It's a bit late to be playing this game, although I did it for a few reasons. Its sequel, which is coming out in a couple days, has a really fun demo out that got my appetite for some open world destruction up, and my free copy of Red Faction: Guerrilla still hasn't arrived yet. Over a weekend the first Just Cause was less than eight bucks on Steam, so I decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be a functional if unremarkable open world game, not great but probably worth the price I paid.
It shows its age for the most part, the huge environment that never has to load is nice, but most of what you see in it is unimpressive. It's pretty obviously from that transition period between this generation and the last one, and the shooting definitely feels like it came from an earlier era. Enemies pop in and out of cover like they're in a whack-a-mole, the driving is rudimentary and the PC port doesn't support a widescreen mode. There was something weird about the in-game cut scenes, they were rare but happened once in a while, and I couldn't tell if they were intentionally miming to each other or if some voice acting just wasn't playing. More important moments are given the CGI treatment, although the scenes look really cartoony and did little to interest me in the game's very vague plot. Some of the music when you're driving around is pretty good, although that's really the most I can say about the sound. The barely existent story would have benefited from a likable cast, but your support team always has that generic cocky tone and the main guy is one of the worst protagonists I've ever played as. He hasn't a single interesting detail to him, his voice is a boring Antonio Banderas-type thing and I think through the entire game he literally has no lines of dialogue that aren't stupid action movie tough guy quips.
The basic gameplay might have been more exciting a few years ago, but especially after its sequel's demo it's not much to write home about. Not that I'm usually writing letters to people about games I'm playing. It's got the traditional open world shooting and driving, with the additions of a "stunt position" that lets you jump on top of any vehicle, and a parachute and grappling hook to facilitate your transportation through its tropical landscape. It's not easy to get good momentum going with the parachute and the hook is only useful for hitching to moving vehicles, but the ability to jack a vehicle while it's still flying down the highway takes a lot of frustration out of the experience. The straight path through the story missions was a bit surprisingly short, packed with a variety of explosive opportunities but completable in about six hours. There's a ton of side missions you can do to help friendly factions take over territory from other gangs or the government, though the rewards for doing so aren't necessary to beat the game and they weren't really interesting enough on their own to entice me to do many of them. It's really not a very hard game, as you can take a lot of punishment before dying and even the strongest resistance isn't that difficult to circumvent. I had a bit of trouble in the last few missions because helicopters were blowing crap up all around me, but you're always one good shot with the hook away from taking it for yourself and turning the tables.
And that sort of sums up the whole game. There are a few elements that cause frustration and eye rolling, but there were few moments while I was playing where I wasn't at least mildly enjoying myself. It makes you feel pretty invincible for a guy with no real superhuman abilities, and anything bothering you isn't that difficult to find a way to turn the tables on. It's definitely the kind of game that's not great but tolerable if you don't have to spend a ton on it. Just Cause 2 on the other hand might be playable right away.