Just Cause


Is big always best? Certainly some big things are very impressive; Big Ben for instance is a world marvel, its grandeur overcoming every other time-telling device on this planet, its chimes that mark each hour sends tingles down your spine. Yet as brilliant as Big Ben is, you just can’t wear it on your wrist.

Just Cause is a bit like Big Ben, beautifully grand, meticulously constructed with the primary intention to provide shock and awe and to blow onlookers away with its unrivalled ambition.

However, where Big Ben justifies itself by bringing reams of tourists flooding into London - Just Cause's grandiose nature simply doesn’t work.

Its looks can only achieve their impressive impact by being spread over distances that just don’t afford a pleasant gaming experience; Just Cause is the story of Beauty is the Beast.

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Let’s start with the good aspects of the game. Just Cause is genuinely one of the most beautiful games I have seen so far on the next-generation platform. Taking a large dollop of inspiration from Far Cry, the game takes place on a set of tropical islands in the Carribean. The draw distance is huge, revealing miles and miles of exotic looking terrain when viewed from the sky (which is where you start the game - skydiving from a plane). From a distance Just Cause sucks you in, delivering a world unlike any other you have ever seen.

This setting delivers on an initial promise of freedom on a massive scale. You take the role of a special agent called Rico. A ‘James Bond’ of sorts, with the ability to take control of a wide range of vehicles; motorbikes, planes, helicopters and cars amongst others. This variety of ways to get around the island is a flawed gem – ‘Yes’ I want to be able to choose my vehicle to move round the island but ‘No’, I don’t want to spend thirty minutes of my precious time travelling from place to place.

Action Packed

Simply put, this game is a prettier, more action packed version of the flawed PC game, Boiling Point. Thankfully, Just Cause doesn’t suffer from the huge amount of bugs Boiling Point contained but it still suffers from the annoying problem of actually getting from mission to mission. Comparisons will also be drawn with the 360’s other recent sprawling-world game, Saints Row and understandably so.

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In Just Cause you take on missions in the order you wish to tackle them similar in style to Saints Row. The early missions task you with taking control of various areas on the map to build up your guerrilla army and ultimately topple the government. These ‘capture-the-flag’ missions get tedious quickly, with repetitive running and gunning not offering much in the way of a) a challenge or b) an interesting targeting system. At best minimal skill is required to shoot your way through hordes of bad guys and the games friendly NPC’s are about as useless as a fart in a methane factory.

The same cannot be said for the over zealous police officers in the game. So determined are these characters to see that you are brought to justice for your actions, they’ll quite happily perform suicide missions to stop your get-away. As many of the roads twist around mountain tops, with huge cliffs either side, the police quite regularly just go pedal-to-the-metal, hurtling into you and then bouncing off into the caverns below. This actually serves as one of the games best features, highlighting Just Cause’s crazy nature and emphasising the departure from reality that this game has strived to impress upon you.

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Rico’s special abilities also need a mention. For starters he can summon, through his PDA, vehicle drops. This is a neat and necessary feature that means at no point should you be wondering around in the jungle looking for a vehicle to continue the game. Rico is also able to jump onto the bonnet of a moving vehicle, either from the air as he parachutes to the ground or whilst he is driving the car himself. When combined with the grappling hook, another special ability, this feature allows for some truly spectacular moments.

In one instance I was being chased by an enemy helicopter. Leaping onto the bonnet of my vehicle, which had just begin a plummet over the edge of a cliff, I quickly use the grappling gun to grab onto the helicopter and haul myself up away from the exploding wreckage. Interactive action scenes like these feel as though they have been ripped straight out of Hollywood – they are fluid and enjoyable and lead to some memorable experiences.

These in game moments are not paralleled by the in game missions, which are neither particularly original nor that interesting. Blow this car up, take that village, kill this guy, do this – do that, it was all done with GTA 3 and we’re still waiting for people to come up with a fresh perspective on things. To make matters worse there is no path finer like in Saints Row, which means finding your way to a mission can sometimes take time, especially if you end up going off the beaten track and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.

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It is unfortunate that this game has dissapointed in such a manner when you consider how much potential was there. You’re drawn into disliking certain aspects because of the glaringly obvious missed opportunity here to create something truly dazzling. Just Cause can provide many moments of fun and it will certainly be one of the most beautiful games you have ever seen, but most gamers will be left with a bad taste in their mouth, rueing Avalanche for missing such a gilt edged opportunity.

We reviewed Just Cause on the Xbox 360 but you can also pick it up for PS2, Xbox and PC. The minimum system requirements are: Pentium IV 1.4 GHz, RAM: 512 MB, Video Memory: 64 MB, Hard Drive Space: 5800 MB. You can pick up the 360 version for £39.99 at Play. Because this game does look so stunning, we've chucked in a whole bunch of screenshots for your viewing pleasure on the next page - enjoy!