Start a revolution.
With the 19th anniversary of the innovative PlayStation 2 this week, it is only fitting that our team shares their favourite(s) titles. Today I’d like to drop my hat in the ring and throw it back to Avalanche Studios first endeavour with (at the time) new action hero Rico Rodriguez.
A year before this game would drop, Rockstar Games had already released Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas into the world. It was a thunderous success that has gone on to leave a concrete legacy both on the franchise and on the gaming industry. If GTA III was The Godfather, then San Andreas was certainly Coppola’s opus sequel. In the wake of Rockstar changing the playing field, the term ‘’ GTA CLONE ‘’ had unfortunately birthed itself into the gaming nether.
I’ve always thought that term was unfairly used when describing open-world titles, especially the definition of open-world itself has evolved over the years. Regardless of that, Avalanche Studios were cooking up something a little different.
When Rock Solid Studios was formed in 2003, the creative force that would form Avalanche were busy working on a Tremors video game adaptation. When that fell through, Avalanche was formed and Rico: Terror in The Tropics began production. Eidos Interactive caught wind of it and acquired distribution rights, allowing Avalanche to expand. Renamed later to Just Cause, in reference to the 1989 military operation of the same name, it was full steam ahead for the first instalment.
Clad in the finest of tailored clothing (all in black of course) with a cross pendant and his signature revolvers, the detached yet suave Rico Rodriguez was ready to be deployed. No doubt inspired by the likes of Antonio Banderas ala his work with Robert Rodriguez, Just Cause set out on a different path than GTA style story antics. In a nutshell, Just Cause is an 80s action film simulator. Here’s your arsenal and a marker on the map: cause havoc in the most daring and explosive way possible.
The plot (or lack of) is something straight from a DTV actioner.
Corrupt government official is ruining the world > special agent or mercenary is sent in to clean up > action ensues.
In the case of this franchise, the plot has never been its strongest asset and it has also never truly hindered the experience. Just Cause games have always been a love letter to creativity, fun and the imagination of the player. The second instalment, in particular, would maximise this extremely well.
So what about the game we have at hand?
Since 2006, the most obvious aspect to be dated is the visual department. Even at the time, the PS2 counterpart of this title was lacking polish and struggled in its more frenetic moments to keep up the performance. I remember arguing with my brother about whether Scarface: The World is Yours was a better-looking game (as brothers do). In the face of its presentation, Just Cause still delivers on the gameplay to this day.
Having revisited it recently via the PS3 port (an upscale of the PS2 iso depending on your settings), I was surprised just how solid the core mechanics are. The weapons feel bombastic and fittingly over the top to appeal to the action movie approach. Destruction feels exhilarating and weighty, even with the limited amount of assets that could be crumbled. The first mission still remains one of the strongest in the franchise and a sterling encapsulation of the Just Cause ethos.
The main issue with this game I’ve always found however is the disappointedly repetitive side missions and objectives present as progression occurs. It’s a catch 22 in the case of Just Cause. It’s immensely fun to destroy everything you can but it can be dull if the format of that destruction isn’t kept fresh or new. There are far too many ‘’ capture the location ‘’ missions before any real progress is made to lead onto the bigger and meatier moments filled with explosions galore.
The locations are varied enough to keep that aspect of the gameplay new, but the goal remains the same as a detriment to these new areas.
Bringing it back to the imagination of the player is where Just Cause truly thrives above the rest of its open world competition back in 2006. Make your own adventure. Make your own action movie. This is your action sandbox.
I have spent countless hours making across the map escapades to airports and military bases, to wreak chaos and steal various vehicles (mainly plains) in an effort to recreate incredible Point Break style skydiving thrills. Depending on your heat level, fighter jets and tanks would descend on you like wildfire. Skydiving past a fighter jet as it attempts to give you an early grave is what Just Cause is all about. The opportunity to create your own tales of death-defying feats and endless fun.
‘’You are Rico Rodriguez, a top secret agent, about to start a revolution. ‘’