Building an openworld game around the concept of chaos is a super-smart idea. Chaos is the reason a lot of people play these sorts of things in the first place, but at best, games often make you hunt for your precious moments of anarchy within rigid mission templates, or, at worst, you're actually punished for going bonkers with a rocket launcher. It's a bit like turning up at Disneyland and being told that the rides are all brilliant, but they're being kept underwater at the bottom of a poisoned lake, and if you want to try them out you'll have to fight an orang-utan first.
In Just Cause 2, however, chaos is your raison d'etre (pretentious, I know, but in English it's 'reason for being' which is even worse), and the game never misses an opportunity to remind you that it's your god-given right to blow the whole world to pieces.
Parachuted into the chirpy totalitarian hell-hole of Panau, it's Rico Rodriguez's job to take down the local dictator Baby Panay by any means necessary and, given the hilariously unstable tools which are put at his disposal (the standout is Rico's double-ended grappling hook, which can be used, as a single example, to tether unfortunate test subjects to passing jumbo jets), "any means" may well translate to putting a tanker truck through Baby's head.
A promising arsenal is worth nothing, however, if it's too fiddly to get to grips with. Tacking people to moving cars won't carry you if the grapple's a pain to use and the targeting's broken. Happily, however, within seconds of finally getting to pick up the controller, it's clear that Avalanche has put the effort in where it counts: Just Cause 2 makes the tricky business of elaborate havoc feel enduringly simple.
The grappler is Just Cause 2's Gravity Gun, a tool at once playful and fierce, a weapon with so many obvious uses, but just as many more lurking in the shadows and revealing themselves slowly over time. With more conventional weapons handled by the triggers, the grappler lives on the left bumper. Tap once to fire it off and then reel it in - if it hits a light object like an oil carton, it will draw it towards you, if it sticks into something more substantial like a tree or building, you'll zip through the air towards that - or press and hold to tether one end to a target, before releasing the button to tether the other end to something else.
Once two objects are tied together, firing the grapple again will break any existing lines - a useful limitation that ensures you won't be constantly tripping over your own webbing, and a design decision with tactical ramifications, too, as you can dangle an enemy upside down over a cliff, and then cut them loose with little fuss.
It's an absolute pleasure to use, a simple spinning reticule telling you whether your target is in range or not, and, over an hour and a half of playing through the latest build, it truly proves to be the gift that keeps on giving, allowing you to grapple-boost your way up the side of a skyscraper, tether nearby ground to loft yourself into the air high enough to fire off Rico's magical infinite parachute, and tie people to fuel canisters before sending them spinning off into the sky where, presumably, bad things happen to them.