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Just Cause Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Avalanche Software
PIV 1400, 512MB RAM, 5.8GB HDD, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Sep 26, 06
|» All About Just Cause on ActionTrip|
Of all the unlikely superheroes, Avalanche Studios' latest title, Just Cause, seems to have nailed the unlikeliest - a suave Latino hero (black ops operative) by the name of Rico Rodriguez. Being a black ops operative and all, Rico wears a tight black outfit, has greasy hair and a cross on his neck chain. Rico is a killer with the ladies and has one serious (and I do mean serious) parachuting fetish. I can already picture this guy freefalling from the sky and onto a toilet seat when he needs to take a dump. The extra gel in his hair is by no means a stereotype of some Antonio Banderas wannabe - it's a neat little trick to make Rico more aerodynamic. After all, it's not easy to parachute off a mountain, use a grapple hook gun to hook onto a helicopter in mid air and then hurl yourself somehow onto a flying helicopter (with a spinning rotor and everything), jumping into the pilot seat in the process.
Ah, this feels liberating!
Neat particle effects.
Rico can do all that and more as he wreaks havoc all across a make-believe banana state in South/Central America, the island nation of San Esperito.
Hopefully, my introduction made it quite clear that Just Cause is an over-the-top action game favoring, well, over-the-top stuff. It has a flimsy, clich'd storyline which borders on B movie/soap opera "quality," with characters that are exaggerated and cartoon-ish in almost every way.
Just Cause delivers a free-roaming, sandbox type of gameplay experience. The island nation is pretty huge and the idea is for the player to have one main story line and then a number of side missions that will allow for the unlocking of new weapons, vehicles and such.
The territory of San Esperito is exceptionally large (250,000 acres of mountains, jungles, beaches, cities, and villages to explore, according to the official site), and the landscapes look great. With volumetric clouds and full 3D backgrounds, the landscapes are very much reminiscent of Far Cry's paradise island. Gameplay-wise Just Cause takes some cues from GTA, minus the actually engaging story and characters.
The great thing about the action itself is that you can man all sorts of vehicles and really take Rico wherever your heart desires. During the "liberation missions," the combat can heat up nicely with massive fire fights, and once you get the hang of the stunts, they will occasionally provide some good few minutes of fun.
The bad side to the game is that the main story is really unappealing, mostly because it's so trite and clich'd. The same can be said about Rico who has the action appeal of Roberto Rodriguez' anti-hero gone terribly wrong. No, wait, let me rephrase that - he has the appeal of Mike Horner playing an action-hero, or Sly Stallone in movies where he has control over the "creative direction." In other words, Rico is not as appealing as Avalanche hoped he would be.
On top of that, the vehicle handling is off, and the AI and animation of the bad guys are far from what you'd call good. Especially the death animation. To be fair to the game, the way that Just Cause works, this is hardly intended to be its strong point (the AI that is), so this doesn't take away from the gameplay as much as one might expect.
I said do the Polka, bitch!
Beats catching a cab.
Ideally, the game allows for such neat stuff as province control where you get to change the balance of power in the game world by building alliances with the local guerrillas and drug cartel.
Theoretically, this should ensure for quite a bit of replayability. Sadly, this is not the case, as once you've finished the main story and unlocked some of the most powerful choppers and weapons; there isn't really much of an incentive for the player to keep playing.
Just Cause had plenty of potential, and in terms of the engine and the technology behind it, it delivers quite nicely. In addition, just looking at the crazy aerial stunts that Rico performs, the game comes off as looking rather spectacular.
Unfortunately, these fun elements simply don't gel well together, so the end product seems rather flat. That's the best way to describe it really. For a game that tries hard to create a flamboyant image for itself, Just Cause simply lacks the punch and the personality to truly deliver on that front. On the bright side, Avalanche does show a lot of potential. Hopefully, they will learn from their mistakes and come back with a stronger contender next time.
6.5 Above Average
Pretty, great terrain rendering, Rico's aerial stunts, huge landscapes, sense of immersion you get from being able to do what you like in the world;
Lacks character, flimsy story, Rico doesn't have the presence and charisma needed, no real incentive to play once the main campaign is done.
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