|Just Cause (2006)
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC
Another day, another “GTA” clone, but much like the recently-released “Saints Row,” Eidos’ “Just Cause” earns a spot in the win column purely for its innovative improvements to the sandbox genre. That isn’t to say that the action-adventure title isn’t without its faults, however, and while the open-ended environment is truly impressive, the wearisome back-and-forth traveling between destinations (which can take up to thirty minutes) doesn’t bode well for repeat visits. The overly-simplistic gunplay could also be criticized, but it only seems fitting considering it was implemented by the same team that breathed new life into the latest installment of the once-popular Tomb Raider franchise. Trust me, targeting your nearest enemy is the last thing you should be worried about when you’re freefalling from thousands of feet in the air.
And that’s exactly how the story gets underway for Rico Rodriguez, a CIA operative tasked with overthrowing the San Esperitan government by his lonesome self. Within the first ten minutes alone, you’ll be jumping from a plane, parachuting to safety, saving your friend from a group of local lawmen, and then hopping onto the back of his Jeep in order to ward off the pursuing military helicopters with a mounted machine gun. Exhilarating, to say the least, but from here on out, the gameplay takes an unexpected dive. The main story is incredibly short and the missions that you’re sent on (like assassinating high-profile targets or stealing important pieces of intel) are constantly recycled.
The game also offers side jobs for Rico to take part in, but as you work alongside the rebels to take down crucial military bases, you can’t help but feel a sense of monotony in the formulaic mission objectives. Thankfully, there’s a few new toys that help in distracting you from the tiresome gameplay experience; namely two specific I-can’t-believe-this-hasn’t-been-done-yet accessories: the parachute and the grapple gun. Fans of Nintendo’s short-lived “Pilotwings” series will enjoy the former more than anyone else. Just find a very high cliff, jump, employ and enjoy. Gliding through the sky is an unbelievably thrilling experience, but the fact that you can land practically anywhere you want is the icing on the cake.
You can even deploy your parachute while on top of vehicles, but the range is extremely limited due to the fact that you’re already so low to the ground. The grapple gun goes hand-in-hand with this experience. Simply target your gun at the oncoming traffic of choice, latch on to the back bumper and you’ll be parasailing from behind for as long as you want. Reel out to reach higher heights, or reel yourself all the way in if you would rather take over the car. Or just enjoy a free ride to your next destination while on top.As stated before, my biggest concern with “Just Cause” is the long-winded expeditions that you’re forced to embark on between missions. Having several different vehicles at your disposal is helpful (and you can call on them virtually anytime by using the Heavy Drop option on your PDA), but sometimes even they can’t get you where you want to go. And God forbid you parachute down to a location and fall a little short, because while most professionals would probably have the skill to climb a steep mountainside, poor Rico is forced to travel the low road all the way around and try again. Why? Just ‘cause.