Just Cause [DVD] | 4.3 Gb
Suspension of disbelief is such a fundamental part of the video game experience that we often take it for granted. Multiple lives and first-aid kits that instantly mend whatever ails you are conventions that we accept without batting an eye, even in games that purport to have realistic settings. That said, Just Cause is a visceral third-person action game with some outrageous action that will require an extra helping of that suspension of disbelief to be able to enjoy. But, if you can get past the infeasibility of a man hanging onto the tail of a flying jet with one hand, you might find a lot to like in Just Cause.
Though the broad structure of Just Cause is copped from the Grand Theft Auto series, the game also shares certain characteristics with Mercenaries and Pursuit Force. The game takes place on the fictional Caribbean island of San Esperito. You play as the black-clad Rico Rodriguez, an amused but detached character who in no small way evokes Antonio Banderas' mariachi character from Desperado. Rico comes to San Esperito to help overthrow Salvador Mendoza, a corrupt dictator in league with the Montano drug cartel. With you are Sheldon, a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, Joe Don Baker-type who has a way of saying Spanish phrases like "El Presidente" with a pronounced twang, and Kane, a comparatively bland tough girl with a lot of sass and some vague history with Rico. With the assistance of the People's Revolutionary Army of San Esperito, as well as the rival Riojas drug cartel, your aim is to dismantle the existing regime through assassination, espionage, and plenty of mayhem.
The island of San Esperito is huge, and though there are a few urbanized areas, including a small high-rise district, several military installations, seaports, and airports, most of San Esperito is blanketed in undeveloped rainforest that is peppered with crude settlements. Its size is a little deceptive, since there's not much to be done in the huge tracts of forest, but it all feels organic, and the scope of the island is still impressive. You're given a good feel for the size of the island, as well as some of Rico's more unconventional skills, right off the bat, as you start off the game by jumping out of a plane at several thousand feet. You can control Rico's speed and direction a bit while in freefall, and you can instantly deploy a parachute at the tap of a button, which slows you down enough to make a safe landing and frees up your hands to hold any one of the weapons you might have on you. The parachute system is just one of many absurd contrivances in Just Cause. There's no limit to how often you can deploy your parachute, it doesn't seem to take up any space on your person, and it never gets snagged on obstacles like trees, buildings, or streetlamps.
In Grand Theft Auto fashion, Just Cause lets you commandeer just about any vehicle you see, including boats, planes, and helicopters, provided you can get close enough to it. Once you're behind the wheel, most vehicles have a "stunt position," which forces you to relinquish control but lets you jump onto other nearby vehicles and take control of them or deploy your parachute, which will jerk you back up into the air. After a few missions, you're given a grappling gun, which you can use to hook onto vehicles from a few hundred meters away. Grappling onto a moving vehicle will cause your parachute to automatically deploy, making it possible to parasail around the island. Perhaps most impressively, you can use the grappling hook to skyjack helicopters and planes while they're in the air.
The use of achievements is just one of the reasons that the Xbox 360 version of Just Cause is the best version. Though the game's use of motion blur and light bloom can be a little overwhelming at times, the 360 version has the most stable frame rate, the clearest textures, and the cleanest overall look. The PC and Xbox versions are close in terms of fidelity, though we couldn't get the PC version to run in a wide-screen aspect ratio, and the Xbox version ran at a noticeably lower resolution with a more erratic frame rate. Additionally, we found no apparent way to opt for gamepad controls in the PC version. While the Xbox, PC, and Xbox 360 versions are comparable, the PlayStation 2 version feels compromised. The draw distance is much closer, there's a distracting amount of pop-in, textures look comparatively flat and grainy, and the frame rate regularly chugs. Though there's not much perceptible difference in terms of the actual content of the different versions of Just Cause, the PS2 version's technical shortcomings make it much harder to recommend.
A lush and energetic soundtrack complements the exotic action nicely
Complementing the game's equatorial vibe is a fantastic soundtrack that meshes classical Spanish guitars with electronic beats, blaring trumpets, and surf and wah-wah guitars. Though there are only a handful of different tunes in the game, it uses them effectively, kicking in right before a firefight or a high-speed chase, imbuing all the action with a good deal of extra enthusiasm. It's unfortunate that the rest of the sound design isn't as good as the music. Rico's footsteps stand out as sounding especially flat on a lot of surfaces, and some of the weapon fire comes across as weak. The voice acting is also somewhat inconsistent. Your character is perhaps a little too dry for his own good, and some of the San Esperitians you'll encounter sound like lame caricatures, though the voice of Sheldon is right on, which is good since he talks more than any other character in the game.
Just Cause will evoke strong love-it-or-hate-it reactions from people for a lot of reasons. The game's amoral stance on the complicated issues surrounding US-sponsored regime changes in third-world countries will rub some people the wrong way, while others will be annoyed by its fast-and-loose approach to basic physics. Even though it doesn't get some of the particulars right, Just Cause can still be engaging simply because of the risks it's willing to take.
By Ryan Davis, GameSpot
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Genre: Modern Action Adventure
Release Date: Sep 27, 2006 (more)
ESRB Descriptors: Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Language
Number of Players: 1 Player
Minimum System Requirements
System: Pentium IV 1.4 GHz or equivalent
RAM: 512 MB
Video Memory: 64 MB
Hard Drive Space: 5800 MB
Recommended System Requirements
System: Pentium IV 2.8 GHz or equivalent
Video Memory: 256 MB
NFO-file (4 Kb)