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Just Cause (Xbox 360) artwork

Just Cause (Xbox 360) review


"Just Cause starts out in spectacular style ; It throws you out of a plane! As you hurtle towards the island of San Esperito, you can't help but think "This is cool." Upon landing, you are thrust straight into a gunfight with several assailants attacking your friend, with your job being to save his life by ending theirs. Then, before you even have time to catch your breath, you jump on the back of a truck which speeds off towards your destination. Cars chase you, and even helicopters join ..."



Just Cause starts out in spectacular style ; It throws you out of a plane! As you hurtle towards the island of San Esperito, you can't help but think "This is cool." Upon landing, you are thrust straight into a gunfight with several assailants attacking your friend, with your job being to save his life by ending theirs. Then, before you even have time to catch your breath, you jump on the back of a truck which speeds off towards your destination. Cars chase you, and even helicopters join in, only to be torn to shreds by the chain gun you man.

After what are possibly the greatest opening ten minutes in videogame history, the thought strikes you again that ... "This is cool!"

The cut-scene that follows explains the premise of the game. You are Rico Rodriguez, and your job is to help facilitate regime changes for the CIA. This amounts to visiting countries, killing both police and the military, and helping out the local guerillas and cartels. How do you help them out? Generally by killing police and the military.

Whilst this might sound like the recipe for a very repetitive game, Just Cause avoids this problem by simple dint of being .... HUGE. San Esperito covers 1024 km2 of virtual estate, every inch of which is explorable. You can travel on foot, by car, by motorbike, speedboat, and helicopter. You can even parasail, by attaching your grappling hook to the back of a passing vehicle. Furthermore, any shred of realism is thrown out of the window in favour of exciting and impressive stunts. Don't like your car? Just jump onto the roof while it is still driving, and jump onto another one instead. Getting shot at by a helicopter? Fire your grappling hook, and kick the pilot out in mid-air! All the while mariachi music pumps out, to match the on-screen intensity.

Missions are either of the 'Go to point A, collect item B, deliver it to point C' variety, or else they are 'Kill all the police/military here to take over the area'. And, to start with at least, they are generally quite easy. Enemies happily run into your bullets, and your health even recharges if it gets low enough. This has the effect of turning you into a seemingly invincible death-dealing machine, and makes the game feel a little TOO easy. But the ease does not matter because you will be having plenty of fun at this point. The story itself is fairly short, but you can take your own sweet time completing it. Between missions you can enter races, engage in collect missions, or just generally wreak havoc on the island!

You will be loving this game.

Until about halfway through the game, that is, when things take a drastic downhill turn. Suddenly, the missions don't flow the same. Suddenly, the game starts using cheap tricks to hinder you. Worse yet, things start to go wrong. It becomes unclear what you are meant to do in a mission. On several occasions an objective I destroyed simply did not register as destroyed, and my target was pointing to something that no longer existed. The only cure was to reload my last save. This is completely unacceptable, and should never have made it past testing.

And, you realise that the difficulty curve is less than smooth. You may well spend half an hour on a mission, only to complete the next one on your first attempt. When you do retry a mission, you will find that the amount of enemies you face is almost completely random, and is not in keeping with the consistency shown in the earlier missions. Attempt #2 may flood you with enemies, whereas attempt #3 may leave you to your own devices. You may parachute from your helicopter, only to find that you didn't land where you needed to, and now have to restart the mission because there is just no way to make it to your objective. It just feels somewhat rushed.

The collect and race missions lose their spark. You will grow tired of the AI that insists on constantly getting in your way while you just want to get to the next checkpoint. (Sometimes, cars literally spawn in front of you.) You will learn to loathe any and all time spent on foot on the island, and yet you will be forced to spend most of your time this way due to the unerring accuracy with which your vehicles can be destroyed. There are just too many trees. San Esperito is huge, but only about a fifth of it is worth traversing. Most of the island consists of forests and mountains, and you will simply long for some road.

Ultimately, the game is a one-trick pony. The undeniable coolness of the stunts soon pales next to the undeniable boredom that comes from trekking through miles of forest YET AGAIN. Gunplay also frustrates, as Rico chooses to target the vehicle instead of the 6 men that are shooting at him. And WHAT THE HELL is with the lack of a manual reload button? It would be a small thing, but it exists in a world alongside several other small things, all of which combine to become a thing that is not so small.

Just Cause has moments of sheer brilliance, but ultimately it infuriates more often than it invigorates. Rico can jump into a moving gunship, yet is unable to climb on top of a small shed. The story can be completed within a weekend, but you may need to force yourself to do it. The collection missions, takeovers, and liberations start off as cool, but end up as repetitive. I lost count of how many times I was sent to retrieve cell phones for the guerillas.

It is a shame, because a simple patch could fix many of the problems that befall the game. The potential is there for a truly enjoyable experience. As it stands, you have a good day or two of fun before the grind takes over, and you play on out of duty rather than fun.

It simply peaks too soon. By giving you all the best toys at the start, and then rendering them almost unusable, Just Cause cripples itself in a vain attempt to extend playtime. File this one under 'missed opportunity'.

Rating: 7/10

cheekylee's avatar
Community review by cheekylee (May 31, 2007)

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