LOS ANGELES--Lots of action games have tried to base themselves purely around the concept of lots of ludicrous stunts, but few have taken it to the silly, over-the-top levels that Eidos and developer Avalanche Studios' Just Cause is aiming for. In the game, you play a top-secret operative named Rico Rodriguez who bears more than a striking resemblance to a certain "desperado" from a particularly popular action film. The game takes place on a huge island that basically amounts to a small country, and you'll be able to shoot, drive, fly, and even skydive your way across the entire thing. At E3 2006, developers from Avalanche were on hand to show off the Xbox 360 version of the game for the first time. We sat down with the game, and frankly, were pretty blown away by the scope of it.
Let's just get the big bullet point out of the way immediately, shall we? The island of San Esperito on which the game takes place is 250,000 acres big. Let that number sink in for a moment. 250,000. The game streams environmental data constantly, so whether you're just standing around on the ground or flying over the area via airplane, you'll be able to see as much of the environment as you could in real life. Aerial shots were particularly stunning. Seeing this huge island area spread out over such a wide distance is really something else, and the fact that you can just go to any land mass on the island is even crazier. Nuttiest of all, the developers are going to aim for the same size and scope in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game--we'll see how that goes.
Primarily, Just Cause is a third-person action game with driving and flying sections. The basic third-person action stuff should be pretty familiar to you. It's got basic weapons combat, melee, duck-and-cover mechanics, and the like. The really interesting stuff, however, is what you can do with vehicles. Many of the game's missions involve covering long distances in relatively short periods, so you'll often find yourself using a helicopter or small plane to travel those distances quicker than you would with a car. Also, you don't have to go searching for a landing strip. If you're in a plane, you can hop out of the cockpit and jump onto the wing of the plane, riding it like a total lunatic. From there, you can just let go, and skydive your way to your desired location. The game lets you control Rico in midair as much as any professional skydiver can control themselves, and once you parachute in, you can either drop to the ground, or, if you happen to see a nearby car, you can use a grappling-hook gun to shoot onto the back of the car and parasail (or is it paradriving?) your way around. From there, you can reel the hook in to land on the roof of the car, and if you want, pull the driver out and take over for yourself. And even after you're driving, you can hop back out and onto the roof if you feel like ghost-riding the whip for a little while.
The whole game is fundamentally centered around doing really, really ridiculous things. Firing off grenades and shooting them out of the air, blowing just about anything and everything you can up, the aforementioned aerial ludicrousness--clearly, this isn't a game that's trying to be too hard-boiled or take itself too seriously. While there were some visual rough edges in the build we saw, and a few random gameplay quirks we noticed, we're generally pretty impressed by Just Cause's E3 showing and think it has the potential to be a crazy bit of fun for Xbox 360 owners (and potentially PC, PS2 and Xbox owners as well). We'll be sure to bring you more on Just Cause in the near future.