Just Cause [360] – First impressions

just cause.jpgI think “Just Cause” is possibly the worse name for a video game. It tells you nothing. The game involves you, a super secret government agent, fomenting revolution and mayhem on a South American Island. It’s a Mercenaries-style game, a Cuban sandbox, if you will. What I can’t figure out is what the name refers to. Am I a loyal government agent, helping the revolucionarios and their “Just Cause” or am I a free-wheling mercenary who enjoys running over helpless old señoras on the sidewalk, “Just ‘Cause” I can. Because honestly, I can’t really find the motivation to do the former when the latter is so much funnier. There may be a revolution going on, but I’ve got civilians to harass.

So what about the game? Right now, after a couple days of playing, I’m not impressed. I’m normally not a graphics-whore, but if the gameplay isn’t fantastic, it’s the first flaw I notice. Just Cause has some serious last-generation-itis. I can’t tell if the intention was to have cartoony characters or if they’re just horrible looking models. The animations leave something to be desired as well. The main character runs through the scenery as if he played for the other team, if you know what I mean. Maybe I’m missing out because of my standard-def TV, but I’m not liking what I see so far.

A large part of the game driving around the island. There are plenty of vintage convertibles, motorcycles, and trucks of all kinds to drive around town in. Problem is, the vehicle mechanics are an absolute joke. I’ve driving dirt bikes up inclines that are physically impossible with a g of 9.8 m/s2. I’ve taken on jumps that would have absolutely destroyed the underside of a generic SUV, but I hit the ground and keep on trucking. Sure, maybe I lose a bumper or something, but it’s ridiculously inaccurate.

The targeting system can be a pain but controls over all are good. Another big part of the game are the stunts you can pull off, like attaching your grappling hook to the back of a car and paragliding through the Cuban sky. The stunts work pretty well and jumping from car to car, Jackie Chan-style, is a fun diversion. Unfortunately doesn’t make up for other flaws.

Another major sticking point I see is the NPC intereactions. For a game where I’m supposed to be able to “interact” with the environment, the villagers and other non-essential, non-player characters are completely robotic. The only meaningful interaction I’ve found is for me to punch them. Not exactly the best way to build a relationship of trust when I’m punching the nuns in town. I was in a market with a guy trying to sell me his fruit. I jumped up on his fruit stand, knocked over his crates and nothing happened. Weak.

Not everything is bad, though. Underneath all my hang-ups could be a great game. Just Cause sports a HUGE map. There seems to be a lot of side missions and other content. I imagine there is a lot of content to uncover. Hopefully urging the locals to overthrow the bad guy will actually work. I’ll give Just Cause the rental treatment, hoping for the best, but I just don’t see it impressing me that much. It’s already failed with first impressions.


  1. If you think the 360 is bad you really don’t want to see the PS2 version. I admire the fact they can fit it all on the aging PS2 – with a minimal drop in frame rate – but I’ve really had much more fun poking myself in the eye repeatedly.

  2. Your review makes me want to run out and rent it. NOT.

  3. Tom – I shudder to think what PS2’s version would look like. Yikes.

    Bobster – just doing my job. Playing the crappy games, so you don’t have to.

  4. Tony,

    I’m glad your are taking one for the team. Keep up the good work even if you have to suffer a little.

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