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Just Cause (PlayStation 2) artwork

Just Cause (PlayStation 2) review

"When all these elements come together, you might actually be fooled into thinking Just Cause is a decent game. Don't. All is not what it seems."

Night falls over San Esperito. Amidst the swaying trees and winding streets, between the towers mountains and rushing rivers, a group of drug-runners hurry to distribute their product, working around what an honest eye would perceive as a humble farm. They package, they stack, they load it all onto a truck, they prepare to drive out and distribute, further funding President Mendoza, the ruthless dictator who dominates their fellow men.

But wait! The night's silence is pierced by the steady hum of a helicopter. They look up just in time to see missiles stream from the darkness and crash into the false farm, destroying their factory in a fiery blaze. They catch sight of the helicopter and fire futily, as random grunts are wont to do. Their target becomes smaller when the pilot leaps from the cockpit and they see his razor-sharp visage and grease-soaked hair clear in the darkened sky.

RICO RODRIGUEZ! Somewhere, a mariachi band begins to play.

Rico releases his parachute as the unmanned helicopter crashes behind him and riddles the thugs below with shots from his twin pistols, his foes so stunned by his Enrique Iglesias looks and Antonio Banderas voice that they forget to even shoot back. But do Rico's feet ever touch the ground? No! The dirt is unworthy of supporting the polished shoes of Rico. Instead, he lands on the top of the drug-runner's truck, driving off with their product and leading the crooks on a chase through San Esperito's dusty streets. Bullets fly, cars explode, the police join the mess, but before the sun rises Rico is standing triumphant at his base, a truckload of cocaine recovered and a covert mission for the CIA accomplished.


That's all gameplay, and it's a prime example of when Just Cause is at its best. Dig the highlights:

Commandeering vehicles: Sweet. Nothing new, but sweet. You can hijack cars, of course, but you can steal other things, too; planes, helicopters, even jet-powered speed boats with homing missiles and built-in machine guns. As time goes on you'll have instant access to the heavier stuff, and you can always find what you want if you look hard enough. Would you rather invade the political prison by air instead of the boat your set up with? Find a helicopter. Think a high-speed getaway might be in your best interest? Steal a motorbike.

Aeriel Acrobatics: But it's how he takes what he wants that's really interesting; it's amazing what a simple parachute adds to the standard sandbox formula. A true daredevil, Rico has no trouble stealing a helicopter while it's flying, grabbing on to the tail and hopping straight into the cockpit. Physically impossible it may be, but it does look good. Leaping from plane to plane. Feel falling. Gliding around. Master of the skies.

Thrilling car chases: It doesn't take much for the entire country to be gunning for you; the drug cartels, the police, even an elite special tactics shadow organization will all come barreling after you. Trying to lose them in the trees, swerving through buildings, even driving off cliffs and using your parachute to ditch them below are all fair-game. You need some creativity.

When all these elements come together, you might actually be fooled into thinking Just Cause is a decent game. Don't. All is not what it seems.

Actually, scratch that, things are exactly what they seem, because Just Cause is an ugly game. Now, don't get me wrong, San Esperito is quite possibly the largest environment I've ever played in. Rivers, islands, cities both big and small give the illusion of a real country. And I hear that, on the Xbox 360 and PC, it all looks amazing.

But I'm playing this on the Playstation 2 and, frankly, it looks like crap. The trees lack details, the people lack detail, the cars lack detail, every texture seems washed out, every movement seems fake, and it's just a shame that they poured so much effort into creating the world and so little effort into making the world's component. The graphics are reminiscent of a first generation PSX game, and with the PS2 nearing its dying days and its power so clearly defined, that's a shame.

But it's not the biggest shame.

Take the example that I used for an introduction, where I had Rico flying a helicopter. It was fun, yes. But, thing is, you're not supposed to have a helicopter for that mission; the game suggests sneaking in on foot. So how did I get that helicopter?

Simple. The triangle button is pressed when you want to leap onto a vehicle. While walking along en route to the farm, I pressed the triangle button on a whim. Rico then leapt into the air, flew through a forest, went straight through a mountain and grabbed a helicopter that was two miles away. This game is glitchy as hell, and while I lucked up and fell bass-ackwards into a happy mistake, that was one good thing in a sea of bad.

Imagine fighting your way down a mountain, setting satellite trackers in strategic spots, cutting through the local militia, reaching a ladder and beginning to climb so you can reach the finale spot...and you do climb. Only the ladder you're now climbing is one you passed at the mountaintop. The game dragged you all the way back up, and you now have the distinct pleasure of fighting your way through a pissed-off militia. Again. Yay.

But that's not as threatening as it sounds, really, because your enemies all have single-digit IQs. They'll run around in random patterns, shooting at everything except you. They'll crash helicopters, cars and boats before you even do anything. Sometimes you'll turn around and they'll just be standing there. Looking at you. Motionless. Staring. A gun in their hands, but no inkling to use them.

Perhaps they are stunned by the sheer lameness of Rico Rodriguez. After all, he is, as his creators so eloquently put it, ‘James Bond, Mad Max, El Mariachi, Wolverine, Punisher [Comic Geek’s Note: Rico wishes he was as cool as the Punisher], Rambo, Tony Montana, Jack Bauer, Han Solo and Vincent Vega all rolled into one.’ Whatever. He’s a guy who jumps off planes, shoots people, makes double entendres and has sex with the recipients of said double entendres. Which is fine, really, more power to him, but it makes him something of a ripoff. Just think James Bond with a Spanish accent and a bad sense of humor.

It’s funny though, because Rico is like most other elements of Just Cause: Slapped together from parts of better games. There’s some originality with the whole free-falling / Parachute thing, but that’s about it. Mercenaries did regime-changing and politics better. Grand Theft Auto and True Crime boast superior action, superior plot and superior characters. The washed out graphics and constant glitchiness add to the mediocrity. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Just Cause was a rushed game, hoping to WOW people with a fancy demo, entice them with promises of an intriguing world, then leave them with a sub-par game before they know what happened.

Of course, I know better.


lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (October 05, 2006)

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