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Just Cause

YOU KNOW, between computer games, airport novels, Jerry Bruckheimer films and the American military, the world is soon going to run out of snappy, thrill-packed, two-word, dynamic-sounding, cliché-ridden titles. Then where will games like Far Cry, Boiling Point, Cold Fear and, indeed, Just Cause be left? Floundering either with poetic-sounding names such as An Island Of Dreams or, better yet, crudely Orwellian monikers - Shooting Game X-337-B (Contemporary, Vehicular). Good thing too.

E3 was full of such nonsense this year, which is unfortunate given the potential of some of the games forced to wear such titular strait jackets. Just Cause being a case in point; this is quite the promising-looking attempt to blend Far Cry's lush tropical visuals with GTA's freeform, go anywhere, drive anything,
do as you please mechanics.


There is a plot, something about an undercover CIA agent with an improbable name (Rico Rodriguez I think, although it might as well have been Rick Hardnut or Dirk Gun for all it really matters) sent to the fictional South American isle of Los Madeuperito (San Esperito, I think you'll find - Geographical Ed) to uncover a stockpile of WMDs and overthrow the government in much the same manner the Mission: Impossible team used to do every week in the '60s. Except with loads more gunplay and vehicle action, which, let me tell you, is no bad thing.

Suddenly, before our eyes, Just Cause really started to shine. We were shown demonstrations of just a few of the hundreds of vehicles you get to play around with (reminding us oddly of the old 8-bit classic Midwinter), but what we saw included such feats as jumping out of a plane, freefalling through the sky for absolutely ages, finally deploying a parachute, gliding down to a random spot on the whole (huge) island, steering towards a moving car, landing on it, pulling out the driver and racing away to freedom. James Bond eat your heart out.

Freedom is the key to both the plot and the gameplay. Notionally you are tasked with recruiting allies, influencing various power groups and generally causing plenty of destabilising trouble as you complete the 20-odd missions, from setting up to eventually offing the ruling dictator. Along the way there are hundreds of side quests used to drum up support for your plans, or there's just the thrill of exploration to enjoy - you can go anywhere you like (with the local constabulary permitting).

Plenty of Havok 2 physics are there to pretty up proceedings, along with realistically changing weather and day/night effects and beautiful scenery too. Even if you don't feel like playing the main game, there's plenty of fun to be had devising stupid stunts to show off with. Not as stupid as the name though, but what are you going to do, eh?