E3 06: Just Cause First Look

We get an exclusive look at Eidos and Avalanche Studios' upcoming multiplatform action game.

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Just Cause is the upcoming action game from Eidos and developer Avalanche Studios that is aiming to put a new twist on the third-person action genre. We finally had the chance to get a demo of a work-in-progress version of the PC game to see just what Avalanche has cooking. Though still rough around the edges, the game has a scruffy charm that has potential.

Fighter jets, helicopters, speedboats--you'll have plenty of ways to get where you're going in Just Cause.
Fighter jets, helicopters, speedboats--you'll have plenty of ways to get where you're going in Just Cause.

Just Cause casts you as CIA field operative Rico Rodriguez who is tasked with helping to bring about a "regime change" on the balmy South American island known as San Esperito. You're tapped for the gig when it's discovered that the corrupt dictator currently in power has a disturbingly robust collection of weapons of mass destruction. Rather than opt for a full-on assault, your superiors send you to go do the business on the sly.

The story translates into an open-world, third-person action game that aims to bring a new twist to the genre. The action will take place on the island of San Esperito and the surrounding areas. The scope of the game was one of the most eye-popping aspects of the demo. The area you'll be working in encompasses the main island and smaller land masses off its coast that all amount to thousands of acres of land. The game's open-ended structure appears to be taking full advantage of this massive playground, as the action will have you adventuring on land, sea, and air.

The mission-based structure finds you connecting with a liaison that dispenses each assignment. In keeping with the fluid nature of the action, the hub, which is a mobile home, travels to different locations as you make your way around the island doing your business. We like the number of options you'll have to complete your coup d'etat duties. The missions we saw in the demo ran the gamut from simply taking people out to trailing a target without being seen. While the game does indeed rely on a solid set of gameplay mechanics that have been seen before--you'll be able to run around, shoot, jack vehicles, and race around in cars, boats, and planes--the game's open scale should be a key differentiator.

The most unique gameplay twist is a harpoon cable you fire from a modified pistol that you can use in a variety of different ways. The coolest thing we did was use the harpoon while in a parachute, where we were able to parasail off of moving objects such as cars and boats. Besides the aforementioned cool factor, the cable comes in pretty handy when you have to tail people--if you're careful, you can just snare their car and hover along behind them. At the same time, the parachute is a pretty handy thing to have, as you can use it while performing stunts when leaping from vehicles. Though the two mechanics are over-the-top additions to the game, they also ensure that there will be fun to be had from experimenting with them. Along the same lines, the game will feature a streamlined transportation system that will keep you from spending too much time running to get to different points on the island. Because Rico is a CIA spook, you'll be able to call for extraction when you want to move around quickly and get to business, although you will always have the option of jacking yourself a car, truck, or motorcycle and enjoying a leisurely drive if you like.

From what we saw, we're pretty intrigued by the creative ways you'll be completing missions. Besides the standard missions you'll take on for solo action, you can get pretty devious and play the island's factions against one another. You'll be able to incite a rebellion among the masses or build alliances with rebel forces and drug cartels to get some extra backup. We'll be curious to see how it all works in practice, but it certainly sounds like it could be cool.

It's fun at first, but the landing is hell.
It's fun at first, but the landing is hell.

The visuals are coming along pretty well, but they are also the source of the scruffiness we mentioned. At first blush the game looks quite impressive due to the massive scale and ability to go anywhere. However, at the moment, there are the issues of camera and frame rate inconsistency, which are what you'd expect from a work-in-progress title. From the sounds of it, Avalanche is aiming to pack Just Cause with some nice bits of eye candy. There will also be a day-and-night cycle, though it isn't implemented yet. The game is also peppering Havok physics into the action, although the team is including just enough to keep things fun as opposed to providing a 100 percent realistic experience. From what we've seen, it all seems to be working out OK. We're just hoping the animation and frame rate are tightened up to ensure a smooth experience.

Just Cause is looking like it won't be lacking for content. The gameplay appears to be doing some interesting things that should help separate it from the open-world, third-person action game pack. The game is slated to ship this fall for the PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 2. Look for more on the game from this year's E3.

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