Big trouble on massive Island
There are a few caveats Iím going to make right before I get down to the review. Just Cause is the first game from the Swedish Developer Avalanche, Just Cause is ambitious and Just Cause isnít pitched as a realistic spy/secret agent thriller with island hopping.
Itís a game that requires you to suspend disbelief and ignore some of the more pushy laws of physics.
If you bear these in mind and you can do the above, then youíll probably really like it.Story
San Espirito is a big island chain, it has a problem with its local Dictator, El Presidente, heís a real mean guy and responsible for countless crimes against his people. Enter the Agency, fronted by two operatives who claim theyíre on a tour of the island to see the local sights.
Add into this mix one bad ass black wearing Rico Rodriguez and you have the perfect recipe for disaster and all sorts of chaos. Rico has a history of extreme violence, blatant disregard for the rules and does what it takes to get the job done. He reminds me so much of Antonio Banderas
in Once upon a time in Mexico
itís truly scary.
Itís Ricoís job to team up with the Agency, the Guerrillas and a local drug cartel to restore balance to the island.Gameplay
Right off the bat Just Cause is going to draw certain similarities to games like: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
but for me it reminds me of a couple of games that I had pre-PC in the old days of the C-64
Iím talking about Hunter and Midwinter here, for those of you that remember them. They were sandbox games of their time with a go-anywhere, drive anything, do anything to get the job done kind of attitude.
After the first cut scene the game kicks off and:
As the game opens you leap out of the back of a plane and freefall to the island, the view is breathtaking and the island is absolutely incredible to look at on the 360. The feel from this moment of gameplay is captured only in movies like the Bond series.
You can at any time pop Ricoís specialised memory-chute and it will open, allowing you to glide down towards the island marker. Of course you can stow the chute again and freefall to your hearts content, even hitting the water and swimming to shore. Itís up to you, because right from the start Just Cause is all about player choices.
Just Cause is a sandbox game in that respect, with freedom of movement through the gigantic island chain. You can drive/fly/steal just about any vehicle and use it as you attempt to bring peace to the island through force of arms and an OTT kill count.
The sky, the ground and the sea (as well as under it) are your entire playground and thereís a lot of that playground to cover. Just Cause is around 250,000 acres in size and if you want to explore the whole island chain then youíll be at it for quite a while.
But despite its staggering size, that could probably fit both Elder Scrolls: III
in it with room to spare, thereís not all that much to do. Let me clarify this.
The story mode in Just Cause is fairly short and most of the missions are over quickly, theyíre interesting enough and thereís a good variety of things that Rico has to do that range from hi-jacking someoneís identity and taking their place, to killing an important member of the regime, to make a point.
The game developers pad this with take over (Liberation) missions, these see Rico having to lead assaults on both government controlled and enemy cartel controlled settlements and villas. Success in the Guerrilla missions means that the province youíre in becomes one step closer to Guerrilla rule.
Completing missions for the 3 factions earns Rico various rewards.
Agency: unlocks new safe-houses and equipment/vehicles, destabilises the region allowing Rico to help take it over.
Cartel: unlocks new safe-houses and equipment/vehicles, helicopters become available at all controlled villas.
Guerrilla: unlocks new safe-houses and equipment/vehicles, brings the region closer to Guerrilla control.
Rico earns points as he performs missions for the revolution and the cartel, these elevate him in rank and eventually when he ranks up he gets a new title and a new safe-house. These safe-houses are packed with equipment and some interesting specialised vehicles.
The cartel for example has a very cool car armed with machine guns.
The safe-houses also have ammo stockpiles; weapons and a health restore station. They also have a save point that allows you to save your progress (you canít save like this mid-mission though) unless youíre in a mission, and then the game uses checkpoints.
The Agency missions also unlock several special vehicles for emergency heavy drops, these come in useful if you donít feel like jacking anyoneís ride to get to where you want to go.
The drops and extraction (a trip to a safe-house of your choice) are available through the in-game PDA that allows Rico to see all sorts of information, view the map and see how heís getting on with the other factions.
The game plays out very much like this: take an Agency mission, get the job done. Spend time taking over government and enemy cartel controlled settlements and villas, build rep and rinse/repeat until the province is under control. It might seem like itís a bit of a chore, but the developers have given you utter freedom in how you do it.
For a first time game, Just Cause is an ambitious project that for me, works. I donít see what a lot of people have against the game. Sure itís over the top and it has a clichťd story etc. Itís fun and thatís the important thing.
There are side missions, which are short and are random. These are simple and they usually involve stealing something, blowing someone or something up or making a deal with someone for both the cartel and the revolution. Again, youíre given complete freedom in how you accomplish these missions.
There are race and collect missions, the collect missions are a good way of getting extra points for the two factions and they are simple enough to do since they appear on the map and mini-map, again, you have complete freedom when you do these missions.
Whilst I am on the subject of freedom itís time I think to mention the stunts system, the game is packed with death defying and over the top stunts Ė stunts that would make the laws of physics curl up into a ball and start crying over the fact that theyíve been mistreated.
The only problem I have is that the buttons are context sensitive and you need to keep an eye on the display, or else you might find youíre diving out of the vehicle compared to leaping gracefully from car to car.