Peter Johansson offers Just Cause 2
Eidos Interactive only officially lifted the lid on Just Cause 2 last week, but we've already nabbed lead designer Peter Johansson for a few words on Avalanche's new title.
Rico's off to the Pacific! What changes will the new locale have on the player's experience, and how important is the plot this time around?
Just Cause 2 takes place in the island dictatorship of Panau, located in the Malay Archipelago. Panau is a cultural boiling pot with influences from different Asian cultures, such as Malay, Thai, Chinese and Japanese. Panau is much more varied than San Esperito, which was the setting for Just Cause, and contains a vast range of environment and climate zones. You move between dense jungles, paradise beaches, snowy mountains, deserts and urban cityscapes. Seamlessly travelling between all these environments without delays for loading is quite a unique feeling and this variety translates to the missions as well.
The story is deeper this time, the world of the Agency is really an ethical grey zone and there are lots of twists and surprises. We've worked very hard on being able to tell an interesting story while at the same time giving the player a lot of freedom.
How have you refined the mechanics of the gameplay? We hear talk of a new grapple hook.
Just Cause is all about freedom, insane stunts, over-the-top action, combat and verticality. So those are the core areas we've concentrated on improving.
Rico's signature grappling hook and parachute return with several enhancements that open up new dimensions to the player. The grappling hook is now integrated into an arm mounted gadget and both this and the parachute are always available at the press of a button. This means they are much more accessible and integrated into your basic movement and combat and play a central role in the missions.
The grappling hook can now be attached to pretty much any object in the game world and you can then reel in to get around quickly. You can use it to pull down enemies from guard towers and platforms and you can even tether an enemy to a vehicle and drag him behind it.
You can also do some really unique combination stunts. The slingshot stunt for example - by opening up the parachute while reeling in to something, you can use the momentum from the grappling hook to fly up high in the air. You can also shoot the grappling hook at things in the world while parachuting to slingshot your way around.
On top of this, there's a completely new vehicle stunt system that enables you to climb around on vehicles and shoot at its occupants as you go. This allows for some really exciting vehicle chases where you jump from vehicle to vehicle while taking out enemies one by one.
We've also worked hard on improving combat. The AI has been completely rewritten to make use of a planning system that enables enemies to do all sorts of new tricks; like using the environment more tactically, taking cover, adapting to a dynamic environment, using team communication and calling for reinforcements like parachute units and attack choppers. Enemies will also stand guard around important objects and installations and return to those guard posts if you get too far away.
Combat is much more tactical, staying out in the open is not a good idea - you must keep moving, evade and actively use covers. And if you want to play hardball, why not dual wield a grenade launcher and an SMG? You can dual wield any combination of one-handed weapons.
'Cinematic' action is promised. How do you instil a sense of open-world freedom, while ensuring Hollywood-esque sequences pan out as intended. Can you give us any examples?
This was one of the first things we wanted to improve for Just Cause 2 so we completely redesigned the mission structure. It gives the player complete freedom to do what Rico does best – cause Chaos. Chaos is the central theme in the game and how you cause it is entirely up to you. It's your choice whether you want to do lots of smaller activities or tackle one of the larger missions. You can even complete smaller activities while you're doing larger missions.
There are no side missions in the normal sense, we wanted to get away from offering repetitive chores that don't reward the player with anything worthwhile. Instead, there are over 1000 different activities that you can do to cause Chaos. Everything you do matters and takes you closer to your ultimate goal. Everything is related to the central theme of Chaos.
For example, to advance the story you may need to provoke a certain reaction, acquire a specific piece of information or strengthen a rebel faction. The key to achieving this is to cause Chaos but how you do that is entirely your choice. There are three rebel factions you can work with and manipulate to your advantage but that's only one of many ways for you to cause Chaos. Maybe you prefer to operate on your own by hunting down and killing important Panau military officers or maybe your plan is to destroy important military installations. Maybe you would choose to raise hell to get an emergency response from the military and then hijack and steal their vehicles. It's all up to you, there are always many different opportunities for activities all around you and they all contribute towards reaching your ultimate goal.
When you increase Chaos, the story slowly advances towards the next major story point through something we call drip-feeding. Drip-feeding gives you information on how your actions influence the world.
A visual treat looks to be in store. How important are the aesthetics to the overall experience? Any differences between the versions in development, technically speaking?
The aesthetics really contribute to an atmosphere that sets it apart from a lot of other games. Panau is a really exotic place that gives you an urge to experience and explore everything it has to offer and this time around you're going to be much better rewarded for doing it. We feel Panau is a great backdrop for a mind-blowing action game where you can truly feel it's your world... your rules.
The Avalanche Engine 2.0 is no longer held back by having to be compatible with last generation hardware. This has enabled visual improvements all over that will be immediately visible; more detailed characters and vehicles, higher resolution textures, a new animation system etc. We're dedicated to making each version the best it can be on its platform.
How big is the game, and how long will it take to complete? Any multiplayer plans to extend the longevity?
The game world is about 6400 square miles. Instead of making the world of Just Cause 2 much larger than the one in the prequel, we've concentrated on making the world full of fun, meaningful and rewarding content. The time it takes you to complete the game will vary a lot since the game is so non-linear, it depends on what you choose to do to cause Chaos. What's certain is that you're going to be playing for a very long time if you want to plunge Panau into as much Chaos as you can so you ensure that you unlock everything.
It would have been simple to just jump onto the multiplayer bandwagon but in the end we decided on designing Just Cause 2 with the focus of delivering the best single-player free roaming experience. It's likely that Just Cause will have multiplayer in the future but only when we believe we can deliver something truly new and exciting to the multiplayer community while retaining all the core values of the game. We don't want it to put a limit to your freedom, your ability to do stunts, or the intense action, etc.