Previews

Just Cause

"It's not Rainbow Six and it's not Benny Hill, but it's somewhere in between" - Avalanche Studios

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You might, for example, steal a car, drive it off a cliff, clamber on to the roof, deploy your parachute, sail down gently to a nearby chopper/yacht/scooter, fire your grappling gun at it, reel yourself in, assume control of the craft and carry on your way. (And why the hell not?) Once you've tired of that (if ever), the other thing to do is look at the mini-map and go to the nearest mission marker - a story mission or side mission, depending on how ambitious you're feeling.

Side missions take in races, assassinations, Driver-like 'run the van off the road'-style encounters and so forth, as well as the slightly more significant 'liberation' missions, where you help the local guerrillas (or drug cartels) turn a settlement over to rebel rule. In the early game, this simply means killing a handful of village cops while they mill around and shoot walls, but when it comes to destabilising cities, there's the potential for a fully-blown war to erupt, with government tanks, helicopters and all kinds of carnage.

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GIMME GUNS
In the process of these mini-coups, you not only help destabilise the ruling junta, but also improve your relationship with the guerrillas/cartels, which gives you access to better weapons and new safe houses. "When you get to under-boss level with the cartel," enthuses Sundberg, "you get your own jet."

The story missions are slightly more complex affairs, and take in tasks such as 'blow up train with chopper', 'assassinate General in brothel' and 'destroy coca plantations'. We had a chance to play the third mission and it soon became clear that there are, as promised, many different ways to achieve your objectives; although you could argue that they're simply variations on a theme.

A few possible tactics in this instance are to blow the coca to hell with a grenade launcher, commandeer a pesticide truck and poison the crops, fly a crop-duster overhead and spray them that way, or simply drive a truck full of exploding barrels onto the fields and let it do its worst. In the end the result is the same, but, to paraphrase Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten, it's always fun to experiment.

TO START LIBERATION, PRESS A
One thing that becomes abundantly clear at this point is that Just Cause is very much a console game for a console audience - even more so than the likes of GTA. The combat, for example, is almost ridiculously simplistic. Huge red aiming circles float over targets, ammo rarely (if ever) runs out and health packs fall in profusion and lie uselessly where they drop because you can take so many bullets before you die anyway.

Collisions and physics are also absurdly forgiving. You can drive just about any vehicle, be it scooter or gyrocopter, straight through the thick jungle growth without any impediment, hopping over rocks and sliding through all but the biggest tree trunks. Your
parachute can never be snagged on the environment, and helicopter blades can be passed through with nary a scratch.

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It certainly means you never become frustrated or slowed down, but it also lends the game something of a dumbed-down, unsophisticated air. "We wanted to make a pick-up-and-play action type of game," explains lead designer Magnus Nedfors. "So we tried to keep it simple, both during combat and while you're driving vehicles."

It's a fair decision given the multiplatform nature of the game, but it's also sure to alienate a lot of PC players, especially those hoping Just Cause would be something of a bug-free substitute for Boiling Point. In fact, despite the many superficial similarities, they're very different games.

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
The team are also very proud of the technology behind the game, which, apart from the completely open, seamlessly loading world, boasts a detailed world simulation system with dynamically-generated weather (which changes according to actual fluctuations in air pressure, temperature, etc) and a highly autonomous AI populace.

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