On a technical scale, Just Cause is underwhelming, but it's very entertaining, which makes it worth a play.
Yes, Just Cause truly does suck you in. I expected to just get past the main missions and finish it off, but instead I found myself doing all of the other things available. Besides the main missions, you're tasked to liberate enemy territories, race through timed courses, play through side missions, and go after collectibles. Oh, and of course, you can simply explore the giant sandbox and... blow crap up. These things are usually pretty fun to play through, and can certainly drain hours from a boring afternoon.
So, we get it, the game has a lot of options, but how does it play? Just Cause can best be described as a b-game. On a technical stand point, it's lacking, but it keeps you entertained regardless. The controls aren't always on your side, and I can't say I'm a fan of the auto aim, but it does work well enough to keep me entertained. Sadly, I can't say the same about the poorly controlled vehicles. Vehicles take some getting used to. They aren't easy to control, especially airplanes and helicopters. You'll get used to them eventually, but they're a pain, and it takes away from the experience. You're also given a handy grappling hook. It too takes some getting used to, but it's a good idea, and it was vastly improved on the sequel. The controls definitely take some getting used to, but they're not a deal breaker.
The game itself, as I've mentioned a thousand times, is pretty freaking entertaining. There are 21 story missions that anywhere from 5 minutes to about a half hour. The actual story isn't incredibly lengthy, but the missions are fun, even if the last 3 made me want to pull my hair out. Remember all of those options I mentioned early? Those expand the length a great deal. I have one more race to finish before I complete the game 100%, and I'm at 36 hours. Is this the length of something like GTA? No, but as I've mentioned, Just Cause is far from a blockbuster.
This side stuff can be on the repetitive side, but I enjoyed it. The most repetitive has got to be the liberation of territories. Each one is the same. Kill a group of enemies, blow up blockade, repeat 3 times, then capture a flag or kill a guy. I love killing as much as the next guy, but it does get old. However, as a completionist, I found myself going back again and again. It gets repetitive, but it's not completely boring. I mean, what can be so boring about killing people and blowing stuff up, even if you have to do it over 100 times? Collectibles are self explanatory. Just Cause decided to be nice though and mark them on your map. Thanks guys! The achievement list kept me collecting, even if I found it kind of a chore. Side Missions vary. They're either fun... or totally lame. They're all the same though. Go from point a to point b, do a simple task, go back. Think of it as a typical GTA mission. Most of these involve stealing somebody's car, collecting an object, or killing somebody, and then you go back. I've heard a lot of complaints about the races due to the vehicles controls, but I found them pretty fun. Maybe that's just because I like racing. As repetitive as I found most of this, I still had a lot of fun, and I kept coming back. Now I'm one race away from 1000 GS. Who woulda thunk it?
Just Cause is cheesy as they come. It's got a lot of problems holding it back. Still, I enjoyed the experience. It kept dragging me in, and I couldn't escape the game's clutches. If you have the money, pick up the sequel. It greatly improves upon the original and you don't need to know the story before picking it up. However, the original is still worth a play. Fans of sandbox games should not hesitate to pick this up. It's cheap... and it's a blast.