Just Cause Xbox
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Just Cause Product Details
Released on 22/09/2006
Just Cause offers the freedom to tackle your assignment however you want: play the island's factions off against one another; incite a rebellion among the masses; or build alliances with rebel forces and drug cartels. The incredibly detailed game world consists of 1,225 sq. miles of mountains, jungles, beaches, cities and villages which can be explored by land, sea and air. And you will have at your disposal one of the most varied and exciting array of vehicles, planes and watercraft ever seen in a video game.
- Massive game world - 32 x 32 km without any loading times, limitations or invisible walls.
- Various environments; big cities, towns, resorts, casinos and many more.
- +100 vehicles; Land, sea and air.
- +25 weapons.
- +20 story missions written by Matt Costello and Neil Richards.
- First game based on the acclaimed Avalanche Engine
Playing Just Cause, we were reminded of a quote famously used to describe one of the finest action titles of its generation; Halo. "It's basically the same five minutes of fun, recycled over and over again". It seemed appropriate, because just a few missions into Eidos' guns-blazing free-roamer, you'll spot a similar pattern emerging.
Unfortunately, it's no Halo, but Just Cause is an extraordinary release in many respects - For at the heart of its lush, expansive jungle setting, is a single-minded, hi-octane, guts or glory approach to gameplay some may find overly repetitive - while everyone else will delight in the absurdly over-the-top'ness of absolutely everything it does. If there was an end-of-year award for a game that divides opinion, Just Cause would be the front-runner.
It's a game that acts as brazenly as possible; tongue firmly planted in cheek, heart on its high-definition sleeve, and slick gelled mullet on its suave-as-a-suit Antonio Banderas-esque ladies' man main character, Rico Rodriguez. Indeed, from the moment it beings - propelling him out of a plane at several thousand feet and literally handing you the reigns in freefall - you can tell this won't be quite like anything you've ever played before.
Makes everything from Snake Eater to GTA and even the mighty Oblivion all look small-scale and unambitious by comparison.
The closest and most obvious comparison, of course, is going to be GTA - but that's also entirely misleading. Sure, they share a large open-plan gameworld, and sure, they both favour large dollops of D.I.Y. mayhem as the entertainment of choice… but whereas Rockstar's series is an almost entirely urban affair, Just Cause comes with a distinctly Latino style, foliage-rich flavour and such freedom to explore that it feels like a breath of fresh air. Oh, and its gameworld is around thirty times larger than that of San Andreas, too. Natch.
That last point, however, is never really the huge flashing neon bullet point amongst the game's features that it could, and possibly should, be. San Esperito itself is truly huge, and scrolls seamlessly with nary a loading screen in sight, but it's depiction of a living, breathing world is less convincing than its amazing technical values would warrant.
It's the people that can be the problem. They'll walk, drive, run - even take to the air in choppers and planes to fly - around in a manner that's acceptable enough in passing - but really, when it comes to engaging with them, they're mostly just cannon fodder. Where the gameworld itself feels unbelievably coherent, doing the most breathtaking job we've ever seen of rendering forests, cliffs, ravines, rivers, beaches and enormous suspension bridges - and it honestly does make everything from Snake Eater to Shadow of the Colossus, GTA, Far Cry and even the mighty Oblivion all look small-scale and unambitious by comparison - its populace give the sense that they have but one single, simple purpose for being there: You.
Likewise, the game's several hundred side missions lack a certain sense of personality and variety that you'd hope for in such a sandbox style game. They range from racing against the clock in a vehicle to a given waypoint, to Liberation and Drug Cartel missions - which are both ostensibly the same thing, tasking you with blowing up three roadblocks before either raising the rebel flag or doing away with a drug lord - to the odd kill / fetch / carry / retrieve sidequest. Mostly, they're fairly generic, and as a way to flesh out the game, some differentiation would have gone a long way. There are however a series of 50 achievements for Xbox 360 owners to encourage protracted play, but it's still difficult not to feel that this is a game sometimes lacking in imagination, where design decisions were preceded in importance by the game engine itself.
But what an engine! The sheer size, scale and scope of Just Cause may look great in screenshots, but seeing it in motion can at times prove jaw-dropping. There's a certain artificial, Far Cry quality to its aesthetic, and though it never aspires for total photorealism, the overall effect of powerful bright colours, deep shadows, motion blur, lense flare, heat haze, water ripples and rich textures all working in unison has to be seen in motion to be believed.
Begging for it.
Of course, the fruit of this comes in the playing - such a painstakingly detailed place just begs to be explored, and the implements handed to you to do so really do open the entire island to some incredible gameplay possibilities.
Rico has two utterly fantastic gameplay devices at his disposal, and it is using these together that sets Just Cause apart from its competition. The parachute and grappling hook form a potent combination for exploration, allowing Rico to hook himself to any vehicle in the game, shoot into the air and do a spot of parasailing - hopping from car, to boat, to helicopter as he goes, before reeling himself in to any of the above and taking control of it.
The parachute is also great on its own for escaping unwanted attention, and can lead to some of the most immense set pieces we've been treated to in any game this year. Try catapulting over a cliff at maximum velocity in a stolen police car, leaping onto the roof (one of the game's many stunt positions), and floating slowly to the ground as the camera pans round and the action turns to slow motion, giving you the best possible view of your pursuers careering over the cliff face one after the other and erupting into flames. Stunning, and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time.
It's the xXx of home gaming: So devoid of logic and sense, but so adrenaline-pumping and pretty that you can't help but love it.
Thankfully, despite the lacklustre nature of the tertiary tasks in the game, Just Cause's core 21 story missions are full of moments like this, with some wonderfully open-ended objectives. In assassinating certain targets, for instance, the obvious, GTA-esque manner to deal with it might be to drive there in whatever vehicle you can find, burst your way into the enemies' den guns blazing, and wipe out every last bad guy in the entire area - plus maybe the odd bystander too, just because you can. Yet Just Cause encourages such creative thinking that every player will have a different story to tell with every mission taken: maybe taking the most heavily armoured car they can find, running their target off the road and crushing him against a wall - or perhaps even hurtling a plane directly at their target's convoy as they parachute hundreds of feet above, observing the devastation from afar. It's creative carnage is what it is - and it's delightfully fulfilling when you get it right.
Which just makes the game's few drawbacks all the harder to stomach. Sadly, there are a numerous bugs, such as Rico getting stuck in scenery, or certain objectives not registering as completed even when they should, though these usually prove more a minor annoyance rather than getting close to ruining the game. Likewise, the automatic lock-on targeting isn't up to much, taking a lot of skill out of the game's action and making it all a bit too easy for our liking - as does the eternally recharging health meter. Still, the game is less frustrating as a result, oozing a pick-up-and-play factor that makes it ideal for a ten minute bash or a five hour marathon. And with so much to do and such a wide area to explore, you really can play Just Cause however you like.
And that's why we like Just Cause - it's just the free-roaming title to turn the head of anyone who's getting sick of the whole 'gangsta' theme, but still wants an immediately playable and altogether stunning open world they can explore their own way - all to a spunkily salsa-styled soundtrack. It's a game where you can jump through helicopter blades, hang onto the machine's tail, grapple onto an incoming jet fighter and parachute across to take control of it, all miles above the ground. We'd go so far as to call it the xXx of home gaming: So devoid of logic and sense, but so adrenaline pumping and pretty that you can't help but love it.
- Vast gameworld with tons to do and some stunning vistas to behold.
- Emergent and incredibly enjoyable open-ended gameplay - approach missions any number of ways.
- A free-roaming title where you won't hear the word 'playa'. Not once.
- A game with less variation and character than the stunning game engine deserves.
- One of the most ambitious, but also consistently bug-ridden games of the year.
- Auto-targeting and recharging health make it a less skillful, easier experience than we'd like.
Mark sneaks a peak at Eidos' dark horse...
'Making any kind of shooter or action game, is difficult in this day and age' ponders Dax Ginn. He's a man with a Jedi-like name who holds the almost-equally impressive real-life title of Executive Designer on Eidos' big September-scheduled release, Just Cause. 'Competing with the big boys is just so hard to do', he continues. 'You just can't get any bandwidth'.
Given the monopoly that the Half Lifes, Halos and GTAs of this world have over consumers, one can sympathise with Ginn's situation - especially as Just Cause is itself right in the firing line of both genres. Part free-roamer, part mission-based, part third-person shooter and part adventure title, it is on paper everything we've seen a dozen times before in various sci-fi and "gangsta" guises. It does, however, have one big difference.
'Just Cause is a game about revolution, pure and simple', states Ginn. Unlike GTA, then, its not so much a game about gaining control, as it is about regime change; giving power back to the people - a very noble, non-Rockstar Games sentiment. Controlling flamboyant undercover CIA agent Rico Rodriguez players will navigate an enormous gameworld, enacting missions of various importance to ultimately overthrow a corrupt government and, generally speaking, right a few wrongs in the fictional country of San Esperito. 'I think the whole anti-hero thing is on the way out', say Ginn. 'In Just Cause, there's never a question about your intentions - you're very much the good guy'.
Having said that, you'll still have to do some pretty wrong things, even if they are for the right reasons. Gunning down enemies, stealing vehicles and playing rival factions off against each other to suit your own ideology are all prevalent elements here - alongside an intuitive combination of a Tenchu-like grappling hook and parachute, which help the player effortlessly negotiate the gameworld - propelling them past any obstacle and exacerbating the game's already impressive feeling of freedom to almost limitless degrees.
There's a real difference between a ten hour game and a hundred hour game, and Just Cause is both'.
Just Cause proffers an astounding sense of scale, made possible by a technique Ginn calls 'Procedurally generated terrain' - which we take as basically being a big, scary-sounding term for the game loading important objects, such as vehicles and non-player-characters, on-the-fly in real-time as you come across them. Surprisingly with such a system, pop-up is minimal; the Xbox 360 version in front of us running at a stupidly smooth framerate, and boasting Far Cry levels of bright, lush tropical beauty without a loading screen in sight.
Watching Ginn play the first Liberation mission, it becomes clear that this is going to be something a bit special. Jumping into a chopper he rises several hundred virtual feet above the ground (accompanied by some very impressive lense flare lighting), with terrain stretching out for miles in all directions - before following a cursor on his heads-up map to locate, swoop down on, and obliterate an enemy roadblock, allowing guerrilla resistance troops to move in and liberate the area. Unfolding before our eyes, the scene plays out in a very real-time strategy manner, and the success even helped Rico's reputation; his rank within the rebels improving to give him more power and influence.
It's at this point Ginn puts the pad down to explain the over-arching structure behind the game. 'We've 135 villages and towns in the game', he beams, 'With one major capital city and a few regional capitals. The liberation missions are entirely optional throughout the game', he continues 'But very helpful to your progress in the main game - which comprises 21 of the game's total 290 missions'.
Asked about the comparatively minor number of compulsory missions, Ginn visibly seems very happy with himself: 'That's one of the things we're most pleased with in our game, he explains. 'If people want to plough straight through, they can do it in about 10-12 hours - but if they want to do more, there's SO much they CAN do. There's a real difference between a ten hour game and a hundred hour game, and Just Cause is both'.
Next we see our first example of one of those compulsory, story-based affairs - and its gripping stuff. Talking to a contact, Rico is tasked with tracking down and eliminating a target; New York based drug dealer Frank Alefano, who's in San Esperito for some less-than-legal business dealings. With Alefano marked on the overhead map and also with an on-screen waypoint, the pressure is on to complete the mission before he reaches a nearby city.
The awe-inspiring aspect here is Ginn's method for completing the mission - nabbing a plane from a runway he hurtles through the sky, sending Rico leaping out of the vehicle and holding the wing - one of the game's many stunt moves. From here he lets go and freefalls literally miles towards the ground, before opening his parachute and gliding in towards the three car convoy housing Alefano - and using his grappling hook to reel himself onto the roof of the car, before blowing the bad guys away with some nifty lock-on gunplay. It's inspiring, freeform, James Bond-esque stuff, and kind of makes us wish Eidos had the 007 licence.
It's inspiring, freeform, James Bond-esque stuff, and kind of makes us wish Eidos had the 007 licence.
Already impressed by this point, we quiz Dax on some of the more technical aspects of the gameworld, only to be left open-mouthed at the information that 'The entire game is 128,000 square kilometres - that's roughly thirty times bigger than GTA: San Andreas'. Indeed, our jaws only drop further when told 'The Alefano mission takes place in an area about nine km's square - only a tiny quadrant of the gameworld'. That thought makes us feel quite dwarfed by it all.
Moreover, our continued observations as Ginn carries on playing only make us more aware of just how flexible and sandbox Just Cause can potentially be; with a 25 minute day/night cycle, expansive Far Cry style vehicle-based set pieces, above-average enemy A.I and a sound physics engine, this could well be the best example yet of emergent gameplay taken to the next level.
All of which is fantastic on Xbox 360 and PC - but what about current-gen gamers? Slightly wary of how this will work on less powerful hardware, we put the question to Ginn: 'Oh, Just Cause was initially designed as an Xbox game, so it runs fine on that - in fact it's by far and away the best looking Xbox title you'll ever see', he says without even a hint of arrogance, before moving on to the PS2 release with noticeably more trepidation. 'The PS2 just doesn't have the horsepower, but we've still managed to keep the game the same size. Instead we've reduced texture detail and animation fidelity, but the experience is still the same', he smiles. 'Given that Sony didn't even think we could get it running on the PS2, we're immensely proud of what we've done with Just Cause.
Depth and direction
As well they should be - Just Cause presents a fully free-loading, free-form, free-roaming action experience with the rare promise of both depth AND direction. It is perhaps a shame, though, that the game will meet such fierce competition, releasing as it is currently slated in September. However, against the decidedly more shortlived three-hour-long Dead Rising and the well-worn urban attitude of Saints Row, Eidos' expansive, emergent action title should offer enough variety and longevity to set its very stylish self apart.
And, if all that wasn't enough to convince us, we even got to have a quick go - duly flying a plane in a glorious one-way nosedive into the inviting concrete floor; accompanied by a forcefully bright explosion and a chorus of laughter from around the room.
Preview by: Mark Scott
Preview Published: 10.08.06
Just Cause (27/09/2006)
Playing Just Cause, we were reminded of a quote famously used to describe one of the finest action titles …Just Cause Preview (10/08/2006)
Mark sneaks a peak at Eidos' dark horse...
'Making any kind of shooter or action game, is difficult in this day and age' ponder…Just Cause User ReviewsTop reviewPrev
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