Sunday, March 8, 2009

Strategy Session - Just Cause

"Strategy Session" is a new series of articles where I share strategies I've developed from playing specific games. Yes, it's an homage to a column of the same name that appeared in Electronic Games magazine back in the eighties. To start out this series, here's some strategies I've developed for capturing military bases in Just Cause.

In Just Cause for the XBox 360, players liberate towns, cities, drug cartel bases, and military bases in order to progress the story, unlock safehouses, and most importantly capture territories. Generally, the towns and drug cartel bases are easy pickings, but later in the game players will have to take whole cities and military bases, and these are guarded by fierce, one-or-two-hit kill tanks.

The player starts the liberation outside the base by talking to one of the guerillas, who is usually standing near some ammo that will be available once you activate the mission.

For cities, it's a fairly easy matter of killing lots of government troops and destroying their vehicles long enough to activate the flag capture. Once the on-screen prompt appears, head for the flag and press A to capture the city. Small tanks will appear after awhile on the streets of these cities, so a good overall strategy is to head for the alleyways and try to avoid their heavy, concussive gunfire.

Military bases seem to be the toughest things to capture in the later parts of the game because of the multitude of tanks that roll out to defend them. The first part of any town, drug cartel base, or military base liberation is always the same - kill the government troops. Then destroy the first barricade. Repeat the kill troops/blow up blockade offensive two more times, and the flag appears.

The problem is those pesky tanks. They can, from a distance, draw a bead on you and in seconds land two or three blasts, killing you before you can react or even see where the hell the shelling is coming from. After many, many deaths at these installations, I had to develop some strategies that, while not 100% guaranteed to work for every liberation, helped me at least get through them faster.

As stated earlier, almost all of these liberations start at a little ammo depot outside the main gate, with the first objective to kill government soldiers. I started out there with the rocket launcher, and clicked on the right analog stick to go into a better over-the-shoulder aiming mode. Blasting away at the troops, and then the barricade, I often could catch any tanks that showed up early as well. Before heading in, I restocked my rocket launcher ammo one last time.

Sometimes you have to get inside the base before the tanks are rolled out. So assuming this strategy gets you past the first barricade most of the time, once inside it's time to keep an eye out for tanks. Keep in mind that bringing your own tank is futile - it will be destroyed in seconds by rocket fire from the helicopters or other tanks. Bringing your own helicopter gunship is also futile, as it will be taken out by units on the ground with surface-to-air missiles.

Once past the first barricade, and sadly away from that ammo stash where you started the liberation, look for the tanks while killing enemy troops. Often the tanks will be just behind, and sometimes stuck on, the next barricade. If you see a tank there, seek cover immediately, keeping in mind the the concussive blast of the tank is so powerful that you can get hurt even with an indestructable building between the two of you.

Tanks that come rolling out to you, not firing but getting close, can usually be easily captured as they roll by, either by pressing Y or using the grappling gun if the tank is moving by fast. They seemed to often blow past me and outside the base before turning around and firing. Capturing a tank is a great way to neutralize it. The driver will be thrown out and won't return.

Because the other tanks will immediately know that you took over one of their brothers, they'll begin firing immediately, so the best strategy is to capture and immediately exit, unless you know for sure that there are no other tanks in the immediate area. Repeat this as best you can, avoiding enemy fire. Sometimes you'll have to circle around a few buildings to outflank a tank that is positioned behind emeny lines.

Enemy tanks have a higher rate of fire than the ones you capture, so taking them on is not recommended. The one or two shots they get at your tank before you can switch to the cannon and get off one shot is enough to end your liberation.

The grapple is often useful in tank-heavy liberations, too. There are usually helicopter gunships raining bullets down on you and your AI comrades during these battles, which can be ignored as long as you keep moving. If tanks are firing into your area, you can sometimes make a safe exit by grappling onto a helicopter and jumping back down into the battlefield at another place - sometimes even onto a tank or near enough to capture it. Don't capture the helicopter, though, as it will be instantly shot down by the previously mentioned SAMs.

It takes a few good shots with the rocket launcher to take out a tank, and you can only carry 6 at a time, so I rarely ever resorted to using it, except as a backup. Grenades, while plentiful around the battlefield, aren't as useful it seemed when attempting to take out a tank.

The AI in Just Cause is very strange at times. A military base liberation can start out with two tanks barreling right to the front gate and unleashing unholy death to you and your fellow guerillas, and the next time, a solitary jeep might show up first.

Repeated attempts will almost certainly be necessary to capture the military bases in the later parts of Just Cause, but patience and perseverance, in conjunction with these strategies to deal with the tanks, will hopefully lead to your own liberation of San Espirito as they did mine.

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