Sunday, March 1, 2009

More On Just Cause

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been playing Just Cause for the XBox 360. After many more hours of playing, I can safely say that "just cause" it's not Grand Theft Auto IV doesn't mean it's a bad game.

It's certainly bigger than GTA IV, and while it may not have all that much variety in it's immense, open landscape, it's still got plenty to do. The main story missions destabilize regions of the map, which allow the player to go there and help the guerillas capture towns and military bases, which when enough of them are captured will switch the whole province to guerilla control.

In addition to helping the rebels overthrow the government, the player gets to help one drug cartel beat down on its rival by taking over various bases. All of this unlocks more safehouses, weapons, and vehicles. Each place you overrun offers side missions, too, many of which are similar, but they can be fun as well.

Fun is the key component of this game's design. The fighting requires very little effort against human foes, as targeting is essentially automatic. If you're aiming anywhere near your foe you'll be hitting him. Fun also comes into play with the travel and the stunts one can perform. You can parachute out of your helicopter, steer yourself just right, and land on the roof of a moving car, and then take it over. You can use a grappling gun to latch onto a copter and have it drag you into the air. I found myself laughing out loud as I performed insanely silly stunts just to get around.

The save system is fine with safehouses littered about, and even in combat it's fairly easy to stay healed. Another cool gameplay fascilitating design choice - you can call for an air drop of a heavily-armed SUV, a motorcycle, a fast and also fully-armed boat (when you're in the water), and eventually a small one-man gyrocopter.

The ease of gameplay and repetitiveness of the base capture missions may wear thin at first, but patient gamers will find later in the game that their tactics must adapt to tougher situations. I thought I was hot shit once I got ahold of a helicopter gunship, wiping out enemies on the ground with wild abandon, taking many towns and drug mansions - until I tried it at a military base and died instantly to a surface-to-air missile fired from the ground.

Some military bases are guarded by tanks later in the game, too, which again call for a change in the player's strategy when attempting to take them. Sometimes it's just luck, too, such as when a threating tank accidentally sticks itself on a conrete barrier and can't hit the player.

The main story missions are fun, and show brief cut scene glimpses of the characters before and after. In addition to these missions, the base capture missions, and the side missions, there are race missions, too, where players race against the clock to reach checkpoints (rather than race AI controlled cars and the like). The races I've run vary quite nicely, from a cliffside car race to a speedboat race to a motorcycle stunt run.

The music and sounds are also very cool, adding some Latin flavor to the game's setting or some rockin' travelling music to a long helicopter flight. A few minor glitches can occur here and there, but for the most part they are not game-stopping or even annoying.

So Just Cause - it isn't GTA IV or FarCry 2, but it is nonetheless another huge open-world masterpiece. If you're one of those kinds of gamers who gets bored easily or overwhelmed by a large map and total freedom to explore it, this might not be the game for you. For me, it's a lot of fun.

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