Rico Rodriguez is falling through the air at terminal velocity. The ground is rushing up to meet him, but he's okay - in fact, he's exactly where he wants to be. The CIA black-op triggers his parachute, effortlessly gliding towards a raised section of motorway. Seconds later he fires a grappling hook at a speeding car, hauling himself in so that he winds up standing on the roof. Mr Rodriguez surfs atop his vehicle for a few seconds, then he dives inside through the passenger window. He kicks out the driver, then in a moment of recklessness he steers the car up and over the barriers at the edge of the road. There is nothing on the other side.
As his ride plummets towards the ocean, Rico bails and deploys another parachute. He leaves the passenger door open, and as the car falls beneath him a pitiful alarm bleeps in annoyance. The noise fades as gravity does its thing, eventually cutting out with a loud splash. Rodriguez glides away on the breeze, touching down on the beach a few moments later. Yes, he probably could have gotten here by bus - but where would the fun be in that?
This is Just Cause 2 - the sequel to the 2006 sandbox game best known for its hero's mad skills with a grappling hook and a stunt parachute. While few people could pick fault with the pleasure in being able to highjack pretty much any vehicle you can think of, including planes in mid-flight, the game took a bit of slack due to the fact that its island setting was a little bit dull and uninspiring. It was absolutely massive, certainly, but there really wasn't that much to do. On top of this, Just Cause was plagued with bugs... sadly not the kind that you can easily battle with a machine gun: broken missions, achievements that refused to award themselves, and numerous instances of the hero walking straight through solid objects.
Thankfully it seems that Avalanche Studios has set out to prevent these flaws from blighting their forthcoming follow-up. The developer says that the game will be "99.9 per cent" bug free, and on top of that it's already clear that there will be a lot more variety to the scenery. Just Cause 2 is set on the island of Panau, home to the maniacal dictator Baby Panay - a villain who seems reminiscent of the Team America depiction of Kim Jong-il. The climate on Panay is almost as nuts as its crackpot leader and is divided into several different zones, each with their own weather system. It's possible that you might start one mission on a beach, and then two minutes later you'll flying over a mountain during a blizzard.
Fine, so that sounds pretty unrealistic, but then this is a game where the hero hijacks helicopters in mid-air. Over-the-top action was the main draw of the original Just Cause, and for this second round it seems as if the fun-factor has been taken up a few notches. With his grappling hook launcher and an endless supply of stunt parachutes, Rico Rodriguez can scale great heights and descend back to earth in a matter of seconds. The physics behind these manoeuvres isn't particularly realistic, so expect the handling on the 'chutes to be more like a souped-up version of Pilot Wings, rather than something more sim-like. Rico can still seize command of pretty much any vehicle he sees, and when you combine this ability with fast-and-loose controls, you should be able to treat the world as one big destructive playground.