For your first playthrough, you'll be running through the story as fast as you can on Hardcore difficulty so you can get the difficulty-specific achievements out of the way and not have to worry about them on a new, easier playthrough afterwards. A link to a video playlist can be found below, but the missions should be fairly straight-forward anyway. Start a new save file on Hardcore difficulty and prepare yourself for a bit of a challenge. You can't change the difficulty once you've started a new game, so you won't be tempted to turn it down and void the achievements.
Just Cause 2 | Story Missions (Hardcore)
Mission 1: Welcome to Panau
This mission begins as soon as you start the game, and your helicopter will soon be attacked by the Panauan military after Kane gives you your briefing for your trip to Panau. The gunner, who has your PDA, will be shot out of the helicopter, and you'll have to direct your fall towards him to retrieve it. After that, you'll activate your parachute and head over to the military base nearby to pick up the memory cards that fell out of the chopper with the gunner.
As you approach the base, Kane will tell you to use your grappling hook to get inside. Press to use it when the reticle shows two brackets rotating around it, and you'll be pulled to wherever you have it pointed to. Point it towards the top of the first wall you come across, and you'll be within jumping distance to make it to the top. Up ahead is another wall, this time with an enemy soldier stationed above. You can use the grappling hook to pull him off the wall, causing him to fall to his death. After you scale this wall, a marker with the location of the first memory card will be slightly ahead. Grapple over to it and pick it up with , which will cause some guards to the north to shoot at you from the next building over. Above them are some explosive barrels; use the grappling hook on them and they'll tip over onto the guards and reward you with a very small amount of Chaos.
As you continue forward, you'll be directed to a weapon box, which will have your first weapon of the game inside. Some soldiers will arrive shortly so you can test it out. Aiming in this game is super easy, since all you need to do to ensure a hit is to make sure the reticle is red before firing. Headshots can kill enemies in one hit, but you'll have to actually line the reticle up with an enemy's head to do that. Further along is a large anti-air gun; get inside so you can tear apart the enemy chopper heading your way. Instead of leaving the AA gun, you should instead shoot crazily all around the base and destroy as many Chaos structures (usually colored red and white and have a star on them) as you can so you don't have to later. Doing this fast enough will give you an achievement for destroying 30 objects within 60 seconds, but if you don't get it here, you can always get it later. If you want to get it out of the way now, you can always view the video guide on this mission to see how it's done.
After picking up more memory cards, the next one will be way out in the distance atop a hill in a small sub-base. Grapple onto the stalled cable car and use your parachute with to get some good momentum going that will allow you to get to the next card with ease. Kill the enemy who has it and pick it up. Kane will fly by with the chopper and drop you off near the last memory card. As you fly closer into the base, some enemies on the roof of the big building you were at before will be firing at you and Kane. Focus all of your ammo into the two large red-and-white fuel tanks with stars (Chaos structures) to blow them up, which will also take care of your attackers.
Once you have all five memory cards, you'll have to take out the SAMs up ahead so Kane can come in safely to pick you up. Instead of heading into the firefight and lobbing grenades at the SAMs, go up one slope and look to the right to find a machine gun strapped into a small station. Use it and detach it from its post, and you'll now be in possession of a heavy-duty weapon with unlimited ammo, capable of destroying practically everything in the area. Head up the next ramp and blast everything to pieces, including the statue of Pandak Panay between the SAMs. This too is a Chaos structure, and you may as well destroy as many as you can see since you've got a gatling gun in tow. Stay alive until Kane comes back and grapple onto the chopper again to finish the mission.
Mission 2: Casino Bust
Immediately after you finish the first mission, this one will start. You're going to meet up with Karl Blaine, one of the Agency's contacts on Panau. After finding Blaine's girlfriend, Jade Tan, Jade will take you over to the Panau Falls Casino, where Blaine is soon to be killed. There's a demolition officer in the area right before the fountain, and he's very dangerous. Try to shoot down his allies from afar before starting to fire at him; you can even use melee combat with if you want, but that'll put you at point blank to him. When he dies, he'll drop a lot of live grenades, so get out of there fast. If you're low on health after you defeat the demolition officer, dying by any means will bring you back to full health, and to the checkpoint that passes immediately after you kill him.
You'll next want to use the grappling hook to scale the two towers and disarm the bomb charges that the soldiers have placed on key points of both towers. To disarm a bomb, run up to it and press , which will start a randomized-button-sequence quicktime event. Get it wrong or get shot in the process, and you'll have to start over. After you disarm the bombs, a chopper will fly in, and Kane will tell you to take care of it. Grapple onto it and swing up to the front using , and use your weapons to shoot the co-pilot. This will allow you to be able to enter the chopper with , but you'll have to do another short quicktime event to throw the original pilot out. Once both enemies inside are taken care of, another helicopter will fly in; shoot them down and your problems will be over. After a short cutscene, Blaine will need some help, and the best way to get inside is fly close enough to the opening in the bridge so that you can grapple to it. Instead of simply leaving the chopper, press to do a stunt jump, which will allow you to aim your grappling hook into the bridge with ease.
Once you save Blaine, he'll offer to drive you out of there, but his car will be stuck in a ditch. Grapple it to the tractor nearby and drive the tractor to pull it out; then do a stunt jump to hop onto the roof. This will start a long drive back to his house, where a ton of enemy vehicles will come after you. Instead of trying to shoot them down, just point your grappling hook at a vehicle, and then at the ground. This will send it flying within a few seconds, or at least stop the vehicle, so you don't have to waste ammo. After a few minutes, the enemy will give up.
Blaine will tell you that Tom Sheldon went into the jungle to start some gang to fight the government, and offer to give you some intel on your PDA. To gain some influence, he suggests infiltrating the three main enemy gangs on the island (none of which are Sheldon's): The Reapers, The Roaches, and the Ular Boys. He'll also give you beacons for you to use, so that you can call in supplies from a black market dealer he knows named the Sloth Demon.
From this point on, the story missions will require you to attain a certain amount of Chaos before you're able to start them, and will be located in various places around the map. After you finish Casino Bust, you'll be tasked with infiltrating the three enemy gangs throughout Panau and help them out in order to weaken Baby Panay's hold on the country; three stronghold takeover missions, one for each gang, can be found on the map, and will take you to a location on the map that would otherwise take you a long time to get to. It's in your best interest to finish stronghold missions on this playthorugh, because not only will they grant you Chaos, but they'll unlock faction missions (which also give you Chaos) as well as unlock new areas for you to fast travel to. Stronghold takeovers will also unlock Challenges, which are simply races for you to complete, but these only reward you with money, so you won't bother with them on this playthrough.
You can call the black market for supplies and vehicles at any time by pressing , even when enemies are coming after you. The only thing you can't do in notoriety is fast travel to locations you've been to before. Vehicle and weapon parts that you can find at locations can be used to upgrade vehicles and weapons you've unlocked, naturally, but the item you should really be looking out for on Hardcore are armor parts, which increase your maximum health once you have five of them.
Mission 3: The White Tiger
To start this mission, you'll need 75,000 Chaos, and the start point is located in the desert to the southwest. If you've done some stronghold takeovers and faction missions, you should be able to fast travel fairly close to the mission's starting place.
Once you have enough Chaos, go to the mission's start location and talk to the informant who will tell you about a guy named Ken Pang, who has some dirt on the White Tiger. Go to where Pang is being held and kill all the enemies in the area, then pick up their walkie-talkie in one of the towers. Rico will tell the executioner that everything's good to go for the execution, which will trick the executioner to walk outside. Shoot him down with a sniper rifle in the tower or any of your weapons, and Pang will start to escape. Help him by killing all the enemies that come out of the buildings to attack the two of you.
As payment for saving his life, Pang will agree to take you to the White Tiger. There will be some motorbikes for you to ride nearby. On your way there, you'll be ambushed by a handful of enemies; take them out and get back on a bike. You'll eventually reach a base full of enemy soldiers, where the Sloth Demon will say he overheard a military dispatch saying that they have taken a digital message that was most likely meant for you. Kill the guards and take the message; Tom Sheldon will tell you to follow the recently activated beacon. Fortunately for you, a helicopter will have just passed by. Grapple onto it and take it over to make flying to the beacon a breeze.
Upon reaching the beacon's origin, Rico will be hit with a sleep dart and be woken up by Tom Sheldon. He'll roast a pig for the two of you, and reveal that he was the Sloth Demon the whole time. Enemies will come in to attack the ruins, where Sheldon will explain why the two of you are even in Panau to begin with. In addition to the corrupt leader, the three gangs are fronts for first world powers as attempts to take over the government, but America doesn't know the reason why they'd want such a small country. Circle the ruins with Sheldon and your gatling gun, and afterwards Sheldon will toy with the idea that Karl Blaine was the one who tipped the government off about Sheldon's location. The last shot you'll see is of Blaine about to be tortured by Panay himself.
Mission 4: Mountain Rescue
Mission 4 requires you to have 160,000 Chaos; doing a few faction missions wouldn't hurt, or you can always just 100% locations to raise your Chaos that way.
It seems that Blaine has also ratted out Jade Tan, and she's got some dirt on the big players in Panau, so the next thing you'll be doing is rescuing her. Take the chopper nearby to the military base in the distance, but watch out for SAMs; they'll probably be the demise of your chopper, so bail when you've got the chance and head to one of the objective markers. At each of these four objectives is a building, and inside is a turbine that needs to be destroyed to force the soldiers guarding Jade to relocate and escape. I recommend saving the lowest objective on the mountain for last, since it'll be closest to where you need to go afterwards, and to use grenades or planted explosives to destroy the turbines. As always, be very careful with your health on Hardcore. All four turbines must be destroyed in one go, as there are no checkpoints in-between.
After all four turbines are destroyed, the door to one of the larger buildings of the base will have opened. Run over to it, and you'll be attacked by Panay's elite team of ninjas. They can vanish into thin air to avoid you, so the best thing to do to defeat them would be to shoot them in the head. After you kill them and check the building for Jade, an atomic submarine will rise out of the water and rain ammo on you from afar. Down below on the ice are three cars, one of which has Jade inside. The other two are unique vehicles, the MV Command, that would be very hard to find elsewhere. Keep that in mind for your 75% completion run, where you'll want to hijack one of these before you do the same to the vehicle Jade's in. Once you rescue Jade, Sheldon will fly in and pick the two of you up. Jade will inform the trio of the puppet masters fighting over Panay at night, which are Russia, China, and Japan. With such powerful countries at play, there must be something worth fighting over here, but what?
Mission 5: Three Kings
To start Mission 5, you need 280,000 Chaos. Finish as many faction missions as you can on this difficulty, and ignore the ones that are too hard for you. Make sure you're fully stocked on ammunition before attempting this mission, because Sheldon won't be able to send supplies your way for this one. It's best to upgrade your weapon of choice to the highest potential you can with your weapon parts, so you have more ammo and pack a stronger punch. I suggest bringing two pistols at a 4-star rating with all the ammo you can carry, as well as a machine gun as your two-handed weapon.
It seems all three men who run the operations for China, Russia, and Japan are all staying at the Three Kings hotel, and none of the three know that the other two are there. Sheldon will come in for chopper support, so he won't be able to assist you by dropping ammo and weapons down. Parachute over to the first roof and you'll be greeted by the man China sent in, Zhang Sun. He'll be lobbing explosives at you for the entirety of his boss fight, and he has some gunmen alongside him to boot. Shoot him in the head to maximize the amount of damage you do to him with your limited ammo, and keep an eye out for where his explosives land. You can use the stairwell nearby for cover if you need to recover some health. This is the hardest fight of the three, so when you beat Sun, you're basically set to finish the mission. Just make sure you retain enough ammo for the next fight.
Up next is the "ambassador" from Russia, Alexander Mirkov. Luckily for you, there's a nice exploit in this fight that makes it a piece of cake. Parachute over the tank and hug the wall behind it; there should be a short strip of ground for you to stand on. None of the normal enemies can get you here, and neither can Mirkov. Sheldon will attack Mirkov out of his strong hatred of communism, and will tell you when he's about to do so. This will make Mirkov turn to shoot at Sheldon. When this happens, grapple to the top part of the wall (but not onto the floor that the tank is on), just high enough so you can see Mirkov's head and shoot at it until he dies. Don't miss your opportunity to shoot him too many times, because the helicopter has a health bar of its own as well. As a finishing blow, Sheldon will spin the chopper right into the tank and tell Rico that real Americans hate commies before you head over to the last tower of the hotel.
Unlike on the first tower, watch out for the stairs, because they lead down to the Japanese general's suite. Take out the enemies in your way and blow the two doors up with explosives of any kind, forcing General Masayo Washio out of hiding. For this fight, you're up against Washio, gunmen, and a deadly satellite laser. This fight is going to be even easier than the fight with Mirkov, because his laser will be able to damage him if set up properly. Grapple to the back side of the stadium's wall, so you're in a position similar to how you were in the last fight. This time, you don't need to be up near the edge, so you can just stick to the middle of the wall. In this position, Washio will stay on the stage, and the laser will always point towards the stage floor, eventually killing him. Washio will also give you some cryptic last words on how America doesn't even know what they're fighting for, before Rico kills him. Sheldon will make the two of you some margaritas as a celebration.
Mission 6: Into the Den
This mission requires you to have 435,000 Chaos, which is a big step up from Mission 5's requirement. You should have finished all nine stronghold takeovers by now, so you can reap the Chaos bonuses from finishing them and the faction missions you unlock on the way. Technically, this is a "point of no return", meaning you can't go back once you've started this mission, but once you beat the game you'll be put back on the island to clean up. Although you can call Tom Sheldon for ammo and weapons whenever you're outside, it'd be best for you to stock up before you start the mission.
Panay's base to the southeast is heavily fortified, so Sheldon suggests taking one of the three gangs with you as backup. He tells you to choose carefully, but in the end, it affects nothing. I always choose the Reapers since they're the closest to Blaine's house. The leader you choose will tell you the plan over the radio, as they're too important as a figurehead to risk being killed.
You and your gang will cut through guards, eventually making your way to a large steel wall. A vehicle with a turret on top will bust through, killing your allies. Take out the gunner and the driver, and then head up towards the first of three AA guns. Standing on the roof of the gun should keep you safe from enemy fire, so in this position, plant some explosives on the gun and blow it up. You can repeat this with the next target, or you could kill all the enemies in the area, take the gatling gun below the AA gun, and shoot the next AA gun from afar to destroy it. I highly suggest taking the easy route, and then doing the same to the third gun.
With all three destroyed and engineers placed at all three panels, head to the fourth panel by the stone head of Panay. With the four of you pushing the buttons together, the head will open. Before you go inside, stock up on weapons and ammo; you're definitely going to need it. Then head to the personal quarters, which will result in Blaine using a grenade to kill both himself and Panay. A helicopter and tons of troops will fly in to take you down, with the most important threat obviously being the helicopter. Hijack it and kill whatever enemies you can before it's shot down, and then make your way down to the lower level starting from the top. When it's safe enough to access the panel, do so and leave the base as soon as you can.
Mission 7: A Just Cause
This mission will start directly after you finish Mission 6, so you're almost done with playing on Hardcore difficulty; only one mission left and you'll be able to start a new save that'll be much easier on you.
Sheldon will tell you to secure the oil field for America, which means you'll need to destroy all opposition from the other three superpowers. These tankers will never arrive, as Panay's atomic submarine will emerge from the ocean. If you can, destroy the four SAMs on the deck with your chopper, and then destroy or hijack the other helicopters that come in after you. Then kill the small amount of troops on the deck. Now would be a good time to call in your best weapons that you have, so long as they're not the shotgun or other close-range weapons. When you're all set, head inside the submarine.
Panay will reveal himself to be alive, and claim that he's invincible. Time to take him down. Ninjas will run towards you in groups, so stay behind cover and only fire at Panay when the coast is clear. Bait him into firing his barrage of missiles, and then aim for headshots until you have to dodge more of his attacks. None of the cover you use will break, so don't worry about them deteriorating.
Panay will tell you that he's got four nukes pointed at Russia, China, Japan, and America, and then, since he's invincible, will run off to the other deck of the submarine. He'll get snagged on one of the nukes, and Rico will grapple onto one after him. Now you're going to have to disarm all three of the missiles headed for the enemy superpowers. This won't be possible unless Panay stops firing at you, though, so shoot back at him until he ducks for cover. This will give you enough time to disarm one of the nukes, so act fast. Neutralize them one by one until all three countries have been saved, and Rico will shove Baby into the last nuke before redirecting it into the oil fields.
Since the oil has been destroyed, the other superpowers will have no reason to remain in Panau, and order will be restored as the new leadership will ally with America once again. But after this happy ending, who's to say Panay isn't invincible enough to survive a nuclear explosion? We might never know the answer to that question.
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