Avalanche Studios
Eidos
Action
1
09.27.06

Just Cause (Xbox 360)


Finally, a game is brave enough to tackle a recurring fantasy amongst the Xbox community…overthrowing governments! Forget stealing cars, holding up liquor stores, and beating zombies to death with guitars…Xbox 360’s Just Cause takes the classic “espionage” genre popularized by Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell and tears off its formal dressing to give its gamers what it truly desires…mindless destruction disguised as a complex, intelligently slapped together spy thriller!

Gameplay

Just Cause pits you as Rico Rodriguez, the CIA’s version of James Bond, sans the stupid gadgets and obsession with martinis. As Rodriguez, you are charged with the task of overthrowing the government of the island of San Esperito. But unlike other titles which prefer players use “the silent treatment” and work behind-the-scenes, in Just Cause you will be assassinating public figures, blowing up weapon caches and generally doing everything you can to cause people to turn their heads.

But Rodriguez isn’t doing it alone. When you’re not out trying to complete the about five and a half hours of required quests, you have the option of embarking on many of the “sidquests”, which usually consists of popping a cap in someone and taking some vital item off of their corpse. Tedious as they may be, the sidequests allow you to gain trust within the drug cartel and rebel factions on the island, and will provide you safehouses in which you can have access to exotic cars, weapons, and the always desirable save point. Don’t be fooled; the exotic cars and weapons won’t be any different from the ones you could just pick up in the game, but they sure do look purdy. Although the sidequests do lend a little variety from the “story mode”, they’re about as entertaining as the video game you can play at CJ’s house in GTA San Andreas.

And in the event that cocaine dealers and Marxist rebels aren’t necessarily available where you are, the game allows you to call the CIA for backup. You can either be extracted back to one of your safehouses, or get a vehicle drop. This helps save you a lot of useless traveling across the map. Granted, you will want to explore the world as much as possible. The only complaint one will have with the lush, beautiful island of San Esperito is that it’s just too big for the relatively little amount of carnage you will be wreaking on its residents.

The Story Mode itself is one of the more engaging in the “open-ended” game genre. Unlike most, where you will be given a cut-scene describing your mission and then a little caption and some money mysteriously added to your account after completing it, each of the 21 quests in the game offers a cut-scene before and after each mission, which always ends in some stunt-laden get away. The stunts in the game, one of its big selling points, seemed to have been designed to eliminate all gamer’s frustration, albeit at the cost of realism. Your grappling hook can attach to any vehicle, allowing you to ascend to the roof of it (including helictopers…oooookay…). Once you’re on the roof of a plane or helicopter, you can jump into the air, letting your parachute ease your descent. And it never snags, and you can repackage it as much as you want. It’s a great way to explore the island, and hey, you don’t see Solid Snake or that Splinter Cell guy jumping off of planes with that sort of reckless abandon. The grappling hook feature is fun and worth a little “tinkering around with”, but it would’ve made a lot more sense to be used on buildings and perhaps even as a weapon (like in those Kung Fu movies where one ninja always has that chain and hook that never works).

If the grappling hook trick doesn’t do it for you, you could always take the time to explore the many defects of the game. Gun turrets that levitate. Bouncing off of or going right through airplanes. Pulling a “Kitty Pryde” and walking through the jungle eye-level with the shrubs (get it? She was in the X-Men and walked through walls…whatever). And if searching for bugs just isn’t enough, you could always try do some of the impossible side quests; racing quests with checkpoints that play peek-a-boo and “item quests” with items spread so far across the map you’d need to call for backup from Stretch Armstrong.

Explosions, cartels, rebels, public assassinations, wooing the resident women…it’s all in the package of Just Cause. Unfortunately, smooth controls, fluid animation, and replay value isn’t. Better for a rental, the game is best enjoyed with as little dabbling in the monotonous sidequests and getting lost in the sea of bugs as possible. Just do what other CIA agents do…get in, do the job, plant a knife on them, and get out.

Graphics

The world is pretty, cars look fiercer than they really are, and the character models are a lot more realistic than in other “open-ended” genre titles. The animations are stiff, recycled, and unimaginative and the cutscenes aren’t anything you haven’t seen. For a regular Xbox title, it’s impressive. For an Xbox 360 title, it leaves you wanting more.

Sound

If you like Latin ambient music, this is the title for you. The sounds are realistic enough, although it’s universally understood that no game will ever replicate the true sound of a gun firing or a motorcycle crashing into a tree. Much like GTA, the voice acting is Mystery Science Theater 3000 worthy, with its overdone accents and clichéd dialogue.

Replay Value

Just Cause gives you a lot to do, you just won’t want to do it. The Story Mode can be completed on a sick day and the sidequests are repetitive and at times inane. The racing mode doesn’t provide you with an opponent, your character will spend countless minutes trying to pick up items that are thrown across the map as if God hates you, and no matter how much “support” the cartels and factions give you, they’re still as useless as Dynasty Warrior bodyguards. There’s a high chance that you will quit this game before you finish it.

Bottom Line:

For a first attempt at a video game from the studio, it gets an “A” for effort. It’s a change in a new direction for the “political espionage” genre, but unfortunately, the tedious sidequests, crappy animation and lack of replay value just screams “gimmick game”. Like games based off of newly released movies, buy at full price at your own risk.

Related Links:

Official Website for Just Cause

-Jimi Robertson




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