Just Cause - PS2 Review
A game series that has sold well and above all expectation, and continues to do so, is Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series. The massive success of GTA has spawned huge masses of so-called ďGTA-ClonesĒ and weíve seen a mix of amazing games (almost as well-done as the later GTA games themselves) and some dismal failures. One that had our eye from the moment we first heard about it was Just Cause. Promising a much more over-the-top stunt/action based game, with a move wild non-suburban setting, we were fairly keen to get this one going. The end result turned out to be good enough, however it falls jut short of being a must-have game, especially for PS2 gamers. Read on for more!
|Flying the plane.|
Just Cause starts out promising enough... After freefalling from a plane high above the game world, discovering an apparently infinite supply of parachute (donít ask us how it works... all that matters is that its fun!), some fancy shooting with infinite ammo for dual pistols, and finding our way to a safe zone, the plot kicks in. You are Rico Rodriguez Ė an undercover CIA agent attempting to insight a revolution and overthrow the government of the game island, San Esperito. But thereís more to it than that. The South American island has been accused of stockpiling WMDs and youíve been sent in to relieve the threat to the world, thus restoring world peace (or at least, getting it back to the normal level!). What a handy coincidence that the island is currently having massive wars between different factions, all fighting for control of the various districts. Ok, so the plot isnít the most original, far from it in fact. But it certainly serves the purpose. Anyway, the gameís story really does become background fairly quickly (more on this later).
In terms of gameplay, players have a lot of options. There are all the standards modes of transportation for a sandbox game. You can travel on foot or in any of the 100+ vehicles (there are quite a lot of very different cars, as well as helicopters, planes, boats, jet skis, submarinesÖ well you get the idea). However, as well as this, you can also float about with your parachute (as mentioned earlier), and grapple onto vehicles and parasail behind them. This applies to all vehicles; yes you can parasail from a helicopter... as long as it doesnít crash due to the weight imbalance of towing you along. One great incident while I was showing the game to a friend happened when, after a lot of trying, I finally grappled a helicopter, only to have the characters weight force the copter into a bridge, exploding it and killing me. Just Cause definitely supplies a lot of laughs.
All these transit methods have a purpose, and will be used throughout the games plot and side-missions, and players will soon discover that the main focus of the game is definitely action. And indeed, this is where most of the fun comes from Ė the ability launch from a moving vehicle with the parachute, then grapple onto a plane, fly up and jump out, freefall and land on another car, kick the driver out then take off with the car. Itís over the top. Itís action packed. Itís ridiculousÖ and itís so much fun!
Unfortunately, as with many sandbox games, the main fun in Just Cause is running around doing nothing in particular. The missions, both plot-related and side-missions, are far too similar to each other, with only about 4 or 5 different types of quests. Gameplay becomes fairly repetitive very early on in the story, and I found myself getting bored rather quickly. It wasn't long before I was shooting up towns and generally reaping havoc on San Esperito for entertainment. Gunplay in the game is also very, very easy, with not much effort required to take out entire armies of police. Speaking of which, the awareness system in Just Cause seems haphazard at best. Sometimes the police will try to take you out simply for entering a different region, while at other times you can get away with mass-genocide without any problems with the law.
|Driving in the jungles.|
Basically, Just Cause will leave players feeling a bit unfulfilled after a few hours of play. This extends to the story, which can be completed in less than 8 hours. Side missions add a little length but after about 3 or 4 of them, they become tiresome and there is virtually no reward to successful completion of the objectives, meaning that you probably wonít bother with the side missions very much if at all.
Another problem I have with Just Cause is that, while the tropical island setting is nice, it seems too empty. There are nowhere near enough large settlements, and the few areas with more than a handful of buildings are quite boring. Itís a nice change for a sandbox game to be outside of suburbia, but this takes it too far, and many times I found myself getting bored with trekking back across the island on foot because I totaled my car. There is a recall function, where the CIA picks you up, but it only works at certain points in the game, and wont work if you are not currently doing a mission.
|Get away from the cops!|
Graphically, the game falls quite short of the images shown in our preview done back in August 2005 Ė at least on the PS2 anyway. Before playing the review copy, I had a chance to play the demo on the XBox 360, and I must say Ė if you are trying to decide between which version to get (assuming you have both consoles) then certainly go for the newer console. That being said, Just Cause has been receiving a much harsher rap than it deserves I feel. Many reviews have commented on the draw distance being shocking, and while it certainly is not the best it could have been, it functions well enough. Cars and people can be seen a fair way into the distance, and the only real issue is that trees disappear fairly close, but this is better than a frame rate drop I guess.
On top of the draw distance issue, the tropical island doesnít seem to be quite as vibrant as the PC and XBox 360 releases. The game by no means looks horrible, but it is also not one of the Playstationís finest titles. Animations of the characters look quite awkward at times, and the cut scenes seem to skip a little, though this may have been fixed for the retail release. Overall, the game looks nice enough, but itís not the jaw-dropper that we hoped for.
|Using the parachute.|
To compliment the South American setting of the game, the in-game audio has a definite Latin feel to it, with accents based on ones from that region, though not done quite as well as they could have been. The in-game music, while very, very sparse, also has a strong Latin vibe to it, but is also quite repetitive. Basically, there is not enough audio, and what is there isnít done well enough. This is a big let down as with nice sound, Just Cause could have had an extra dimension of authenticity to it.
So whatís the deal? Just Cause is a lot of fun, thatís for sure. However, this fun is short-lived, and the barebones plot, lack of good audio and less than beautiful graphics engine hurt the game a lot. Itís one of the better GTA-clones on the market, but that doesnít really mean much in the overall scheme of things. Save this one for a rainy day!
Review By: Michael Hutchesson
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|GRAPHICS||Nowhere near initial shots. Awkward animations, draw distance issues and skipping cut-scenes. A long way from top-notch.||65%|
|SOUND||Questionable accents, repetitive and sparse music. Decent enough sound effects though.||61%|
|GAMEPLAY||Ridiculously over the top and so much fun, but short-lived. Needed more side-missions, more variety and more incentives. Multiplayer would have been a great addition, and raised this score tremendously. ||72%|
|VALUE||Itís short Ė the main plot can be completed in 6-8 hours, and there is no real reason to do the side quests.||56%|
|OVERALL||There is a lot of potential there, but itís not utilized well enough. Hopefully the rumored sequel can achieve a better result.||64%|