by William Thompson
previewed on PC
San Esperito is not your normal, run-of-the-mill tropical island. President Mendoza is a dictator who likes to do things his own way. Recently, the island has been looking at purchasing some enriched uranium on the world market so that the island can become energy self-sufficient. Well at least that is what everyone is led to believe. But of course, everyone has their suspicions as to what the uranium is really for - weapons of mass destruction. That is where you (as Rico Rodriguez) fit in.
Just Cause is an action-style game along the lines of Grand Theft Auto where you play the part of a US Undercover agent whose main goal is to oust the President by any means necessary and to make sure that any weapons of mass destruction are not completed.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it...
Apart from the main goal of toppling President Mendoza's regime, there will be plenty of other side missions that can be attempted. In all, there are rumoured to be in excess of 200 missions. Various factions are vying for control of the island and it will be up to you (as Rico) to decide which groups you want to help or hinder. Mission sizes will vary, and completing each mission will result in differing rewards for Rico, so it could be worthwhile to move off the main mission path from time to time.
Rico has a host of weapons available to him with which to complete his goals. These are standard fare for Action / FPS games and include pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, grenades, machine guns and even a rocket launcher. In fact, there are 25 weapons to choose from so there's probably something of your pleasure among it.
Where do you want to go today?
One of the major features of Just Cause is the open ended landscape. There is 250,000 acres of the island of San Esperito to explore. Locations to explore include jungles, beaches, mountains, cities and local villages. This much land would take a massive amount of time to explore on foot, so the developers have included a wide variety of vehicles to help the exploration of the tropical island. Vehicles include cars, bikes, trucks, boats and even aerial vehicles such as helicopters and jet planes. The total 'motor pool' consists of nearly 90 different vehicles and each can be used by Rico throughout his time on San Esperito.
Using the various transportations seems a bit absurd at times though, as Rico can 'surf' on top of a car (or truck) roof , which is not that strange, but then almost magically he can go parasailing by opening up a parachute that is strapped to his back - because all good undercover agents wear parachutes - don't they?
As far as the graphics are concerned, this game doesn't exactly blow anyone away. The character animation is looks to be fairly poor by today's standard. The main character looks too blocky and a bit stiff. Although he's a top secret agent, he looks as though he would be more suited to being an accountant. The other characters are not much better. It is not all bad though. Much of the scenery is stunning. The forest jungles are well drawn and you can almost 'feel' the mosquito sitting on your arm about to suck up some blood. All locations are quite detailed and this is a bonus considering the vast environment that you can cover in Just Cause.
Viva la Revolution
From what we've seen so far, Just Cause has plenty of potential. The major setback at this point is the clunky character animation. The well rendered landscapes certainly negate the bad aspects of the characters. Also, with so much land to explore, Just Cause will have gamers journeying around the island for hours. Whether or not gamers will need to venture throughout the entire island remains to be seen, but the openness of the goals would definitely suit more exploration. The ability to decide how you go about the main mission, will also result in greater replayability.