From the get-go, Just Cause thrusts you head first into the action-packed role of Rico, a South American field operative who has been tasked with overthrowing San Esperito's reigning despot, President Mendoza.
As the game opens and you leap from a plane at 20,000 feet descending into freefall, you'll be gob-smacked by the beauty of San Esperito's idyllic island paradise and the sense of overwhelming freedom that developer Avalanche has created. The sprawling Caribbean archipelago encompasses 250,000 real life acres and is inhabited by a bustling population etched into the oppressive tropical jungle.
However, once your feet hit the sandy beach below, the honeymoon ceases and the well-choreographed and action-packed story unfolds. As Rico, you'll have to complete a series of formulaic missions, consisting of varied objectives such as; kill this bad guy or hijack that vehicle. Sounds familiar in a GTA sort of way? Well at least what Just Cause lacks in imagination it makes up in ambition.
You're free to accomplish your missions any way you see fit, but this can be one of the Just Cause's downfalls as unimaginative gamers will be swayed by quick-fire solutions. The free roaming mantra of Just Cause will allow you to commandeer a chopper, fly to a lofty altitude, sky dive and parachute to the drug boss's departing limo, land on the roof and kick him from the moving vehicle resulting in his death. Alternatively, you could just ram him down in a jeep or shoot a bazooka up his kahuna.
Unfortunately, vehicle handling is sloppy and unresponsive. The only saving grace for the doomed automobiles is in Rico's ability to bust some sweet stunt manoeuvres while driving across the beaten tracks. At the push of a button, Rico can launch himself on the roof of a car, plane or boat and balance precariously as the vehicle zooms along unmanned. From here, he can deploy his parachute (the coolest gadget in the game), attach his grappling hook to oncoming traffic and parasail around the island.
Gunfights are little more than frenzied-frag-fests where you're just as likely to circumcise hapless bystanders with your spray as you are to kill a bad dude. The assisted aiming is infantile, enemies are unrelenting yet weak, and Rico is virtually unstoppable.
Just Cause is absolutely gorgeous. It's easy to just jump in a chopper and admire the island from above for hours on end. Thankfully, the luscious scenery is not put to waste, as you're free as a bird to do as you please while coca farmers and child prostitutes labour and wander the streets.
Verdict: Just Cause is much more than GTA in combat fatigues. The sprawling island of San Esperito is immense and alive, but the jarring gameplay and unimaginative missions make this revolution a tame affair.
Score: 4 out of 5