Sunday, April 22, 2007

Just Cause (360)

You know, I've been playing it for hours now (according to the in-game tally, well over 24), and I still can't work out if I actually enjoy Just Cause or not. I can't even work out if I think it's a good game or not. I'm just totally divided on it.

On one hand, it's very pretty. The foliage has a nice feeling of density about it, even more-so than Far Cry, and the water and clouds and sun are all lovely - you'll see some incredible sunsets during your playing time, and it'll make you long for a nice sunny beach holiday.

The game's main gameplay hook - the stunts - are also pretty well done, for the most part. Once you get the grappling hook (early on in the story) they get even better, but even from the off you have a lovely set of options when it comes to getting in and out of vehicles, and making your way around the game world. Stealing an aircraft, flying above the clouds, then free-falling for what could be a couple of minutes, before popping open your parachute and guiding yourself gently down to the next mission trigger, is a fantastic James Bond feeling.

The map is huge, but really generic. I understand this is probably largely to do with the setting. In order to make it feel like a tropical archipelago (spelt right first time, go me!) it needs a lot of forest and mountain, and not so much man-made stuff. But it just feels featureless. Every now and then you'll stumble on a nice bit - a destroyed bridge, a large city, a monument, a power plant - but they're so far apart you'll be hard pushed to find them again. And the missions don't make full use of all f the space they're given either, often reusing the same stretches and areas. If the map had been a quarter of the size it would have had more diversity without losing anything.

The real problem with the game is that the mission content is so bland and has a real 'half finished' feel to it. Unless I'm missing something some of the side missions are impossible to complete - I'm told to "Destroy the silo", but the silo has no collision and I can't seem to damage it at all.

The story missions are equally boring for the most part, and are totally devoid of any little details that might make you think effort has been poured in to them. Except for the finale, that is - the last three missions are really nice, and you end up using your stunts as a way to complete them, rather than just as a way of getting around the island, as you tend to in other missions.

I could go on, and originally I was going to. The list of charmless and half-arsed bits in Just Cause is as long as a field: the achievement for completing the 7th mission happens when you have 8 story missions on your in-game stats; the cut-scenes look terrible, and feature generic characters; the vehicle handling feels very off; helicopters aren't any fun; enemy tanks can fire at you quickly enough that although their weapon isn't one shot kill, your guy's recoil animation stops you from being able to escape the fatal second hit; the police are ineffectual outside of missions.

But it does have a kind of charm all of its own. Apparently a sequel is under development - I hope that now the tech is working they focus their efforts much more on the scripted content, and really polish that until it shines. And please, do all of your cut-scenes in-engine, with higher poly characters (since not many people feature in them).

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