Ever since I finished off Far Cry back in 2004, I was yearning for more of that idyllic paradise theme – clear waters, palm trees, vast mountain ranges and of course, plenty of explosions in an open world environment. Whilst Far Cry done some of that, it just didn’t fill my paradise palette. Well after close to two years of waiting, my palette salivation has been answered in the form of this game ‘Just Cause’, developed by Swedish Avalanche Studios and published by Eidos Interactive. Whilst this game suffers a similar fate to Far Cry, being a lacklustre storyline, the true open world environment and causing mayhem really shines in this one. Granted it’s not perfect however it’s still great over-the-top fun.
The plot is all about drugs, controlling the country, meeting up with hot women and a couple of other things I won’t delved into as it’s a minor spoiler otherwise. You play the main character named Rico Rodriguez, who looks and sounds remarkably like Antonio Banderas, especially in the film ‘Desperado’. And to take one step further, he even dresses like him. The director of that film Robert Rodriguez, well the similarities is beyond calling it a coincidence. Heck I cannot blame Avalanche Studios as Desperado was indeed a great film to boot.
The gameplay is viewed in third person, meaning you can see your character at any given time. There is only minimal amount of first person view, mainly changing the camera angle when driving. And thankfully the third person view does not take up half the screen. Also, it plays upon an open world sandbox type of game – meaning you can literally go anywhere, anytime with no real hindrance. You can even climb the largest of mountains if you aim it right as there’s a couple of ‘invisible walls’ to navigate. To memory, the map size is just over 1000km2 – that’s one huge map to conquer.
Traversing the land on foot (or even run) can literally take hours to complete. If you want to do this, you are more than welcome however there are cooler ways to traverse the area. As advertised, there are a whopping eighty-nine vehicles to command. Ranges from civilian ground vehicles to airplanes to boats to military tanks and the list goes on and on. However, controlling them is a little challenging as the slightest oversteering will cause your vehicle to spin 180 degrees so get use to it.
As for weapons, there are plenty to choose from and this forms the crux of the gameplay, along with the vehicles. All missions require something to be blown up or be killed – it’s as simple as that. The choice of weapon / vehicle used can make or break any given situation; it’s like viewing the difference between a hard slog or performing a bulldozer effect. Most of the earlier missions are easy enough to complete however from three quarters in, the mission difficulty ramps up exponentially. However, there are ways to ease the frustrations though and that’s for you to discover.
As far as main missions go, there’s about nineteen of them (and a couple more after that). You can easily knock it off around five to six hours however it will be a little bit of hard slogging near the end. If you are aiming just to complete the main missions, then don’t bother playing this. The main missions are not exactly mind boggling however still entertaining in its own right. Being an open world where anything goes, you really want to invest time outside the box – so to speak.
And when I mean outside the box, I mean taking time to complete the side missions. I think there are about twenty of them however most are pretty repetitive – that is go kill someone or blow something up. Yet there are other side missions that offers to liberate a town from the government oppression, capture a military base or even assist the Rioja taking over a safe house. Whilst they too can become repetitive, I really enjoy them though as you will be fighting alongside with a bunch of Riojas / Guerrillas and boy it can be chaotic.
I won’t go into details of what needs to be done (as taking over a safe house / town has set objectives within them) yet the main benefit of doing them is you get to unlock some very cool items and save points. Why save points are important is because it’s the only location you can save, other than finishing off a main mission (for which it autosaves). Also, by assisting both the Riojas / Guerrillas, you climb up their ranks and earn even more cooler stuff. You see where I’m heading at? Earning cooler stuff equals making things a little easier for you later on. Granted for most parts, it’s not a difficult game however you soon will appreciate that, say having a helicopter can make travelling a lot easier; or taking over those damn military bases with a rocket launcher clears away a nice path for you.
However, there is a downside to this and it’s trying to find out when liberating towns are due to unlock. Liberating safe houses can be done at any given time however to liberate towns, the government needs to be marked ‘unstable’ for any particular sector. The game does a lousy job letting you know this therefore I’m going to let you know when the best time is – after completing a main mission. Once you knock off a main mission, take a look at the political map and if the sector is red (government unstable), go and liberate all the towns in that particular sector. Yes, it now sounds simple however trust me when I say this, it wasn’t explained well enough doing my play through as I totally ignored the main missions as I was too busy doing the same friggin random side missions (like killing some random dude or pick up a parcel) over and over and over again in hope the government becomes ‘unstable’.
With all those wonderful toys to collect, your main armament, the grapping hook is the bomb. A little hard to get used initially however I highly recommend training that sucker. Just practice it on random cars on the highway or do a base jump only to hook onto a passing helicopter. If you manage to grab hold of any vehicle, you can control it. So, to those pesky helicopters that just won’t go away, well grapple it and take it over. Or likewise with a boat; just anything!
Visually the game is impressive to say the least. Takes a beast to run it in full glory (at the time of release) however totally worth it. There are plenty of beautiful vistas about and many-a-times I park my car just to admire the scenery. Also, most towns / cities and even missions are located in the most exotic locations possible. It’s truly a beauty to behold. Also, the engine that powers this game, Avalanche Engine 1.0 (funny that) has one of the best practices for procedural generated environments – it generates the foliage and not the landscape! So, any mountain ranges, waterways and so on are ‘handmade’ and the foliage (like trees, rocks and so on) are procedurally generated.
A special mention goes to the musical scores as they are awesome to listen to. Composer Rob Lord has done a wonderful job mixing up the music to the scene at hand. I really love the score when you visit a safe house filled with bikini clad women – wonderful stuff. The voice acting, on the other hand, is average at best. Other ambiance sounds like crickets chirping, waves lapping on the shoreline and those brightly colourful explosions gives two thumbs up for me.
Just Cause is a game that you shouldn’t take seriously. It is over-the-top fun and sometimes questionable (e.g. like how Rico enters a moving helicopter from the top without getting bladed?). As the title states, there will be many times Rico does the unbelievable – why is that is because…just cause. Just ride the wave of absurdity and all will be fine. A game that’s filled with exotic locations, exotic cars with exotic women and armed with a grappling hook in an open world environment where everything goes, you cannot go wrong with that.