Although I’m not very far along in the game, it’s become clear that the game wishes to combine elements of the Grand Theft Auto series, Mercenaries and Total Overdose. Unfortunately, this combination doesn’t quite reach the levels of those three games in their what they do best.
The game world of Just Cause tries for the open-ended exploration of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas with it’s 250,000 acres of tropical island nation. However, much of this area is undeveloped jungle, with a smattering of small villages and towns dotting the landscape. There’s also far less to actually do in the populated areas, other than assassination of enemy leaders and blowing up objectives.
There is plenty of combat to be had in Just Cause, but it has far less impact than that found in Lucas Art’s Mercenaries. Gunfire from your enemies does little to your health, health packs are plentiful and weapon choices are far more limited and generic in this game. While the AI in Mercenaries wasn’t perfect by any means, you’re far more likely to watch a stream of civilians run straight into obvious gunfire in Just Cause, while the enemy AI is annoyingly tenacious and over precise in their knowledge of your location.
Just Cause also attempts to implement a stunt system, with 32 “stunts” your character can perform. However most of these involve jumping on top of cars or out of airplanes to hold onto their wings one-handed. Total Overdose was a very limited game with sub par graphics, but it had a wonderfully over-the-top stunt system that fit the game world very well.
The graphics in this game are very good, even great once you consider the size of the islands and the lack of load times as you drive or fly around the land. In many ways, the game has the look and feel of Far Cry with it’s tropical green backdrops.
Unfortunately, the game suffers greatly in the physics department. Vehicle controls are passable, but far from GTA level, especially with the lack of gamepad controls for PC players. It’s easy to clip through many trees without incident even when flying a few feet off the ground in a helicopter. And most larger, mobile objects lack a sense of weight. Vehicles fly hundreds of feet through the air when they hit an obstacle and if your character moves against a large piece of concrete rubble, it rolls across the ground as if it was a ball.
Overall, I’d personally rate Just Cause as mindless fun, good for someone looking more for a simple free-form destructive romp through the country-side. There’s not much depth here, however, compared to most of the other games it borrows from, so consider that when you look to rent or buy.