Just Cause is a title that has received a lot of good and bad criticism in it’s short life. However I believe the reason for this is everyone has there own views on the game because of the gameplay. It’s an odd game because it has the freedom and sandbox like feel of the GTA franchise but it lacks a complete story. In GTA all the missions had a story about them and would link to the main story line. Just Cause only has one story line but lots of mini missions which normally involve blowing something up. [Sounds like game fodder to me -Ed]
The South American island San Esperito is controlled by the corrupt government who needs to be taken down. You control Rico Rodriguez who is a slick CIA agent who prefers to travel by parachute and go in guns a blazing. Rodriguez’ job is to liberate the people of San Esperito by… well causing havoc and destroying anything government related. That’s all the info you’re going to get about the story line and while being packed with explosions and cut-scenes the story is weak and feels secondary. Missions are very random and when you have completed about 4 you know longer care for the story. Saying this you can still quite happily play the game since the game consists of 21 story missions and truck load full of side missions. The story missions can be completed in under 6 hours, so the side missions give the game a little extra life because most of the achievements are gained by completing so many of them.
There are two main additions in Just Cause which are what make a main part of the game. First you have the Grappling gun. This will lock on to any vehicles that are near by (cars, helicopters & boats) and when fired will shoot the hock into the vehicle and when the cord has reach the maximum length it will drag you into the air with you parachute and reel you closer the vehicle. Once you are close enough it Rodriguez will jump onto the vehicle and go into “stunt mode”. In this mode you have the option of jumping off and para-sailing away, jump onto another vehicle that’s near by or jumping into the vehicle and taking control of it. I have already mentioned the second addition and that’s the parachute. This makes Just Cause what it is. You can use it to para-sail absolutely everywhere and as many times as you want. Find a steep hill and jump off and tap the A button and your chute will be released and propel you in the air. It’s extremely easy to control while you are in the air. Left and right on the left thumb stick will turn you in that direction, back will slow down your decent and pushing forwards will tilt you towards the ground and quicken your decent. If you’re high enough you can put your chute away and go “superman style”, diving down with great speed towards the ground.
The islands are massive and I’m talking really really big. It’s a tropical paradise which just calls out to be explored with its vibrant colours, yellow sandy beaches and deep blue sea. Sadly there is nothing to make you want to explore the island. Sure the quests are scattered around the map but because the main story has so little missions you’re not engaged into exploring every part of the islands. To try and disguise this developer Avalanche has put lots of packages around the island. The packages are part of collect missions. Finding one will trigger the mission and explain how many packages there are. One you have collected all of the required packages which are easy enough to find as they are blue dots on your map you will be rewarded. Since these packages can be picked up at any point in the game, even when you are in a story mission they are quite easy to come across and when you have completed all the story missions you will find there isn’t many packages left to be found.
Side missions are very dull and normally involve retrieving something, blowing something up, or killing someone. As long as you don’t try to do more than 4 of these in a row you shouldn’t have any problem staying awake in front of your TV. Race missions are not what they say they are. It is my understanding that a race is against opponents. Avalanche obviously has another idea on what race means and there idea is checkpoints! “Race” missions involve reaching a checkpoint in a certain amount of time and once you complete that checkpoint (which is extremely easy) you are given more time to go to the next point. My high score is managing to have 90 seconds left to complete the race.
Liberation and drug cartel attack missions are the most enjoyable to play. In these missions you and your gang will have to storm a small area which is controlled by a viral gang or government and kill them and destroy 3 road blocks. The difference between the two missions is what you have to do after the 3 road blocks are blown up. In liberation you have to raise your gangs’ flag, in drug cartel attacks you have to kill the drug cartel boss. The boss has quite a lot of health but as long as you keep shooting your gun it can take about 20 seconds.
Once you complete any missions you are given trust points which allow you to unlock safe houses and move you up in ranks. Safe houses are a place where you can buy new weapons, ammo, health, vehicles and save your game. While new weapons like rocket launcher and sniper rifle are fun they are not something you need to complete the story missions. I managed quite happily completing all the 21 missions with any weapons I started with or happened to pick up from a dead enemy without having to use any new weapons at safe houses. New vehicles that you find at safe houses make a nice change to travelling. You will find all different types of ways to cruise around the island. Fast cars, monster trucks, jeeps with mounted machine guns, stealth boats which fire rockets to jet planes. [Mmmm…rocket boats -Ed]
When travelling around the island it’s quite easy to get stranded without a vehicle. Just Cause makes calling for supplies easy. Just open up your PDA and depending on what vehicles you have unlocked you can call for a drop in. A helicopter will then fly to your position and drop down your selected vehicle. With your PDA it’s also possible to call for extraction should you get caught up in a bit of trouble with the police. You can select extraction from your PDA and select a unlocked safe house from the map. A short clip will follow of you being picked up by a helicopter and being dropped at your selected safe house.
The cop system is just like GTA in the fact that the cop stages go up in levels. This is indicated by a bar in the top right hand corner of the screen. There is also another bar right next to that which is the Montano drug cartels wanted level. So kill a cop or rival gang member and the wanted level will go to 1, then as more mayhem is caused the levels will go up and more support will be brought in. This is nothing to worry about though, even if you hit level 5 you will have no problem killing all of the enemies or just walking away from them. The AI is easy and lacks any mind of its own. It will stand still and shoot at you or it will cowardly run away. Even with a level 5 wanted level you can just stand still while helicopters and cops shooting are you and not even get a scratch.
Now I am going to have to talk about the bad points of the game. Weapons are something of an accessory rather than a must have. All the guns do the same thing and that’s fire bullets. Some do it faster than others, some have a little more accuracy and some just don’t even want to shoot nowhere near the enemy. Saying this, there are actually a good amount of explosives. Remote triggered explosives, timed explosives, grenades, rocket launchers and grenade launchers. Because these weapons have a wide radius of destruction there fun to blow up a load of retarded police in one go. Glitches come in the bag full. It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect from a sandbox style game, walking through objects, being thrown through the air like a statue, objects randomly popping up. There all there, but with most of the glitches you would assume it would all be picked up and fixed through testing the game.
Just Cause has some amazing graphics. About everything you can see has amazing models and textures. The best way to see the true beauty of the islands is to take to the skies. Grab a helicopter, fly as high as you can, (I haven’t had the patience to keep going but its high) and jump out. From here all you can see is clouds, go through the clouds and you can see the lush green vegetation of the islands. As the wind blows Rodriguez’ hair and clothes this is joined with some of the best sound effects I have heard from a game. The wind blows realistically in all 5 speakers and the light airy music that kicks in makes it sound as if you are falling from the heavens. Music is another thing Just Cause adds to the gameplay. Get into a car and start driving and slowly the volume of some funky Latin will turn up. This is then followed normally with the repeating phrases from the police. “Stop this is the policea!” This can get quite repetitive but eventually you can learn to ignore it. With all these amazing graphics Just Cause seems to have major screen tearing problems. Get into a boat and put the throttle on and the bottom of the screen will tear as it tries to catch up with the frame rate. Objects will randomly pop up out of no where and textures will quickly be applied to sprites when you come closer.
So I have laid down the good points and bad points of the game. It’s now time for me to rap it all up and try to help you decide if it is a game worth having. I have really enjoyed playing Just Cause. Yes the story might lack any real point and only take 6 hours to complete but my play time statistics on Just Cause suggest that there is more fun to be had. My total game time is 20 hours so far and I would estimate that I have completed 70% of the game. There are loads of achievement points to gain but it’s not a chore to put it the game and unlock them. I like the just randomly shooting enemies in the streets, I like looking at the wonderfully built islands and I like free-falling from the clouds. The only constructive criticism I would give Avalanche would be to take a little time out from the graphics side and use some of that brain power to make a more interesting plot. If you are after a single player game that will keep you occupied for a couple of weeks go and buy this game. If you’re looking for something which has a lot of replay value this might not be for you. If your undecided then you best bet is to rent the game.
Originally Written By: Toby Bodman