTA clone set on a sparsely-populated tropical island, was one of those games where you went "eh, nice idea, but really needs a sequel to get it right". And from what I've seen of the sequel so far, it's getting things so, so right.
While the game looks great, features a big island and stars a swarthy man (all big pluses for me), it's not the little bullet-point pluses (Open world! Lotsa weapons! Lotsa vehicles! Swarthy man!) that struck me as being important. It was the laws governing that world.
Basically, Just Cause 2 is an open-world title built on an incredible physics engine. One that seems to have been engineered with 80s action movies in mind, because that's mostly what my 30-minute demonstration entailed: me watching some guy act out an endless procession of explosions, comically elaborate kills and ridiculous acts of vehicular manipulation.
There are ragdoll physics. There is an amazing-looking grappling hook mechanic, that must be making the Bionic Commando team weep. If you shoot a jeep's tyres, it doesn't slow down, it does somersaults. If a car explodes and there's people inside it, their bodies are thrown from the wreckage, and you can catch them in mid-air, and tie them to lightpoles.
It's a Rambo sandbox, then. And it's all brought about by that grappling hook, and the physics underpinning it. Like all open-world games, you could just run around, steal cars and shoot people. But that's boring. Instead, you can use your hook to:
- spear enemies and lasso them together
- latch onto a building or vehicle from a great distance and quickly pull yourself over
- grab the underside of a moving helicopter and pull yourself up and into it
- while flying said helicopter, grab a jeep, suspend it in mid-air and use it as a wrecking ball
- tie it to a moving car (say, one that's chasing you), then tie the other end to a bridge you're crossing, instantly yanking it off the road and into the ocean.
- jump out of a moving aircraft and, while falling, harpoon yourself onto another aircraft, take control, then attach it to a building, jump out, watch it explode as it crashes into the building.
And that's just the hook on its own. You get a stunt parachute too, which you can combo with the hook to do...well, you get the idea. There are possibilities.
So, yeah. To say the killing options available are so numerable as to bring a smile to the face is an understatement. The inventiveness on show, and the potentials for hilarious Rube Goldberg-like sequences of destruction seem almost endless.
Course, this will all count for squat (SQUAT) if the mission structure and design aren't up to scratch (we only saw half of one mission, as the demo was mostly sandbox killing). But hey, half the fun of a sandbox game is in how free you are to get creative and go a little nuts, and already Just Cause 2 is looking like it can deliver on that front.
As for why I think it was the best thing I saw all week...well, since E3 isn't the place for deep and meaningful engagements with games, you can only really judge them on which game put the biggest smile on your face after 15-30 minutes with it. And Just Cause 2 put the biggest smile on my face. Simple as that.