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Just Cause

San Esperito is a country on fire in the biggest freeroamer on Xbox

San Esperito is a country on fire. A rogue South American island state overrun by WMD-hoarding dictators, brutal drug cartels and all manner of heavily armed resistance groups, it's a petrol-soaked rag of a nation, aching to be cleansed by the righteous fires of justice.

Which is where you, undercover CIA operative Rico Rodriguez (yep, that's his actual name), come leaping into the equation. Armed with enough explosives and artillery to turn most of the southern hemisphere into smoking ruins, it's your job to enter San Esperito (by parachute, LOUDLY, while FIRING GUNS) and overturn the corrupt regime and return the island to its downtrodden citizens. In other words, welcome to GTA in the jungle.

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So what makes Just Cause so special? Put simply, it's the sheer size of the game world on offer. San Esperito is perhaps the biggest, freeroaming landscape ever committed to Xbox. It's enormous. 1,024 square kilometres enormous, to be precise, and thanks to Avalanche's ingenious technology, every part of San Esperito's mountains, rivers, sea beds, cities and jungles can be visited without a single pause for loading.

And that's where Just Cause's second trump card comes into play, because with such a huge landscape to explore, you're going to need some heavy-duty transport - and with over 100 different air, sea and land vehicles up for grabs, Just Cause certainly provides the goods. Be it a beat-up jeep or an F-15 fighter jet (either of which can be leaped out of at any time during play for a spot of impromptu base-jumping), getting around in San Esperito is clearly going to be half the fun.

The other half will be the missions themselves, all 150 or so, spread generously across three broad categories: story missions, side missions (get involved with the cartels and guerrillas and try to upset the political balance of the island) and bonus missions. As in Grand Theft Auto, the onus is on you to go out and find them, but the emphasis here is on how you actually carry the missions out, because Just Cause gives you free reign to solve problems pretty much any way you like. Say, for example, you're asked to blow up a radar station - do you steal a plane and fly it into the base, drive up to it in a car stuffed full of TNT, or sneakily infiltrate by way of the underground tunnels? And even when you've got all the missions licked, there's still the sheer fun of exploring a life-sized small country on your Xbox to enjoy.

Just Cause won't be with us until early next year, but given the popularity of games such as Mercenaries and the forthcoming Far Cry Instincts, we're expecting a generous ripple of excitement to start building up in the meantime. This could be really good...

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