Hello Rico! Resplendent in leather pants, baring his chest in a way that makes The Simpsons' Disco Stu look as extravagant as a nun, Just Cause's star is easily the campest piece of character design we've seen since, ooooh, Enchanted Arms.
Yep, Rico is a "thuper" hero alright in this larger than life take on the secret agent genre. The pitch is to parachute into the islands of dodgy banana republic San Ferrito and execute a series of missions that agitate its political stability as decreed by your CIA overlords (a cocktail-quaffing, Hawaiian shirted fatty and token bit of skirt) until you bring about regime change. And, as befits a game with Americans poking their noses (and guns) into foreign affairs, expect to be hot on the trail of a lunatic dictator and WMDs as San Ferito is personally treated to a dose of foreign policy, Uncle Sam style.
Rico then, is the anti-Sam Fisher, as much as this is the anti-Splinter Cell. Macho men with stealth intent is definitely out - here it's all about blowing shit up in the sun, and
roaming about GTA-style. With the subtlety of a rhino you'll go on an all-too-brief rollercoaster of a journey executed with some wit, plenty of style but, ultimately, not enough substance. For every golden gaming
moment on this technical masterpiece of an island, you can't escape the shallow feeling of the game. When you're busting ridiculous moves from planes and helicopters, you'll experience genuine "Oh-my-God-I've-got-to-show-my-mates-this" moments... and then you've got the hollow, annoying and tedious on-foot sections to balance it out. Every now and again, Just Cause is genius. For the most part, it's the biggest missed opportunity on Xbox 360 so far.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
First up, let's take this gargantuan, bigger than-anything-else-we've-ever-seen set of islands. Avalanche has created a tropical paradise that edges out Test Drive and even dumps on the previously awe-inspiring Far Cry. It's massive; very near MMO huge and dwarfs even San Andreas. Thanks to Very Clever Technology from Very Clever Swedish Boffins the lush vegetation that populates the tropics and canny weather system create an incredible gameworld. Its thousands of square acres include ravines, cliffs, rivers, hills, creeks and beaches that look as eye drippingly impressive from the sky as they do up-close, all just begging to be explored.
But once you do explore it, you'll discover that it's achingly empty. To a certain extent, it's TDU all over again. Yes, there's a load of jungle out there, but you can't really do anything with it so it just becomes filler. Sure, there's a host of settlements from hamlets to cities, from gas stations to oilrigs, airports to factories. But you can't get into the buildings, which means that approximately 95% of them feel soulless and pointless, with the remainder acting as mere signposts for where you might be able to pick up a side mission, roll into conflict against the military or nick a vehicle. Since it's disappointingly empty, its size is wasted. As you progress through the missions you'll increasingly find that unless you're taking a helicopter or plane it takes an absurdly long time to traverse the island, making the initially impressive surroundings a chore to plough through rather than an exciting journey through a South American paradise. So: gutted.
Next, onto the missions. The main story is an offensively brief affair, and, despite offering an open-ended approach, there are only a few missions that demand to be replayed - especially seeing as the first two thirds of the game is so easy that the only way your life is really threatened is by arsing up the needlessly confusing controls. On foot sections (of which there are many, forming a large part of the Liberation sidemissions), are also, for the most, woeful.