Today we're talking with Mike Oldman of Square-Enix London Studios, Mike's the Community Manager and he's going to answer a few of our game and demo related questions.1. First off Mike, this game looks to be a completely different animal to the first Just Cause, with lots to see a do in the core gameplay. Can you elaborate on some of the changes from 1 that will make the fans happy?
You're right; Just Cause 2 is a different beast entirely. We've made some huge changes to the series in the sequel making the action far more fluid and action packed. The biggest change first and foremost is to do with Rico's grapple – in the first game this was a weapon that had to be selected and equipped (much like one of his guns), but now it's attached permanently to his left arm so he is able to use it at any time. This changes things dramatically, allowing him the freedom to grapple to any object in the game (no fixed grapple points here) and reel himself into objects at the tap of a button. This makes it possible to scale huge buildings, quickly leap from vehicle to vehicle and in combination with his trademark parachute, propel himself air born around the island.
Ease of use and accessibility isn't the only upgrade the grapple has had however, as it's now possible to detach the grapple cord from his arm and tether any two objects together. That can be hanging a jeep from a helicopter, dragging an enemy behind a moving vehicle, or tethering two guards together and watching as they slam into each other. The possibilities are near endless and much of the fun of Just Cause 2 comes from playing around with this feature.
I could go on and on about improvements, things like A.I. routines – that have been re-written, better vehicle physics, the population of the island (both in terms of npc's and things to do and find) but you'll be able to see for yourself when the demo hits this Thursday.2. I know there's a demo coming for Just Cause 2 and it hits on March the 4th, can you elaborate on this demo some more, we know its 35 square miles and that's a pretty big sandbox already. What can you tell us at Games Xtreme for our readers about the demo itself?
It's a huge – coming in at 35 square miles of desert terrain to explore and cause chaos in and rammed full of content. In the demo you'll be able to experience all of the core gameplay elements from the game, so all of Rico's abilities and skills are at your disposal – giving you a chance to get to grip with the grapple and parachute combination, hi-jack enemy and civilian vehicles, take to the skies in planes, helicopters (and gas canisters!), BASE jump, freefall and more. There's a multi-stage mission included in there, a race challenge, military compounds to destroy and colonels that need assassinating. We really want people to play it again and again and try to discover all the cool things to do with the tools provided.3. We've heard that there's a timer in the demo, we understand why you'd want to place some kind of restriction on the demo in that respect, but can you tell us how this timer is going to work and if you're doing anything different at all that might surprise and delight the fans?
That's right, the demo has a 30 minute time limit, but it's possible to extend that time limit by completing certain objectives. So, for example getting five Piñata Kills (where you tether a man up to a wall or lamp post and shoot him) will earn you a further 30 seconds of game time. There are loads of these for all sorts of different things, from headshots to BASE jumps, completing missions and discovering new locations. By completing these objectives it's possible to extend the demo time considerably and at the end you'll be shown all your stats and achievements adding a real competitive element.
It's probably worth noting also that the demo timer doesn't start right away, so the small settlement you begin in is the perfect area to practice your aim, get to know the grapple and controls without worrying about wasting time and setting you up perfectly for the challenges that await.4. What kind of online support will you have for the game, for instance is there any kind of stat-tracking, cool leader-boards and so on? If you can elaborate more on this for our readers that would be fantastic.
We've no multiplayer included in Just Cause 2, but we're putting a huge emphasis on competitive play. The game tracks all of your stats as you go – so every time you hi-jack a vehicle, shoot out a tyre, kill a guard (including the numerous different ways in which you do it), perform a thrilling stunt etc... the game records it. At launch gamers will be able to log in to http://www.justcause.com and check all their stats online, see which weapons or vehicles are their most used or favourites, and by linking their Gamertag, Steam or PSN ID, enter into our leaderboards to compete for the top spot.
We've also web exclusive achievements called 'Milestones' that'll display on your personal profile page. These are awarded for particularly stand out feats in the game – we're talking 500 tyre shootouts, or driving in kms the distance from the Earth to the Moon! They won't be easy to earn, but ultimate bragging rights await those that can get all ten. Maybe a few prizes too.5. In regards to the full game and a specific PS3 feature, the video upload and record mode, can you elaborate some more on this one for our readers? Is it just a record feature on the PS3, or are there other tools built in that allow you to cut the footage how you want, change camera angles and so on?
Sure. The PS3 version supports the ability to save video footage of game as you play and upload it directly to YouTube, or save it to your PS3 hard drive without even leaving the pause menu. There's two ways in which this works, first of all there's automatic capture, where the game will automatically record the last 30 seconds of everything you do. This is great as it means any of the crazy random stuff that happens while your playing is saved without you even having to think. This could be an incredible stunt you've pulled off, a fluke landing or getaway... anything. If it happened in the last 30 seconds, you've got it.
On top of that, if you feel like getting more creative with the feature, you can also set a manual record, which will capture up to 10 minutes of footage. With this you can show off set-pieces and stunts you've set up, showcase secret areas you've found, make gameplay walkthroughs of missions and tasks, or for the really creative, create short machinima videos. It's basically just the ultimate tool for showing off... and in Just Cause 2 there's plenty of opportunity for just that.
Once you've grabbed your video you then have the option to upload it straight to YouTube via the in-game menu, or save it to your PS3 hard drive to watch later. There's no editor with the feature, it literally just records straight gameplay footage, but you can turn off the HUD for a cleaner capture and can easily grab saved videos from your PS3 with a USB memory stick to edit on a computer. It's a brilliant feature and we're really looking forward to seeing what the community comes out with when it launches.6. Is the video record/upload feature only going to be for PS3 or is this something we might see on the PC and the 360 versions in the future?
Sadly it is a PS3 only feature. There are no plans for including it later down the line for Xbox 360 and PC. I won't go into the specifics as to why, as it's not my area... but it's easy enough to capture PC footage using third party apps these days, and it is possible to get external capture cards for 360. Naturally, we'd love to see footage from all versions of the game from the community.7. Ok, let's talk about damage for a moment. I'm big into over the top action and damage physics, this looks like my dream game in terms of big air and stunts that blow your mind. What can you tell our readers about the insane things you can do or have done?
Well, where to start? The game's missions take you on one hell of a wild ride throughout your adventure; from flying fighter jets into satellites, to blowing up expensive sports cars, kidnapping VIP's in limousines, disarming bombs around the capital city – some truly unforgettable stuff.
That's just the missions though and a large part of the fun comes from the epic set pieces YOU create - diving from helicopter to helicopter, surfing on the outside of passenger jets, climbing around on vehicles or just crashing into anything or everything to see the resulting fireworks. I think a lot of people will be surprised at just how destructible the environment is. For a game of this scale, almost everything (buildings and mountains aside) is destructible. I think we're running a pretty good chance of having the most explosions ever seen in a video game. Or at least in quick succession!8. What have been some of the more unexpected things that have happened as a part of the natural gameplay in Just Cause 2? These are often the most interesting elements, since they are never scripted and just take you by surprise, so can you tell us about some of these things.
Best thing I've seen so far (or quite possibly my favourite at this point) happened only the other day. One of the guys here in the studio, whilst being pursued by an enemy helicopter, tethered a guard to a gas canister using the dual hook, only to set it off with gunfire sending the guy flying. That's pretty funny (and tremendously satisfying) ordinarily by itself, but in this instance the canister flew straight into the enemy helicopter and took it out!
Falling debris can cause a fair bit of damage too, so it's always a lot of fun taking out giant cranes, bell towers or chimney stacks just to watch the carnage rain down below. Just be sure to step back beforehand!9. To talk about the game engine for a moment, there's something that really impressed me in Just Cause, dynamic weather patterns. Are these back in Just Cause 2 and if so, will they be dynamically linked to the various environmental zones in the game? Will we see blizzards, sandstorms?
The game features a bunch of real time weather effects. You'll get snow up in the mountains and sand storms in the desert – with particles sticking to Rico and vehicles as they move around. There's also some incredible rain effects, thunder and lightning, dramatically changing the way vehicles will handle and altering the look of the world. It's beautiful for the most part, but catch Panau on a bad day and it can become quite the opposite…10. We know there's pre-order DLC for various people, the Chaos pack for the special edition and so on, what we're not sure about are your plans for DLC in the future – can you give us a hint on plans to support JC2 post release, since it seems like a game that could be a massive open world playground for a long time to come.
We keep shouting about how much Just Cause 2 really is a giant playground for you to have fun in and it's true. With our DLC, we intend to give you a lot more 'toys' to make the most of that. I can't go into specifics just yet, but rest assured we've plenty coming… and it's all awesome. The pre-order DLC seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.11. When you make a game like this, there have to be cuts, are there any features that were left out you'd like to talk about, that might make it into say: Just Cause 3?
I think when making any game there's always stuff that get's cut or lost along the way. This is no different for Just Cause 2. We could have kept adding stuff indefinitely, but at some point you have to stop and get into the shops and players hands. I think overall everyone involved with the project is happy with what's made it in – and players certainly won't have to hunt for very long to find cool stuff to keep them entertained.
As for Just Cause 3, we'll just have to wait and see...12. What kind of variety is there in the main game in terms of missions, many side missions in JC were fairly repetitive (but still fun), how has this been addressed for 2?
There's a ridiculous amount of missions in the game, coming in a variety of forms. There are faction missions (when working with the rebel gangs on the island) and Agency missions (with briefs from Rico's superiors during his hunt for Tom Sheldon). We don't really do side missions as such, as you'll need to tackle both the faction and agency missions in order to complete the game – and you can pick and choose in what order you go about these. In terms of variety, they are all completely different and throw Rico into some incredible situations. In the demo for example, you'll be able to sample one of the faction missions – assaulting a government radar station (blowing everything to smithereens) before taking to the skies to cut off a vehicle convoy and kidnap a witness on his way to testify against one of the rebel gangs. It's a huge mission and should give a good idea of what to expect throughout the game.
On top that there are race challenges, stronghold takeovers and colonels to assassinate all adding to your accumulation of chaos in the game and increasing you overall completion. The important thing here is choice and you have that all the way through. It's up to you how you play and in what order you do things. You're never ushered through a specific path or faced with only one option. We hope because of this, repetition won't be an issue this time around.13. What would you say that your favourite vehicle is in the game and why?
Ah, now this is a toughie. Naturally I have a certain affinity to a specific car named after myself (I'll let you try and find it when the game comes out) but it really depends on the situation. Out of the box I think the sports cars are possibly my favourites in game due to their speed – fast, simply isn't the word. The agency vehicles available for heavy drop from the Black Market are cool too, especially once fully upgraded, adding machine guns, armour and increased maneuverability.14. Do you have a favourite weapon?
Again it's largely going to depend on the situation and upgrades purchased from the Black Market, but for me nothing beats the SMG. It's great for juggling enemies and keeping them afloat in the air as you riddle them with bullets. You can also dual wield them and in fact any combination of single handed weapons, so there's a great deal of customization to your arsenal you can perform on the fly during battles.
I should probably add a special call out about our triggered C4 too, as it's wicked fun and thanks to the fact that you can lay countless charges (if you have the ammo) and detonate them all at once, causing intense levels of chaos. You can shoot the individual charges too, if you want to set them off independently.15. Lastly, this is your chance to address the Games Xtreme readers and your fans who might pick up on this Q&A. The floor is yours Mike, you can use it to impart any cool information that you'd like to tell them or just a special message to the community as a whole.
I think I'd just like to thank everyone for their support of our game. We're really excited about the release and can't wait to hear all the feedback from the fans - and see what they do when get their hands on it. There's a whole bunch of emergent/sandboxy stuff we've not yet discovered and we're really looking forward to seeing what crazy ideas the community will come up with when they play. Be sure to check out the demo, which hits Marketplace, PSN and Steam tomorrow.16. Ok I lied, here's the last question, if you could be a super spy would you be James Bond or Rico?
Rico, every time. He's no secret kind of agent. :)
We'd like to once again thank Mike for taking the time to answer our questions and look out for more support for Just Cause 2 from Games Xtreme in the future, including a Spotlight Feature and other things.