A wise man once said that chaos – be it in revolt, activity without meaning or disorder – is the road to freedom. If any game has successfully imbued the concept of chaos into its core concepts, it would be Just Cause. The series didn’t always begin like that though.
The first Just Cause came out in 2006 and was published Eidos Interactive for the Xbox, PS2, PC and even the Xbox 360. Like Grand Theft Auto, it aimed to introduce an open world in which players could go where they please and do as they please.
Taking place in the 391 square mile island of San Esperito, Just Cause had you playing as Agency operative Rico Rodriguez as he works to overthrow the dictator, Salvador Mendoza. Mendoza, like any despot, has weapons of mass destruction and it’s up to Rico to put a stop to his scheme. With extreme prejudice, of course.
Just Cause featured a rather short storyline campaign but prospered with over 300 different side missions to take part in. The basic elements of a signature gameplay were beginning to take form here, as players could pilot a variety of vehicles and perform all manner of stunts like base jumping, skydiving and even parasailing by latching on to a car or boat and deploying the parachute.
Such antics proved an aside from the usual mundane chores of Grand Theft Auto.
But it wasn’t until Just Cause 2 that things really kicked into gear.
The sequel was published by Eidos Interactive in 2010 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, but now distributed by Square Enix. It also introduced the new Avalanche Engine 2.0 and implemented Havok Physics into the mix. Rico Rodriguez returned again, aiming to overthrow another dictator – Pandak “Baby” Panay – on the island of Panau and also facing off against his mentor from the previous game, Tom Sheldon.
Unlike the original, Just Cause 2 embraced its open world nature and rather than progressing through simple campaign missions, players had to generate Chaos. With enough Chaos, one could unlock new Agency missions and proceed to assault strongholds that held their sway over the island.
And how did one generate Chaos?
You could go around collecting items. That’s one way. You could also perform different side missions. That’s another way. Or you could assault bases, blow shit up while parachuting into territories, hijack and lasso a jet for transportation, string several baddies together and execute them with whip attacks, ramming a helicopter into an airport hangar, pilot vehicles into sub-orbital base jumps onto bridges where cars await to be jacked, and even blow up a whale.
We haven’t even gotten to holding off the super tankers.
The grappling hook quickly became one of the more awesome additions to the game. Despite the lack of super powers, as was seen in games like Prototype and inFamous released around the same time, Just Cause 2’s grappling hook was enough to give Rico an edge over an entire island army. You could either grapple towards objects normally, using the hook to assist in glides with the parachute, or as a melee weapon.
One of the more innovative uses of the hook was to pull enemies towards you and shoot them up, along with attaching one end of the hook to an enemy while attaching the other to a random object that they would then be pulled towards. Much hilarity ensued, especially when you knocked two enemies’ heads together (literally). And who hasn’t hooked an enemy on to a passing aircraft and watched them sail off into the wild blue yonder?
The level of destruction in the game was nothing to scoff at either. Entire bases could be levelled with the use of explosives and well-timed vehicular violence. And unlike some games where the level of violence, the level of Chaos was meant to be fun in its own right, it served a purpose in Just Cause 2. Avalanche Studios wanted you to have fun in the world they created – all 400 square miles of it.
In a way, Just Cause felt like a tribute to all the old school action movies we grew up with. Movies like Commando, Rambo and Predator, where the point was balls to the wall action at every turn. It was ridiculous, it was clever, it was fun and it got the blood pumping. Shit blew up good, and never stopped blowing up for any goddamn reason.
As it stands, open world action adventure games will come and go. Upcoming games like Saints Row IV and Grand Theft Auto V add elements of chaos and randomicity to their inner workings, the former taking it to hilarious levels of over-reaction and the latter looking to employ its own action movie style of adrenaline, referencing films like Heat with its heists.
Despite this, Just Cause, especially the sequel, will always hold a fond place in our hearts for the pure, lucid simplicity of Chaos it presented. Because, seriously, how many games let you blow up whales?