Review by sfcalimari

Reviewed: 10/02/06

Just cause a game has a huge map, doesn't make it instantly awesome...

"Just Cause" should have had a lot of things going for it. A huge map, a lot of vehicles and weaponry, and a potentially interesting scenario. My thoughts after playing Just Cause? On the ps2, it's like a shoddy, unpolished knock-off of GTA and Mercenaries. It starts out fun enough, but the jerky controls and terrible vehicle handling, enormously bland map, and mostly dull missions make this game a rent at best.


Not as bad as some would say, but not that great. I would say they are slightly better than Vice City's, but not by much. When you finally get to fly a helicopter up in the air, it is somewhat impressive to see the various islands stretching off into the distance all around you. The real problem, however, is the frame rate and the lack of detail. Frame-rate in general is a bit choppy but tolerable, but drops badly when a lot of enemies are in the area. In one mission I was running away from the enemy, and had several helicopters and soldiers on my tail, and I kept freezing in place and then warping forward.

Also the attention to detail is pretty sloppy. One thing that is annoying is that several enemy bases are surrounded by fences which are impenetrable, but barely visible until you are right up next to them. So it's always fun to be barreling along really fast in a car with several enemies on your tail, and then you smack into a fence which was pretty much invisible. Another example of bad detail is when you accidentally go into a forest (you should stay out of the forests, you will be doing a lot of boring walking to get out of them). The forests look terrible, with the same tree and cruddy looking vines and stupid impenetrable boulder stretching of into the distance all around you.


Really jerky, overall, and frustrating. They are smooth enough when on foot, but when you are in a vehicle and try to use the right analog stick to look around or aim your weapons, the camera moves too quickly and jerkily. Should have been some sensitivity options. Also annoying is that when you move the camera to the side to look around you, the camera keeps switching back to a forward-pointing view, which is annoying when you are trying to keep an eye on the enemies chasing you.


Vehicles are boring, and their handling is TERRIBLE. I thought Mercenaries' vehicles had goofy physics, but JC's vehicles are like trying to drive an elephant on ice. Remember the one mission in Vice City where you had to drive Phil to the hospital, and you were weaving around uncontrollably due to the Boomshine fumes? Remember those vehicles in GTA that would make a 360 degree turn when you were trying to make a simple right turn? Well, driving ANY vehicle in JC is like that. Vehicles slip and slide around constantly even on a flat highway, and when you try to make a turn, you move very sluggishly and often start rolling over for no reason. And even though the vehicles seem full of cement on the ground, once they get airborne it's like they were made of cardboard. They will flip, they will bounce, they will explode.

Something I found really annoying was how slow the vehicles in the game are. Considering the game insists on having enormous mountains all over the damn place, and requires you to drive up several steep inclines now and then, many of the vehicles seem incapable of going up even a modest slope. One mission required me to drive a clunky cargo truck up a modest hill while annoying enemies chased after me, and the truck could barely move forward.


Kind of a cool idea but bad in execution. When trying to jump from one car to another, you generally jump to some other random car, or miss and fall of a cliff. Considering that a couple missions can only be completed by jumping on a car and jacking the driver, you'll be retrying a lot.


I really found the music annoying and turned it off. The "action" music you hear during gunfights is really damn annoying. Big minus. As for character dialogue, the voicing is generally pretty bad.


Really bad, lame, unfunny, etc etc. Several attempts at humor that fall flat. The game tries but fails to capture the twisted humor of GTA or Mercenaries, or the atmosphere of The Godfather.


Hmm...well the missions start out ok, but get pretty annoying really fast, because you fail due to random stuff--a car flying out of nowhere and running you over, a helicopter suddenly appearing randomly and blowing you up, you trying to make a slow right-hand turn and instead flying off a cliff. Most of the missions are pretty rote, and are of the "go to A and pick up item B and return to C" variety, or "chase down Mr X and kill him." After a while the lack of variety gets pretty ridiculous. Considering all the different vehicles in the game, there could have been more variety, but unfortunately not.

There are also a lot of side missions in the game, but unless you are really bored, you probably won't want to meddle with them. They are stuff like helping rebels liberate villages, stealing cars for the rebels, helping the drug cartel retrieve some money, etc. There isn't much variety, and the only real reward is extra safehouses. And the safehouses are kind of pointless because you obtain several during the story mission, and you can warp from one to the other with an extraction helicopter. It is a nice conceit to have safehouses all over the place, but if you play the game for very long, you will probably realize how pointless they are.

Firing your weapons in the game is kind of fun, though it gets boring after a while. Move your aiming crosshairs near an enemy and a white circle will appear over them; fire your gun and you will automatically aim at that enemy. Rinse and repeat. Also enemies have the annoying habit of constantly respawning out of thin air near you, so there isn't much point in trying to eliminate them all or trying to snipe them or whatever, it's generally best just to blow away as many as you can and then rush ahead to the next area.

Enemies in cars are really annoying. During many missions several enemies will start chasing after you in vehicles, and pretty much their only goal is to try and pull up ahead of you and block you, or to get next to you and press into you pointlessly. Sometimes they smash into you from behind; once while driving a large lumbering truck, enemy cars kept smashing into my rear, pushing up under me and sending me somersaulting off into the jungle.


I guess a lot of people were excited about this game because of the huge map. Well, the huge map really fails. It's difficult to get around, you don't need to go through much of it, and it is mostly the same tree multiplied by a million. Also, as many people have complained, you can't zoom in on the map and see where the hell you are or where you need to go, or how to get where you need to go. Really annoying. Remember trying to get around in GTAIII? It's like that, except that at least GTAIII's map was fairly small and you could recognize where you were after a while. In Just Cause, you really wish you could find a damn map store and buy a decent atlas.

After completing the game, I realized that I had only gone through about half the islands on the map. Maybe that sounds cool and like a recipe for adventure and exploration, but I finished the game without any desire to see the rest of the islands, because I knew that they would only contain the same things over and over again.

Basically the problem is that the world of Just Cause has no character. The cities are small and bland (and you have no idea where they are due to the crummy map). The constant forests are pretty enough from afar, but if you have the misfortune to fall or drive into one, you will really wish you could get out of the forest quickly.

Ok, sure the map is huge, but really the game doesn't make good use of it. Vice City and Mercenaries had much smaller maps, but they actually used every inch of them in the different missions.


So overall the game starts out promising enough, but quickly settles into feeling like a massive chore. Thoughts of "wow this is a big island" quickly turns to "how quickly can I get this game over with?" Fortunately (or, really, unfortunately) the game is over pretty quickly, and you'll probably finish it within a day or two.

I would say it gets a borderline 5, maybe a high 4. Go play any GTA game on ps2, or Mercenaries, or even The Godfather. All are longer, better, and a heck of a lot less annoying. If you have played all those games to death (like I have) and need something new to keep you busy, by all means give Just Cause a try. It is an ok rental for a couple of days, but I can't recommend that anyone buys it. It just does not live up to its promise or potential.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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