Just Cause ReviewCain Dornan
Free-roaming immersive worlds have become quite popular in games over recent years. With the debut of mainstream, free-roaming extravagenza that was Grand Theft Auto III, the instant obsession and love of being able to go where you want to when you want to without any parameters insantly struck gamers. It's understandable, really, considering human's natural desire to be free in what we do. Since GTA III, countless games have capitalised on this free-roaming experience, offering gamers the opportunity to run wild in large, open landscapes.
While we all love freedom, there's been one small problem that has been incurred with the implementation of this feature in most games: the location in which these are set. Far too many games that have implemented free roaming abilities have been set in urban locations, mostly within large sprawling cities where the environment consists of little more than concrete grey. As such, the prospect of adventuring into the wild has ultimately been limited by the number of highways in which you can travel on and where these lead to. While GTA: San Andreas had a fine attempt at further revolutionizing the genre it first created, it still too was a little too limited to suburbian locales.
Fortunately, newly-formed Swedish development studio Avalanche Studios has attempted to change this tiring tradition with the release of their free-roaming title, Just Cause. While, yes, the game does feature city streets to some extent, the majority of the gameplay is spent traversing through colourful South American rainforests. Set across countless small islands, Just Cause features free-roaming gameplay that isn't quite revolutionary, but refreshing. It doesn't introduce anything wholely new to the genre. What it does do is refresh an experience that we are all tiring of, providing open-ended gameplay that is much unlike countless other games in its genre.
This is one of Just Cause' strong points. There's several other positive aspects that we'll cover shortly, but the most important thing right now is to understand exactly what Just Cause is about.
Much like other similar games, Just Cause' storyline revolves around crime. There's various gangs and alliances featured in the game, each battling to take control of specific desires. There's the drug cartel, the guerilla revolutionists and the corrupt government, of whom your sent in to deal with. In Just Cause, you take on the role of none other than Rico Rodriguez, your typical gun-totting, explosion-setting CIA agent sent in to overthrow the local government of San Esperito, who are suspected of being involved in the creation and dealing of WMDs. Supported by two CIA agents, your task is to discover exactly what the local government is up to and put a stop to it.
It's your typical save-the-world-on-your-own type game, putting you in control of a fair variety of different weapons and vehicles. You'll be able to drive and steal vehicles at your discreation, as well as calling in vehicle drops using your informative PDA whenever you are in need of a quick ride. There's four vehicles in which you can call in at almost any point in the game, which include a high-tech speed boat, a 4WD, a dirt motorbike and a small gyrocopter for getting into the air with little effort. Talk of which, Just Cause focuses a fair amount of its gameplay in the air, offering up the ability to drive a variety of planes and helicopters, as well as using your parachute to make your way around the large island. Talking of which, you can make use of a grappling hook to grab ahold of vehicles and then release your parachute to glide along behind them. A useful and fairly unique feature for travelling around the large, sprawling landscape.
The inclusion of a parachute is a very useful utility given the amount of flying and jumping from atop of mountains you'll be doing. You'll soon find that island's terrain is anything but flat, and that being able to jump from a high position rather than wasting time slowly making your way down is a very welcomed inclusion.
The game offers up some twenty-odd story missions to play through, offering up an engaging storyline and a fair variety in what you'll do. From performing assassination through to sabotaging structures, initiating car chases and whiping out entire armies make up a handful of the different missions that you'll take part in. There's full cinematics prior to each mission, and occasionally upon completing, depicting briefing sessions with your CIA contacts as you make your next plan to topple the corrupt El Presidente from control over San Espirito. This also ties into some of the optional side missions that fills the island, usually requiring you to help rebel forves overthrow government control in small provinces to slowly starve the government of control over their own country. These side missions usually involve little more than killing most of the government forces in the area and destroying a series of blockades that finally lead to the province's flag, marking which team has rule over the region. Gaining control of new regions can be interesting to behin with, however, the repetitive nature of taking control of each province quickly becomes tiring and looses its appeal.
Other side missions range from collecting items, assassinating mostly unimportant figures, making deals with foreign businessmen and participating in a series of unexciting and fairly pointless races, which simply involve driving from Point A to Point B within a time limit.
Just Cause is completely absent of any multiplayer functionalities, which can be disappointing depending on your point of view. Participating in full-scale wars on a tropical paradise such as this one could have been interesting. However, given the functionality and gameplay basing of the game, we believe it would be very difficult in implementing successfully. We'd rather see the development team put all their time and focus into creating a great single player experience, rather than splitting their resources and working on multiplayer features that are bound to be disappointing.
Just Cause takes on an interesting graphical approach, offering a mixture of both lifelike and cartoon-inspired visuals that are fairly unique to see. The game adopts some interesting use of colours that gives it a kind of plastic appearance, with the colours of cars, trees and human flesh not exactly realistic. It's good to see a game taking a slightly unique approach in the visuals used, however, some gamers who demand more realistic accuacy in their games may be annoyed by the developer's art style. The game is presented with only the occasional loading screen prior to a mission, with no loading section interrupting play as you make your way across all 1,025Km squared of island. Animation is solid, albeit kept fairly simple, with many bodily movements, especially the movements made by Rico, being used a little too often throughout the game.
There's some solid voice acting on offer here, ranging from the accent-heavy yells from the locals through to Rico smooth and cool voice work. The game offers up a very exotic mix of music to accompany your escapades across the tropical island.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.