Eidos has high hopes for Just Cause, and on the face of it there's no reason it won't be a huge success. The game seems to have it all: a huge free-roaming world; stunning visuals; land, sea and air vehicles; and explosive combat. It's a hard package to resist, and at times it really is irresistibly good, but it's far from consistent. Sight seeing action junkies looking for another free-roaming game will find a lot to enjoy, but a few kinks prevent Just Cause from rising into elite territory.
You play as Rico, a smooth talking, sleek, suave, agent, with a complete lack of fear. Extreme sports are like child's play to this guy, and that makes him the perfect man to take on Salvador Mendoza, the corrupt dictator of the fictional island San Esperito. Missions are handed out in typical GTA-esque fashion, with NPCs scattered about the huge island, ready to give Rico new main and side missions. It's simple enough to progress, with missions being split by type and clearly visible on the game map. Rico's goal is to bring down Mendoza, with the help of the island's Revolutionary Army and the Riojas drug cartel.
Main story missions are by far the most interesting and diverse, and see you take on numerous, often explosive objectives, but the side missions from the island's Revolutionary Army and the Riojas drug cartel are plentiful. You'll be thankful that so many were included, as the main story can be blasted through pretty quickly if that's all you focus on. By carrying out the side missions you'll get access to more safe houses (where you can save, and replenish ammo and health), new weapons and vehicles. In theory it's best to tackle these side missions as you progress through the main campaign, but other than a few hairy missions, you'll do just fine with what you're given.
'Skydiving and parachuting are his main vices, and there are plenty of ways to get into the air.'
Unlike the recently released Saints Row (which shares little in common with Just Cause other than its free-roaming nature) combat is handled by a handy auto-targeting system, where enemies within range are locked onto without you having to do much more than look in their general direction. Targets can be switched by using the left bumper, while the left and right triggers throw grenades and fire your weapon respectively. It's all relatively simple - that is until you unleash Rico's Hollywood stuntman moves.
Skydiving and parachuting are his main vices, and there are plenty of ways to get into the air. The most obvious is to jump off a cliff edge; doing so will start a free fall, and you can then open your parachute for a more sedate fall to earth. If you can't be bothered to trek up a mountain you can use your grapple gun to latch onto NPC vehicles, instantly sending you into the air with your parachute out. From here you can let the rope out for what seems an infinite distance, and go along for the ride, switching from vehicle to vehicle if you want.
Just Cause isn't a GTA clone in the traditional sense, but you can most definitely hijack vehicles. Cars, bikes and trucks are the most common, but you can just as easily drive boats, or take to the skies in a helicopter or aeroplane. This range of vehicles plays right into the hands of Rico's daredevil ways, and he's more than willing to throw himself onto the roof of a moving car or plane, before jumping to another vehicle. It's insane, and can make for some truly memorable moments.
Army forces make mincemeat of vehicles, so hopping from one to another plays a big part in staying alive. Imagine leaping over the blades of a helicopter, before spotting a fighter jet screaming towards you, missiles locked and loaded. In the average game you'd already be dead, but not here. Within a split second you can leap from the chopper and onto the plane, open the cockpit, push out the pilot and take over the controls. Moments like this make playing Just Cause an experience to remember, but not one that's without faults.