http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMS3oPPyYtg Just Cause 2 Q&A Avalanche's Peter Johansson, lead designer on Just Cause 2, answers our pressing questions on the high-flying sequel. by Matt Wales, IGN UK We loved the original Just Cause. Sure, it had its fair share of shortcomings but nothing could (or can, for that matter) beat the sensation of freefalling from 10,000 feet while taking in the sunset over the tropical island that provided the backdrop for the game. Not one to rest on its laurels, Avalance is hard at work on a sequel that promises to be bigger, better and more beautiful. We caught up with Peter Johansson, lead designer on the game, to find out what's in store. IGN: What can you tell us about the plot this time around? Peter Johansson: Some years have passed since the debacle on San Esperito. Rico has taken a hiatus from the agency and is taking it easy in South America, but fate throws him back into the game. His old partner Maria Kane persuades him to come back to the Agency for one last job. His mission: to seek out and possibly kill his old friend, mentor and CO, Tom Sheldon, who has gone rogue with two million in Agency cash. He is holed up on the island dictatorship of Panau, located in the Malay Archipelago. The story this time around is steeped in moral ambiguity - nothing comes served on a silver platter. Many games offer a choice to do right or wrong, good or bad, but we don't have that luxury – the world of the Agency is an ethical grey zone. That said, Just Cause 2, like its predecessor, still maintains a healthy dose of humour and fast-paced, full-on, high-octane fun. IGN: What were the core areas you wanted to address in this sequel, following the critical reception of the original Just Cause? Peter Johansson: When we started on Just Cause 2 we quickly came up with three core areas we wanted to improve. Firstly, we wanted the world to be filled with more fun, meaningful and rewarding content. Making huge and detailed worlds is not difficult for us but filling it with content is always a challenge and the mission structure must adapt with the size of the game world, or we end up with a regular linear game with more transportation between missions. Secondly, we wanted to enhance the already-insane stunts and bring the stunts into your basic combat and movement, so they become part of everything you do. We also wanted to improve combat and AI, to create more challenging combat that rewards skillful play without being too difficult. IGN: What improvements can we expect in terms of combat and AI this time around? Can you give specific examples of how this will work in the game? Peter Johansson: The AI has been completely rewritten for Just Cause 2. It now uses a sophisticated planning system that enables enemies to do all sorts of new tricks. For example, enemies will use the environment more tactically, taking cover behind objects, adapting dynamically to the objects around them. They will use team communication and call for reinforcements, such as parachute units and attack choppers, plus they'll stand guard around important objects and installations, returning to guard posts if you run away. Additionally, enemies in vehicles can now lean out from vehicles to shoot at you during car chases, plus if you stay still out in the open enemies' shots will quickly get more accurate, thus depleting your health faster. As a result combat it's much more advanced this time around, forcing you to keep moving, evade and actively use cover. Another cool feature of our planning AI is that we can tell any NPC to go to any point in the world and define a preference to use a specific vehicle type. They'll then go off and find their own way there, even if they start on the other side of the world. This opens up some really interesting opportunities for missions. The Hybrid Locking System is new too and helps you to quickly aim at enemies while leaving you in full control of the crosshair, so you're rewarded for skillful manual aiming. It also enables you to pinpoint specific limbs so you can get that perfect headshot or force an enemy to the ground by shooting their kneecaps. Just Cause 2 also has an Adaptive Difficulty System now. As the game is so non-linear, difficulty gradually scales depending on what you've done before in the game. For example, a mission that takes place later in the game, after you've created a lot of chaos, will always be more difficult because the government gets more desperate and heightens security at installations. IGN: What weapons and vehicles can we expect in Just Cause 2? Peter Johansson: In terms of vehicles the coolest example is probably the jumbo jet. What's more, there's now a greater difference in the handling between vehicles and ground surfaces now have a direct influence the controls. So while a sports car may be great for driving along pristine tarmac, it's not particularly suitable for off-road driving. We also have a real-time deform system and moving parts that can come loose from vehicles. As for weapons, there are several new appearances in Just Cause 2, such as the rocket launcher with laser-controlled rockets, the one-handed grenade launcher, sticky remote-triggered C4 and the detachable mounted minigun. Since Rico doesn't have any official support from the Agency in this mission he has to acquire weapons and vehicles in the field by himself. Early in the game you contact a black market supplier, from whom you can buy weapons and vehicles and get them delivered to your location via heavy drop. As the game progresses and the chaos you cause increase, additional weapons and vehicles become available on the black market. Additionally, all weapons and vehicles on the black market have parameters that can be upgraded in several steps, by building upgrades with weapon and vehicle parts. There are over 2,000 parts that you can acquire. IGN: How does the grappling hook differ from the first game and can you give some in-game examples of its brand new functions? Peter Johansson: Rico's signature grappling hook returns and several enhancements open up new dimensions to the player. The hook is now integrated into an arm-mounted gadget that is always available at the press of a button. This means it's much more accessible and integrated into Rico's basic movement and combat. It also plays a central role in the missions. In fact the grappling hook and parachute are Rico's best friends. The grappling hook can now be attached to pretty much any object in the game world and you can then quickly reel it in to get around quickly. If you attach it to an enemy you can pull them down from guard towers and platforms, plus you can scale tall buildings by using the grappling hook to pull yourself up. IGN: Parachute mechanics have been completely overhauled. Can you explain how this affects gameplay in Just Cause 2? Peter Johansson: The parachute now behaves more realistically as you sail through the air over Panau. You have much more control over it, so you can stall it and catch more momentum as you please. Like the grappling hook, the parachute too has its own dedicated button and can be used in more varied situations. For example, you can use the parachute with the grappling hook to pull off cool combination stunts. Take the slingshot stunt – Grapple onto an object and reel in with your parachute open and your gain the momentum needed to fly up in the air. You can also shoot the grappling hook at objects while parachuting to slingshot your way around the environment. Indeed, the new grappling hook and parachute really change how you move around. You can be immersed in combat one second and then use the grappling hook to quickly slingshot yourself over to a mounted gun. It's really flexible and people in the team have quickly started to develop their own unique play-styles. IGN: Can you reveal some of Rico's new skills and any refinements to his abilities that players can look forward to in Just Cause 2? Peter Johansson: Apart from the enhanced grappling hook and parachute stunts, Just Cause 2 features an entirely new vehicle stunt system that enables you to climb around on vehicles while shooting at its occupants as you go. This makes vehicle chases take on a new dimension and instead of just sitting in a mounted gun and shooting at pursuers, you can jump from one vehicle to the next. IGN: Can you offer some information on the new island and how the environment has been improved and refined for this sequel? Peter Johansson: Just Cause 2 takes place on the Island of Panau, situated in the Malay Archipelago. It has the same type of topography as, say, New Zealand, or even Hawaii, where there are tons of different climate zones. But Panau takes the prize with dense jungles, paradise beaches, snowy mountains, deserts, urban cityscapes and everything in between. Panau is a boiling pot of different Asian cultures and has influences from predominantly Malay cultures, but also Thai, Chinese and Japanese. This makes Panau a very exotic place indeed, and in our world it's the perfect backdrop for a mind-blowing action game. IGN: We've heard there will be a much smaller focus on optional side-missions this time around. Can you explain how the new mission structure works in terms of main story missions and secondary missions? Peter Johansson: The mission structure in Just Cause 2 gives the player complete freedom to do what Rico does best – cause Chaos. Indeed, chaos is the central theme in the mission structure and how you cause it is entirely up to you. It's your choice, whether you decide to do many smaller activities or tackle larger missions You can even complete smaller activities while you're doing a larger mission. There are over 1,000 different activities that you can do to cause chaos. But instead of separate side-missions, everything you do has a consequence and everything takes you closer to your ultimate goal. Everything is related to that central theme – chaos. There are three rebel factions you can work with but that's only one of many ways for you to cause chaos. Maybe you want to operate on your own, preferring to hunt down important Panau military officers and steal their vehicles, or maybe your plan is to destroy important military installations one by one. It's all up to you. There are always many different opportunities for activities all around and they all contribute towards reaching your ultimate goal. When you cause chaos the rebel factions of Panau grow stronger at the expense of the government. This enables you to storm and take over government strongholds with an allied faction. When a stronghold is yours, an area of influence grows around that stronghold. The area of influence will then keep growing as the chaos increases, which enables you to get in contact with new prospective employers and collect new information about the game world, which ultimately opens up even more opportunities to cause chaos. We've also included a load of new challenges, which are spread out all over Panau and test things like your driving and base-jumping skills. On top of this you also have upgrade parts that can be used to improve weapons and vehicles and these can be found through exploration or by doing activities. So when you're exploring Panau and find something that catches your attention, be it a village, military base, harbour or just a small boathouse, you can be sure there's something there for you to do. IGN: What improvements can we expect in terms of visuals this time around? Peter Johansson: The Avalanche Engine 2.0 is no longer held back by having to be compatible with last generation hardware. There are improvements all over – higher resolution textures, more detailed characters and vehicles, a new animation system and so on. Moving seamlessly between these different environments, without any delay for loading, is quite a unique feeling. IGN: Can we expect multiplayer modes alongside the single-player game in Just Cause 2? Peter Johansson: You know, Rico's ego is pretty big. Even though Panau is a large place we found it wasn't big enough for two Ricos. IGN: Finally, will the awesome wah-wah porn music make a return? Peter Johansson: Porn Music? We resent that notion. We prefer the term 'adult entertainment'! If that's what you're referring to then yes, there will some really 'adult' tracks in there, but that's not all. Just Cause 2 has a very well developed music system that adapts to both your style of playing and where you are in the game, meaning that it create your own personal soundtrack as you go along. Some of it's a bit like the theme music band in the old blaxploitation parody flick, 'Gonna Git You Sucka', if anyone remembers that. If not, well, anyway, it was cool.