Jeremy Jastrzab
28 Sep, 2006

Just Cause Review

360 Review | Not quite a revolution.
It’s good to see that the latest addition to the open-ended adventure market is something other than a gangsta romp. No, this latest game takes you to the jungle and a damn big one at that. The fictitious locale of San Esperito in the Caribbean is a great looking place, but it’s currently got a few political issues. These issues are big enough to get the attention of the US, which has sent in its finest to bring forth a revolution to overthrow President (read: dictator) Mendoza and cause a bit of havoc among the ruling drug runners. And hence, you have your Just Cause, a rookie effort from the people at Avalanche Studios.

So the FBI has sent in their finest revolutionary to conduct this uprising, and that happens to be Rico Rodriguez, a character reminiscent of anyone that's ever been played by Antonio Banderas. You have a support crew that consist of Sheldon, a fat dude in an orange shirt who gives you all your (story-based) missions, and a humourless woman named Kane, who obviously has some history with Rico. Along the way to dismissing the President, you make friends with the local guerillas and one of the important families, who will also give you missions. The story is odd, in that it's constantly shifting focus, and you feel that you're incidentally taking on missions. It never reaches any heights or has any circumstantial twists. It tries to be funny, and sometimes it works and at others it ought to be serious. That, and none of the characters or themes are at all consistent.

OK, so the story is somewhat negligible. You are indeed out to cause a revolution so there are sure to be plenty of fireworks along the way. So, does Just Cause give you just cause for a purchase? It is no secret that the area that San Esperito spans is absolutely massive. The 1025 square kilometres is no exaggeration, as literally making your way from one end of the island to the other by car would take quite a long time. On the plus side, you have the “Agency Extraction”, which allows you to be taken from points on the island to focal points, such as safehouses, in a flash. On the negative side, the island is bereft of things to do. You can travel for very long periods and find nothing of interest along the way, though there is the odd race and collection side missions.

Nothing says revolution like explosions.

Nothing says revolution like explosions.
Missions are picked up from various points of the island. Sheldon will set up his moveable campervan across the island and it’s up to you to go to those points. Often, the easiest way is through a agency drop off. The actual story missions are fairly varied. You start off slowly but as you progress, the scope of the missions becomes larger. Chasing down the cars evolves into destroying crops into large-scale helicopter battles. This is done well, as you will notice the progression. While a few of the missions feel like you will be doing something similar to previous open-ended games, others manage to incorporate some of the more unique features of the game and it becomes much more exciting.

Outside of the main missions, you have side-missions and liberation/takeover missions. The liberation and takeover missions have you joining up with either the Guerillas or the Riojas, in order to takeover and liberate the numerous and dispersed settlements across San Esperito. They will initially consist of you blowing up several barricades and capturing the town flag. They give the impressions that they are mundane, that is, until you reach some of the later settlements that will have you invading military bases and causing civil war in the towns. Once you liberate a settlement, you can get side-missions from it, though the side-missions feel randomly generated and pointless. Primarily because they consist of routinely trekking from point A to point B. These missions help, because they give you greater reputation among the Guerillas and Rioja, which in turn gives you new safehouses and more weapons.

As mentioned, San Esperito is huge. You’re given quite a diverse set of vehicles, ranging from cars, trucks, bikes, planes, helicopters and boats. Once you’re into traveling across the vaster sections of the island, helicopters tend to be the most efficient way to travel. About half the cars feel slow, bikes are sporadic and the controls for planes are too twitchy (for some reason, out planes kept tilting to the left. Handling across the board is a bit floaty but passable. The boats, especially the fast ones, handle surprisingly well though. Some vehicles also have weapons, and if they happen to be rockets, they’ll come in handy. Overall, the diversity is impressive but driving becomes an arduous and obsolete exercise later in the game.

Check out the one in the red.

Check out the one in the red.
There are a few unique features to the game that set it apart from other open-ended titles. You don’t start with it, but you are quickly given a grapple hook. Its primary function is to hook onto virtually any vehicle in range and if successful, you can either go for a ride or pull yourself in and use the vehicle for yourself. Note, this works for helicopters are well. On top of that, you’ve got a variety of stunts that you can perform. These relate to jumping on the roof of a car or the tail of a helicopter and either jumping to another vehicle or to get out of trouble. This leads to the skydiving and base-jumping. You can fly thousands of metres into the air and hurl yourself off a cliff or just off the plane/copter and watch as you plummet towards the earth, only to save yourself at the last minute with you’re trusty parachute. These activities are by far the most enjoyable aspect of Just Cause. It actually takes a bit of time to get used to the mechanics but once you are familiar with the actions, they can become quite seamless.

As we eluded to in our preview, there are a number of concerns with the game. While the unique aspects of the game are great, most other aspects that are common across games are not. The missions, while action packed, are not done well from a gunplay perspective. The lock-on mechanic is much more solid than in the demo but it works in such a fashion that it makes the game way too easy. All you have to really have to do is point in the direction of the enemies and once one is dead, it will flip to the next one. It only gets more exciting once rockets and grenade launchers come into effect. It doesn’t help that the enemy AI is downright stupid and inconsistent. Enemies will simply charge at you and line up to be killed. In instances where you’re under pursuit in a vehicle, the only tactic they resort to is to drive up to you and bump you around. It’s very irritating because it doesn’t particularly involve much skill. For some reason, a few missions will have enemy choppers that can’t hit you, even if you stand still but are deadly once you get in a vehicle.

While there is often a complaint that game isn’t realistic when it tries to be, we must not forget that it is after all a game. This is especially essential with Just Cause, as some of the things that you’ll do completely suspend actual belief. Sure enough, vehicle handling, comparatively poor physics, weak AI and bizarre moments will cause a few to shake their heads. However, the main problem from this is that these instances often come as impedances to the actual game. You’ll die or fail an objective when you’re not meant to and there are a few times where you are unable to get to your next objective. There are a few too many things that get in the way and make the game feel as if it had been rushed or as if it is unfinished. Even issues as small as your “Wanted Level” aren’t always up to scratch, as we’ve had helicopters chasing us when our level was at zero and sometimes no one on level 5.

Just tag on and enjoy the ride.

Just tag on and enjoy the ride.
While the controls take a while to get used to, there are occasions when things get hairy, they aren’t always able to handle the situations. The story itself feels disjointed, even though it is blatantly trying to be something of a B-grade action flick. There is some degree of fun to the exploration but it eventually becomes a chore, especially with the droll side-missions. On the one hand, it’s blast to bike through the jungle or jump off a cliff but for some, the appeal of this will only last for so long. The story is actually quite short, taking around eight hours to complete. Unless you have the Xbox 360 version and want some achievements, there is very little inclination for players to go and keep with the rest of the game.

The Xbox 360 version looks quite good for a game that is spread across generations. Observing the environments from the sky makes everything look awesome and the game is home to some of the most wonderful sunsets and dynamic day cycles that you’ll see. Once things come in a bit closer, the differences become more obvious. Things still look good but there are noticeable let downs such as the animations and some truly awful and inconsistent physics. At least they are somewhat offset by awesome explosions and a smooth framerate. Apparently, the PS2 version looks awful. Sound wise, the general quality of the sound is good but the track is broken. The music is appropriate, varied and is great to listen to. It's something of a mix of Latino and action themed music. The voicing gets by, even though it’s driven by some incredibly clichéd writing. All the sound effects are in order. However, the track is played in such an inconsistent and annoying fashion that it feels broken. Through out the second half of the game, someone was constantly hounding us with “Stop citizen, this is the Policia”, even though there weren’t any police and our wanted level was zero.

Just Cause is likely to be a game that will divide gamers. On the one hand it provides some unique experiences and some great moments, with a superior sense of speed and exhilaration. On the other, there are too many instances of uninspired design and rushed completion. It’s disappointing to see how Just Cause is unable to fulfill its vast potential, but for what it does offer, it’s still a fairly enjoyable experience. It will probably be more enjoyable for more experienced gamers who can get around the controls and are more excepting of the flaws. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to jump off a plane from several thousand metres and then do it again ten minutes later?
The Score
Just Cause is not the revolution that we hoped for but there is room for a fair amount of fun, as long as you're willing to go and get it.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
According to Palgn standards....I would've given this game a 3 or 4....its absolute rubbish and I cannot justify the purchase price for 2 hours of enjoyment weighed up against 6 hours of frustration/boredom/chores.

The graphics actually hurt my eyes....no joke! They are so bright and garish it's unbelieveable!
7 years ago
Pretty spot on review from my impressions from the demo. Its a real shame that the game hasn't been delayed for another 6 months to sort out all of the problems as it does have heaps of potential. The one glaring thing that stood out for me from the demo was how crap the aiming system is, it requires absolutly no skill in dispensing of dozens of enemies and would have been much more enjoyable if it had an aiming system similar to Saints row with the enemy numbers adjusted accordingly. I hope that the developers aren't put off by the bashing this game is going to get and improve it quite alot for Just Cause 2 (if its ever made).
7 years ago
I really enjoyed Just Cause, even if it does have its faults.. As I said to Jeremy beforehand I would probably have gone higher with the score, but it's one of those games I think that'll split people so I can see why people aren't enjoying it as much as I did. The controls/combat took a bit of getting used to, especially jumping between vehicles, but they don't take long to get the hang of. The grappling hook deserves heaps of praise as it has made for some amazing moments, the last mission especially had me swapping between about 3 helicopters just to survive.

I love the sheer size of it, I love the fact you can just retry a mission when you fail and I love how you can get vehicles dropped off via helicopter if you happen to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. The lock-on aiming system is perhaps a little too accurate for its own good but when you get to the later stages of the game you'll be thankful it's not as clumsy as GTA's.

It's over the top, but it makes no apoligies and is the game equivalent of a B-Movie. Looks stunning too, absolutley full of colour and I haven't seen such beautiful sunsets since Ocarina of Time and only the character models and building textures show it up as being essentially a PS2 port. The side missions aren't exactly thrilling for the most part, but the Liberation missions do get rather intense the further you progress but that's about it as the rest of them are basically 'go get/kill something and bring it back.' With that in mind, and the fact that there's only 21 main missions I think in retrospect I would go to a 7/7.5, but the main missions and just messing around in general is too much fun for me to go any lower.
7 years ago
I enjoyed many portions in the game as well, but I'm sure that Chris will agree, that it has to be a review that can be considered for everyone icon_wink.gif

that being said, I'm not the biggest fan of open-ended style games - though there were moments that were more fun than i've had in games like GTA
7 years ago
Is it just me or does the lead character look like a hair stylist?
7 years ago
yea his name's Pablo
7 years ago
I dunno who is approving development for these games, but I think they should be shot. This game has no appeal (to me) at all. I was actually 1/2 excited when I saw the title, thinking it may of been a adventure/thriller game based around the movie or something. But alas.

I mean, it's like a 10 year old designed the game, "Let's jump out of a plane, onto a car! Cool!!!!!" Games that try so hard to be cool annoy me!

Me runs off to lawnmower zombies.... icon_biggrin.gif
7 years ago
I love how you can go straight through helicopter blades...i've always wanted to do that...but only the coolest cats have this skill. Thank god for Pablo! icon_rolleyes.gif
7 years ago
I bought this game and I think it is really fun.

I agree that the handling for vehicles is'nt that great.

Though the graphics of the PS2 version are'nt that great, I love the draw distance.Unlike quite a few other games things don't dissapear 30 meters down the road.

I love the atmosphere of the game, especially when you're running around in the wilderness.

For me this one of the fun games I've played in a while.For some reason I don't enjoy most games las much as I used to.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  29/09/2006 (Released)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
  Action RPG
Year Made:

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