Far Cry has a maximum draw distance of two kilometres," a voice whispers from behind us, "but Just Cause's draw distance is 32 kilometres." We don't have to be looking at Fredrick Sjoo to know that he's smiling. The Project Manager is quick to point out how his team's first Xbox 360 release is bigger and better than Far Cry in every respect.
We're nestled in Avalanche Studios fifth floor office in Stockholm, Sweden. It's minus thirteen outside and the snow covers the streets three feet deep in every direction. Such a chilly environment bodes the obvious question; did you create the virtual sun-kissed island of San Esperito to escape the five month winters of your home town?
Fredrick draws his head back and laughs. "That might have had something to do with it," he adds with a slightly arched eyebrow, "but there's something about the vast wild expanses of jungle that seems really cool."
'Vast expanses' just about covers it. Billed as being half the size of Jamaica, the land mass of San Esperito is 1,200 kilometres, 32 by 32 in size. We can attest to the sheer scale in the first minute of the game - as we're dropped out of a plane cargo hold some two thousand feet above the island. Real-time free fall has us alternating between tugging at the controls and ogling the minor details of the quickly expanding isle. We admit, we're a sucker for ambitious draw distances - especially when every nook and cranny of our destination can be explored.
And explore it you will. As we plummet to earth, Fredrick fills us in on the game's back story. With the threat of possible WMD stockpiles in the region, undercover CIA Operative Rico Rodriguez has been sent in on a covert operation to shift the power dynamic away from the corrupt officials governing the island. Rico must use growing tensions between various factions to ignite a rebellion to overthrow the government, converting the entire island's population to the cause of the underdog. No small feat.
That is if Rico, with his slicked back hair and sharp black suit, can avoid rapidly becoming an Armani pancake. But one deft button press later and a parachute billows out behind him, slowing his descent and allowing us to take in the beautiful panorama. As we drift towards a nearby beach, the finer details of the island become evident; a flock of birds drifting on the wind, roads that network across the island, full of traffic. And of immediate importance, three vans drawing up to our landing spot, spilling out gun-toting soldiers. It seems our unwarranted arrival has been noted as bullets whizz past us in the sky.
The 007 comparisons are obvious - witness Rico's smooth transition from airborne sitting duck to cold killer once his feet touch the ground. Duel-wielding pistols, he makes short work of the soldiers as they run back and forth between cover. Our contact radios in and tells us to wait for a quick extraction from the area. As an armoured pickup coasts round the bend, Fredrick's hand appears from behind and takes hold of the controller.
"We want to show you the diversity of the missions on offer," he explains as he flips through a selection of save points. A small contented sigh is expelled and he points us back to the cutscene on screen. Watching the exchange between Rico and his female contact in a seedy bar, it's obvious that despite the real-world echoes of the story, the scripting is handled with tongue firmly in cheek. Rico's cocky verbal sparring makes quite a change from today's grim and gritty heroes. The stance and style of the character bares such a startling similarity to Johnny Depp's character in Once Upon A Time In Mexico that we have to ask whether this is more than just simple coincidence.