• Saints Row exploded onto the Xbox 360 amidst shouts that it was a blatant Grand Theft Auto rip off, but soon left people with only a whimper when it proved to take what was great with GTA, proceeded to shake and bake the recipe, and made it that much better. Now yet another title makes its way into our 360 World and whilst this title has some comparison to the GTA’s and now Saints Row with its car jacking and free roaming third person styling; Just Cause the title of this new game offers a whole lot more bang, bang, boom, boom and in turn also becomes akin to the likes of Mercenaries.

    Eidos and Avalanche Studios; Just Cause is set on the fictional Island of San Esperito and in short the objective for our slick looking hero in the game Rico Rodriguez bearing a good likeness to a certain on screen mariachi, is to overthrow the Islands dictator Salvador Mendoza thus liberating San Esperito and giving it back to the people.Â

    As we begin our journey on what Just Cause has to offer, it really is worth mentioning the tricks and tools of Rico’s trade. Your first insight into Rico’s skills hits you from the get go as you jump from a plane free falling towards the Island. Rico packs a parachute and throughout the game you are presented with multiple opportunities to base jump or jump out of or from any object high enough to give you the chance to free fall before deploying your endless supply of parachutes. Rico is also able to utilise any vehicle he can lay his hands on and this includes cars, bikes, boats, planes and helicopters… this detail is akin to Grand Theft Auto, but again looks to take what was good with GTA and improve on it. How? I hear you say… well Rico also has the ability to pull of some crazy ass stunts and he is able to jump onto or cling onto any moving object and to name but a few and I do mean a few of the options… Rico can jump out onto the roof of a moving car and then jump to another moving car as it passes him, or he can use his grapple gun attaching himself to a helicopter before winching him self up hanging from the back before choosing to jump into the cockpit or indeed jump off freefalling. Put it this way stunts play a huge part of this game, and mastering them takes no time at all as you are always prompted with the button to press and produces some crazy moments with you always look to go that much further each time.

    Just Cause

    Having made a note of the grapple gun, this is just one of the many available weapons on offer for Rico. Rico’s standard guns come in the form of a duel set of pistols holding an endless supply of ammo, thus never leaving you without firepower to blast your way through this Island. But on your journey you will also collect some hefty new toys that you can change at will to aid you throughout each mission objective. These weapons include, pistols, grenades, C4 explosives, assault rifles, shotguns and rocket launchers. The weapon list is immense and as you play through the game unlocking safe houses as you go, your weapon cache will just continue to grow and grow.

    So… you have a gun touting, professional stunt man, all round good guy agency-hitman with an island to liberate. Still want the job? “Well, you better walk this way gringo” (sorry Ed couldn’t help it).

    San Esperito is a truly vast Island to explore, and I do mean VAST, it really does make the size of the playable area in Saints Row look punnie. As you start the game your in game map will highlight where your initial safe house is and will highlight your Agency contact point, and by visiting your Agency contact you can accept story based missions. But just playing through mission to mission, would become pretty boring pretty damn quick. So Just Cause with its gameplay on offer also throws a whole host of playable choices allowing you to take a break whenever you feel like it. You have collect item missions where you need to find a set number of a set item, you also have liberation missions where piece by piece you can help the guerrilla uprising take back their home. Also after a few campaign missions you are given sideline missions working for the island guerrillas or cartels all in the name of doing good. There are also race opportunities available for you taking part in land sea and air events giving a fresh new touch to the normal race bolt-ons found in other games of the same genre. This huge amount of content to chew your way through will keep you busy with Just Cause for some time.

    The gameplay is played through a third person perspective so your character is always on full view giving you a better view of the playing field or I should say killing ground. Rico switching his weapons is easily done with the D-Pad left to right with up and down commands being assigned to key items like your grapple gun or explosives. Targeting in the game has been made very simple and if you are in range of a target it will lock on for you, allowing you to press the bumper button to switch targets at will. This targeting system is good in a way as it allows the pace to remain quick, but is also lame in that it makes it all too easy to kill anyone or anything without much concentration.

    Controlling vehicles in Just Cause is very easy to do albeit a little crazy at times. Car handling is by far the worst aspect of the game, as they will quite often slide around like they are on Ice and you only need to be nudged by another vehicle to bring you to a complete stand still… Bike handling on the road is much better and you get a feel for the speed aspect as you whiz in and out of cars with some blur motion trailing around you. Boats and Aircraft handle pretty well although there have been some moments of frustration when my boat had hit a sand bank underwater I had not seen to see me flipping through the air always landing upside down and leaving me stranded with no transport and having to swim for shore. Before moving on it does have to be said, without any shadow of doubt that by far the best and sexiest way to explore the island is done by air. Taking a helicopter or plane up into the skies produces one hell of a view of the islands below you.

    Achievements wise: Just Cause offers the full one thousand points but will simply not give them away for free. There are fifty achievements to tick off as you move through the game and they really will force you to work for the score you love. This is a neat touch, as I have grown tired of the games that just seem to give points away for simply doing nothing… One of the neater achievements in the game is the one thousand metre base jump, getting you not only to find a location high enough to try it but pushing you to see just how far you will dare to freefall, before deploying your parachute. The comical side is that this achievement only awards you five points, but that simply did not bother me one little bit… being able to prove I had done it was enough for me to smile.

    Graphically Just Cause is a very “pretty” game, island textures are well done and the use of lighting and shadow effects have been well utilised. Audio wise apart from the pretty much cheesy character accents, the game produces and hits all the right notes (see what I did there Ed). Guns sound as you would expect with explosions going BOOM in all the right places and the music that will jump in at certain points is superbly done and in tune with the games manic tempo.

    But of course no game is without some problems and Just Cause certainly does have them. First off it has to be stated that the use of your parachute can become a little insane… by that I mean you can freefall right down to a few inches before deploying and landing neatly on your feet. You can also parachute through most objects and you will never find yourself snagged on a tree, street lamp or building. Another problem with the game is in line with the stunts… you will grapple up to a helicopter to have that moment where you get some air time grabbing onto the tail only to just move through the rotor blades without a scratch. Don’t get me wrong I have loved doing this every time but it did leave me with a confused look. Another problem is that when you die, you are positioned back at either a safe house or certain location only to find half of Rico’s body is buried in the ground watching him rising from the earth with what looks like some mystical power. This issue is just bad and should have been sorted before the game went to production. Another crazy real life defying physics moment is that when you choose to swim, Rico can hold his breath forever… its crackers and again just bolsters the fact that this game is aimed at the action rather than what is real. My final gripe is on the aiming and whilst I mentioned the lame moment before another issue exists in that if you have an object locked on… it can end up to the side, behind or below you… yet you can still shoot the object with no change to how Rico holds his gun or your vehicle showing it has three hundred and sixty degree fire. This problem again takes the concentration out of the game and does not force you to chase something and just leaves you pummelling away with the right trigger until certain object falls over dead or goes boom.

    Now to a final note before I sum up… and a point that could be considered as a “let down”. Just Cause offers no Xbox LIVE Multiplayer option and is a pure offline game. But if you really wanted my view on this and I guess you do… then I would simply say that Just Cause is an accomplished offline title and LIVE play would have probably ruined the total experience…

    In summary Just Cause is a “damn good”, “you can have a lot of fun with”, “stunts never become boring”, “experience not to be missed”… game. Nothing in Just Cause is hard to get to grips with and that makes it a perfect kick-ass-fu crazy action game that, even if you were to rent, you would not be disappointed with.

    Score: 7/10

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