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"I can't believe I get paid for this!"
Rico Rodriguez

Just Cause is a series of military sandbox games developed by Avalanche Studios. They focus on the exploits of Rico Rodriguez, an action hero implied to be working for the CIA to overthrow fictitious Banana Republics. The traversal with the grappling hook/parachute/wingsuit combo is what really makes the Just Cause games stick out among their peers.

Rumor has it that a movie adaptation, titled Just Cause: Scorpion Rising is in production.

Not to be confused with the early-2000s Canadian TV series, or with the 1995 film.

Elements which apply to all games

  • All There in the Manual: The first two games drop you right into the action with minimum plot explanation; the main character isn't even referred to by name, except in the opening cutscenes. Essentially all you're told is that you're an American partisan, here are the bad guys, go blow stuff up.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The games run on it. A list of examples would be twice the size of the rest of this page.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Used and almost literally quoted (they only say Attack twice) by the Panau soldiers, who will keep coming and sound extremely confident about their chances despite the fact that they often have to climb over the bodies of the last 3 waves of soldiers that they send your way.
  • Black Market: They can be called up at any time to sell Rico weapons, vehicles, upgrades and even transportation services once the player gets far enough in the game.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Bottomless, topless and missing the sides too, the mounted minigun has infinite ammo when carried despite Rico leaving the ammo can and belt behind on the mounting. A recurring issue, actually: the normal machine gun is also missing any sort of ammo belt or box and apparently works on a belief-based system.
    • The ammo gauge on the HUD actually shows ∞ for the minigun, as well as for vehicle weapons.
    • The default pistols in the first game also have infinite ammo.
  • Buffy Speak:
    "He's got me with his wire thing!"
  • Company Cameo: The series has a few nods to the series developers, Avalanche Studios:
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Elegantly defied; since screwing around wreaking havoc IS your mission, nobody minds if you take a while to show up to story missions.
  • Critical Annoyance: There's a soft heartbeat when in critical health range.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: Not too bad an offender, since the map is huge and filled with many varied landscapes, from sandy beaches and dense jungles, to snowy mountains and arid deserts, but many buildings (such as lighthouses) are clearly reused several times. A more minor offender of this would be the government property Rico is always being sent to destroy. While military bases tend to have some variety in their layout, expect to see countless fuel silos, generators and broadcast towers everywhere you go.
  • Cutscene Drop: While some missions require you to travel to the extraction point, there are a few that teleport you to a safe house as soon as you assassinate the target.
  • Damage Is Fire: No matter how badly beaten up a vehicle is, it remains drivable—until the engine starts smoking, in which case it's time to bail out quick.
  • Darker and Edgier: Sort of, while the second game itself is as tongue-in-cheek as the first one, Rico has gone from a suave James Bond-esque agent to the Jason Bourne-type who'll threaten to bitchslap someone with their own removed hands. Reversed by the third game.
  • Dashing Hispanic: Rico himself, complete with suave one-liners and accent.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Averted in the first game. Rico has quite a few of these sorts of lines in Just Cause 2. Running over someone sometimes makes him say "I was aiming for the other guy". Or after hacking into and blowing up a gas pipeline, "Nothing personal... It was a design flaw".
  • Destructive Savior: Rico. Theoretically he's there to free the people from an oppressive government, but his modus operandi is literally to cause as much chaos as possible and assist any nearby resistance movements, regardless of how crooked they may be. One of the most common ways to cause chaos is to blow up a village's water supply.
    • As an Ax-Crazy Devil in Plain Sight, Bolo Santosi probably counts as this in her own right. At one point she rejoices that with your help, she can turn Panau "into a smoking ruin." How this contributes to building a worker's paradise is still unclear.
    • The briefings even go so far as to say, "Collateral damage is regrettable, but sanctioned."
    • Special mention goes to the end of Just Cause 2. Rico blows up Panau's oil supply to ensure that no more wars are fought over the small nation, defying the wishes of his superiors.
    • Even though Rico stopped any future oil wars, he used a nuke to do it. Likely causing mass collateral damage in the process.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Soldiers will go at you, guns blazing, if you so much as walk into them.
    • Yet they have no problem with the guy running around with 3 guns, who just pulled a guy out of his car to run over a motorcyclist.
    • Propaganda trailers are the worst for this. If even a few bullets hit one, be prepared for an absolutely endless Zerg Rush of soldiers, jeeps, and even a few helicopters. No other destructible object in the game warrants this sort of reaction when you take it out.
  • Double-Meaning Title: [A] just cause or just [be]cause? You be the judge.
    • The first game makes it a sort of triple meaning, as San Lorenzo is in the general area of Central America. The United States invasion of Panama was codenamed "Operation Just Cause". Likely intentional, as, according to the background information, the invasion of Panama was when Rico was recruited into the Agency.
  • Easter Egg: Plenty. In an empty field in the middle of nowhere, there's a tower where you can find a bubble blaster. It has 600 ammo, can't be refilled anywhere else, and firing it does nothing but attract heat. On the Lost Island, there's a mysterious Panauan soldier in the forest that emits smoke and has a massive amount of health, a crashed plane, and a hatch. There's a snowman in a ski resort that Rico will say "Hello" to if you press the action button when you're near him.
  • Eagle Land: Sheldon and Kane are a realistic mix of both types. While both of them are somewhat blase about the collateral damage Rico can inflict, and even encourage him to do so in 2, they also firmly believe that it's a necessary evil to dethrone monstrous tyrants and are quick to laud Rico's world-saving, third-option-taking quick thinking.
    • Sheldon leans a bit towards type 2 with regards to communism, stating "Real Americans hate commies!" and expressing some disappointment when Rico saves Russia from being nuked at the end of the game.
  • Elite Mooks: The first two games have these. Just Cause 2 even keeps track of how many you kill. They take more damage and usually have more powerful weapons than their weaker friends. Get the Heat meter high enough and they'll start parachuting out of the sky around you!
    • Don't forget the ninjas! Tons of health, armed with sub-machine guns, and able to teleport in a puff of smoke.
    • Then there are the Colonels, who can only be damaged if you shoot them in the face, whip them, or use explosives.
    • There are also a few "Demolitions NCOs" who appear quite rarely. They're heavily armored, but drop all their (live) grenades when you kill them. They're not quite tough enough to call minibosses, but they're definitely as tough as any Elite Mook.
  • Escort Mission: Several. Many do not require you to protect an NPC, but rather the vehicle you're driving in. This is especially infuriating considering how easily cars can be rendered almost useless by gunfire.
    • The second game is full of them, usually tasking you with protecting an NPC. This is usually fine as long as you focus on shotgun-wielding foes first, and in some cases the vehicles may in fact be invincible. There's also a few extremely fun Escort Missions where you are expected to hang onto a friendly car during an intense car chase; however, you're quite able to hop onto enemy cars to blow them up, pop your chute to start parasailing, etc.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Cars in the second game seem to be programmed to explode if they hit something immediately after you jump out. This is not an exaggeration.
    • Extends to boats, too. Hit the beach fast enough to just go about ten feet inland and it'll explode for no other reason than the underside got scraped up a bit.
    • It's the worst with airplanes. Once you get up to cruising speed, touching almost anything will cause them to explode.
  • Everything Fades: Corpses, as well as any debris from any destruction you've caused, fades within a few seconds. This often happens right in front of you.
  • Excuse Plot: Despite the rich possibilities that the game's premise has for ruminations on United States foreign policy and the heavy price of western security, the plot of Just Cause is a homage to cheesy Hollywood schlock. Why? Just 'cause.
  • Exploding Barrels: The second game has these. Hilariously, because they belong to the government, you get rewarded for blowing them up. Of particular note are propane tanks, which when shot rocket into the sky. If you shoot one and quickly grapple onto it, you can use it to escape hairy situations by rocketing out of them. This is as awesome as it sounds.
  • Firing One-Handed: Rico never uses guns two-handed if he can help it.
  • Foreshadowing: A lot of the buildings you blow up to generate chaos in 2 are for the production, transportation, and storage of gasoline.
  • The Generalissimo: The villains of the series are all tin pot military dictators of island nations, with Rico being described as a "Dictator Removal Specialist" in the third game.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Agency, an American organization which is essentially the CIA, only with more car-surfing, nation-destabilizing, and gravity-defying Spanish guys.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The military really doesn't care what you do as long as you don't do it to them. You can, for example, drive a sports car backwards down the highway while dragging an upside-down jet and going over the speed limit, and the military jeep behind you won't care.
    • Once they do come however, they never stop, and they cheerfully keep calling in more helicopters (even though you hijacked the previous 3) and more soldiers (even though you mowed the last few dozen down with your stolen helicopters).
  • Hand Cannon: It's telling that a game runs on Rule of Cool when the Desert Eagle is the most basic weapon that you can come across.
  • Harder Than Hard: Hardcore difficulty (which is above Experienced, the next step up from normal.)
  • Heart Container: Armor boxes. The HP increase is so incremental, however, you probably won't even notice it until you've collected dozens of boxes.
  • Hellish Copter: The game takes this trope and runs with it. You can literally daisy-chain helicopter hijackings with your grappling hook, as well as shoot them down with revolvers and assault rifles, and nobody ever says anything about landing the aircraft you fly - so by the end of the game an average player has a count of downed helicopters numbering in the hundreds.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: All non-plot-vital characters in the game can be killed, and chances are good you'll run over more than a few accidentally while driving around. But it's all for a just cause.
    • In Just Cause 2, Rico is far more talkative, and some of his quotes make it quite obvious this is exactly what he is.
    "Mr. Theng, either you come with me willingly... or I cut off your hands and bitch-slap you with them all the way to where we're going."
  • High-Speed Battle: Liable to pop up every now and then, especially in any mission that involves a vehicle.
  • High-Speed Hijack: The franchise runs wild with this, because Rico's Grappling-Hook Pistol lets him get onto pretty much any vehicle with ease and then steal it with equal ease. Stealing helicopters is a favorite trick for many players, partly because it's less dangerous than trying to fight them from the ground and partly for the many benefits of having a flying gunship.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: In the first game, Rico can carry seven or eight different weapons, and hundreds of rounds for each. This has been downgraded in the second. Not only can he only carry three guns, they all appear on his person when holstered. He can also carry up to twenty grenades and twenty explosives, although only one apiece appears on him.
    • Seems to be this way with his parachutes.
    • Don't forget the black market helicopter, which can drop entire TANKS for you.
      • And other helicopters. Of equal size.
      • Let's not forget that the black market helicopter is called to your location before you choose what you want, meaning that everything you can buy is already onboard.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted. The Panunan military are superhumanly accurate, even to the point where they make shotguns lethal at mid to long range.
    • And making it a bitch to get that 'kill 50 enemies without taking damage' achievement. At long range the dozen shotgun pellets won't kill you, but one of them is bound to hit you.
    • They are also quite good at hitting you while you are grappling over their heads at 50 miles per hour. Most normal humans wouldn't even be able to follow your movement by eye, but they can apparently aim very quickly.
  • Improvised Weapon: Rico's melee attack is to extend the grapple line few yards and use it as a whip.
  • Island Base: As the first three games take place on large archipelagos, there are a quite few of these.
  • It's Raining Men: Enemy reinforcements may parachute in. Of course, Rico can parachute himself in too. Using the grappling hook he can parachute himself out as well.
  • Joke Weapon: The Bubble Blaster, of course.
  • The Joys of Torturing Mooks: The games' main draw comes from encouraging the player to use their tools to dispatch foes in sadistically creative ways, such as tethering foes to vehicles or even tethering them to explosives.
  • La Résistance: Rico is typically helped by the local rebel militia opposing the resident dictator.
  • Made of Explodium: Nearly everything, but guard towers in the second game get special mention. They explode in a massive fireball despite apparently being made of nothing more than wood and corrugated tin.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The villains are all based on real life military dictators.
    • General Mendoza is a stand-in for multiple dictators from both sides of the Cold War including Augusto Pinochet and Fidel Castro.
    • "Papa" Panay and Pandak "Baby" Panay, much like Real Life Haitan dictators François "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Pandak Panay's physical appearance and speech pattern also quickly call to mind depictions of Kim Jong-Il.
  • No Hero Discount: You're working directly for the CIA. Your black market weapons dealer also works for the CIA, and is effectively your boss. Yet he makes you pay for weapons and vehicles you need for the CIA missions!
    • Theoretically, the prices are the cost of smuggling the item into Panau-after all, it makes sense that the government is regulating, well, everything. Doesn't explain why it costs the same as chaos rises, though.
  • Outside Ride: Rico can surf or hang from any vehicle in the game. Including sports cars and jumbo jets. He is even the page image!
  • One-Man Army: This describes Rico to a T. He's so badass the army has to call for air support just to deal with him. Then he steals the incoming chopper and mows the survivors down with it.
  • Permanently Missable Content: The infamous "MV Command" vehicle is only guaranteed to spawn in a single, required missionnote . There is a faction mission it can show up in, and it can spawn at certain heat levels, but don't count on it. The Bering I-86DP plane, however, can only spawn on two specific airports, and is completely lost upon their destruction.
  • Rated M for Manly: The series stars a One-Man Army who smashes through anything in his way (and some things that aren't) in ways which defy the laws of physics in hilarious ways. Everything explodes -- including some things which logically shouldn't. Everything which bears even the slightest resemblance to subtlety is thrown out the window of a jet, whereupon it plummets earthward at nonsensical speeds until it connects with the earth, at which point it promptly assumes the general consistency of strawberry jam.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Tom Sheldon, most notably towards the end. He's very happy with Rico's reasoning for nuking the oil fields, and decides the details of the mission are "need to know only". His superiors, according to him, don't need to know.
  • Regenerating Health: In the first two games, there is some minor regeneration only when in the critical health range and the remainder is recovered by dropped health packs or in the safehouse. Just Cause 3 omits health kits in place of full health regeneration.
  • "Risk"-Style Map: When you perform the stronghold takeover missions for each faction, an area of the map falls under their control (as opposed to the government's) which is denoted by a faction-coloured outline surrounding the area and if you zoom the map all the way out, the outlines are filled with that colour.
  • Rule of Cool: The franchise is practically built around it.
    • The absurd yet awesome endings of the first two games can be justified by this.
    • Wanna use a grappling hook to reach a fighter jet, surf said fighter jet for ten miles, then open the cockpit, throw the pilot out, hijack the fighter, use said fighter to ram an enemy fortress at insane speeds, leap from the cockpit milliseconds before impact, freefall for half a mile, then suddenly open your parachute at the last moment, land safely on the ground, and walk away from the whole ordeal looking cool? If so, this is the series for you.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Often carried by enemy Mooks and available to purchase in the Black Market after a while, but not very useful compared to the other weapons Rico has access to by that point.
  • Scenery Porn: The entirety of Just Cause 2. Lush jungle, snow-capped mountains, arid desert, the towering skyscrapers of Panau City, vast oceanic expanse, and the sky, oh the sky - all rendered beautifully. And unlike most examples of Scenery Porn, you can visit every single point on the island.
    • This is one reason the PS2 version of the first game was considered the worst of the bunch. Every other version has extremely lush visuals (even the original Xbox port) while the PS2's were dull and limited by comparison. When part of the hype surrounding your game is the graphics, that's not exactly spelling out a recipe for success.
  • Scratch Damage: Averted; some things just can't be hurt by handguns.
  • Serial Escalation: How many jeeps will they send after Rico this time? How many dozens of cars will be destroyed in a single chase? How close to the ground can Rico get after falling 20,000 feet before opening his parachute? How many parachutes are really in that backpack?
    • How many nuclear missiles will you ride?
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Played straight with the one-handed Sawn-Off Shotgun. Averted with the regular two-handed shotgun, which can easily hit targets at 30 metres and beyond, and when fully upgraded turns into a One-Hit Kill murder machine.
  • Shout-Out: Multiple.
    • The Lost Island in the northwest corner.
      • Even the mission where you have to go to the island is called 'Stranded'.
    • Killing several (~20) soldiers while in a helicopter will cause Rico to start humming Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries in a nod to Apocalypse Now.
    • Rico yells out the most famous quote from White Heat ("Made it, Ma! Top of the world!") if you land or climb on the summit of one of Panau's mountains.
    • One of the military boats is named the Winstons Amen 69.
    • There may even be a shout out to the famous Evil Overlord List with the descriptions of one of the colonels.
    "Colonel Saravanan is one of the most celebrated colonels in Panau's army. His men are immaculately disciplined and deadly - his secret, some say, is that he has the intelligence of a five year old ."
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: Played straight with the first three games, which only feature armored cars and troop carriers with tyres but refer to them in-game as "tanks". Averted with Just Cause 4, which features proper tanks with treads for the first time.
  • The Agency Operatives Who Don't Do Anything: Tom Sheldon. The game makes a running gag out of his goofing off, and it's not until the second game that he's shown doing any actual work. Even then, most of it occurs when he's still masquerading as the Sloth Demon.
    • Except if you count roasting pigs as "working".
    • The Personnel Files clarify this - Sheldon is pretty much the only person Rico will reliably take orders from. He earns his keep making sure a "high maintenance" asset is kept on task.
  • Travel Cool: Plenty of it exists in the franchise. The Agency GP in the first game has a rocket launcher (and the rest of the Agency vehicles are pretty neat too), whilst the second game has the following Cool Plane, amongst others.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The first 2 games have fictional tropical islands as their settings, with 1 being in the Caribbean and 2 in Southeast Asia.
  • Title Drop: Done by Tom Sheldon at the end of 2.
    Tom: "Hell Rico, that's as just a cause as any!"
    • Doubly so, as the final mission is also titled "A Just Cause".
  • Troperiffic: These games are basically 80s action movies in videogame form.
  • Variable Mix: There's a transition when you enter/exit a vehicle, although there's more rapid transition for some combat missions.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: All games take place in a large island. You can access all of it from the start. Sure, there are story missions, but who needs those when there are untold hundreds of villages to liberate, vehicles to steal, soldiers to kill, and tons of government property to be destroyed?