I've seen Just Cause 2 several times now, and on each occasion it's looked increasingly delectable. It's not hard to summon enthusiasm for a sandbox shooter that lets you cause utter mayhem on a beautiful South-east Asian island, but until last week, when I had my first hands-on with the game, one issue was slightly clouding my optimism. I've had plenty of opportunity to watch Rico Rogriguez, our daredevil hero, as he pulled off all manner of insane stunts - surfing on the roofs of cars, hijacking choppers mid-air, scaling skyscrapers with a grappling hook - but I was a tad concerned about how all these insane moves would handle. After all, it's one thing to watch an Avalance developer milking the best out of their own control system, and quite another to do these things for yourself.
Happily, I can now confirm that Rico's grappling hook is a piece of cake to use. Aim your targeting reticule at whatever you want to snag, and then tap the left bumper: if the object in question is lighter than Rico, he'll pull it towards him; if it's heavier, the hook's elastic cord will cause him to be dragged towards it. Whether you want to yank an enemy of his feet, haul yourself to the top of a tree or simply get to a getaway vehicle in a hurry, a single button push is all you need.
Once you've got the hang of these basic moves, you can start to attempt some of the really cool stuff. By holding the bumper down, rather than just tapping it, you'll be able to link two things together. Once you've snared the first object (or person), you simply re-align your reticule and release. This is when the fun starts: if you've attached two people together, they'll fly into each other and crumple to the floor - allowing you to finish them off with a quick grenade or burst of machine gun fire. Alternatively you might string them to a tree, attach them to the back of a moving vehicle. There's also a very satisfying trick that can be pulled off when you're standing on a high building, whereby you tether an enemy to a balcony and then cut the cord once the elastic has sent them flying; if done right, they'll sail straight over the edge, to their death.
Aside from the grappling hook, Rico's other main toy is his stunt parachute, a handy device that can be swiftly deployed by hitting the jump button whilst falling form a height. The chute itself is extremely manoeuvrable, displaying an admirable lack of respect for the forces of gravity. Like much of Just Cause 2 as a whole, it's not very realistic, but it is a lot of fun. By hauling yourself towards a tall building and then opening the chute, you can get airborne in a matter of seconds, and once you're up in the sky you can swifly pull yourself along by repeatedly firing the hook at nearby scenery items - a process known as sling-shotting.
Normally I wouldn't spend so much of a preview discussing control setups - but in this case I think it's important to assert how easy it is to pull off these stunts. Just Cause 2 is an open world game, and as such you'll be spending a lot of time moving from A to B. Thanks to the flexibility of the hook-and-shoot combo, there's always a quick way to get where you want to go. For example, one mission I tried last week required me to disable four transmitters at the top of a massive tower. I could have simply hooked my way up by zipping back and forth between walls, in a Spiderman-like manner, but instead I attached myself to the underside of an ascending lift. Fifteen minutes later, after disabling the signals and blasting my way through dozens of guards, I found myself attaching C4 to the end of a large radar at the very pinnacle of the building. As the dish exploded, I simply jumped off the top and parachuted to back to the ground.