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IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a review of the DVD version of the game. While unlikely, it is possible that certain extra features, stability issues, and system requirements could change between the DVD and CD-ROM version. DVD games require a DVD drive on you computer in order to run at all. Developer: Avalanche Games Publisher: Eidos Rated Mature (Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Language, Sexual Themes) Minimum System Specs: Pentium IV 1.4 GHz Processor or Athlon equivalent 512 MB system memory 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible video card with 64MB and shader support (at least Radeon 9500 or GeForce4 Ti4200) 100% DirectX 9.0c 16-bit sound card with the latest drivers 5.8 GB hard drive space required Recommended: Pentium IV 2.8 GHz processor 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible 256Mb video card with shader support GeForceT 7 series and higher) Sound Blaster X-Fi series sound card and higher Too many games these days are thinly veiled yet blatant rip-offs of other games. To date, nearly every single sandbox game has been easily comparable to Grand Theft Auto. Brand-new developer Avalanche Games aims to change that with Just Cause, and extremely ambitious open-world adventure on a tropical island.

Gameplay

The player takes on the role of CIA agent Rico Rodriguez, who has arrived on the fictitious island of San Esperito to liberate it from the oppressive “El Presidente”. He’ll need the help of guerillas and a drug cartel, and will also lend his considerable skills to them. Rico (who looks and sounds kind of like Antonio Banderas) has a wide selection of weapons and can commandeer any vehicle to accomplish his mission. He also has access to a grappling gun and a parachute, which make getting around the island a lot more fun. Side missions involve liberations (which are very fun), assassination, trading, theft, and sabotage. While it will put a considerable dent in your hard drive (5.8 GB of space required), Just Cause does not put that space to waste. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest game I have ever had the privilege of playing. With 250,000 acres of land to explore, Just Cause never has a shortage of places to visit. It’s almost big to a fault, as getting from place to place can take a very long time. The true appeal of Just Cause lies in the action and stunts, which is an immensely satisfying hybrid of James Bond, Mission Impossible, and xXx, Rambo, Mad Max, and other action stars. The player can leap across the tops of cars, skyjack helicopters, and do a variety of other things, all with a palpable sense of style. I also liked the gentle, lighthearted humor sprinkled throughout the story (such as blowing a compound sky-high and then watching a cutscene of Rico’s boss trying in vain to construct a card house, which promptly falls over). Doing side mission unlocks safehouses (for protection from the police and a rival drug cartel) and luxury vehicles. Unfortunately, the excitement of the game begins to wear off after a while, and it all starts for feel quite repetitive. Most missions are of the ‘go here, then go here’ variety, but occasionally get really innovative and exciting. Just Cause is best played in doses. Also, one exclusion really hurt the game: I would have been very happy with the option to be able to shoot while driving, and it would have made many missions easier and more fun. I have no idea why this was not put into the game. This version of the game has the option of full dubbing in Spanish and French (voice-overs, menus, and subtitles).

Graphics

For the most part, this is the best-looking game I have ever played, apart from Far Cry. It’s impressive to see such a huge world rendered in such good detail. But the special effects are what really blew me away. The shifting sun reflects off of cars, and I have never seen explosions better than these. I go around and blow cars up just to see it explode with a fireball and turn into a flaming wreck, hurling shrapnel in every direction. Firefights and explosions look very cool at night, as they light up the landscape. Dirt and shrapnel shoot up when bullets miss their mark, and the motion blur looks great (arguably the best motion blur I have ever seen). The water looks very nice if you have the power to generate it; before I updated the driver for my Radeon X1600 Pro, it looked like it was barely there. And underwater environments are fantastic and feature shafts of light filtering through and patches of different shades of blue. Character models and animations are a little weaker. They move extremely stiffly (Rico looks like he’s constipated) and don’t have a very wide range of animations. For the most part, however, Just Cause is a fine looking game reserved for powerful rigs, and the good strongly outweighs the mediocre.

Sound

The voice acting, though cheesy, is fairly good (though some of the accents sound laughably fake), and the sound effects are nice as well. When I rotated the camera, sounds coming from a certain direction would shift between my speakers. The music was exciting and upbeat, with a nice Latin feel to it, but everything looped a little too often.

Control

The control configuration for the PC is fairly good, for the most part. I only had to change one button (the handbrake, from the spacebar to the right mouse button). Most of the vehicles feel a tad too loose and floaty, but I have found that, over time, I have gotten a little more used to them and now they feel completely natural. Putting it away for a while and then picking it up again really hampered my skills. Some vehicles spin completely out of control too easily. Swimming underwater is difficult and takes a lot of practice.

Stability

Unfortunately, Just Cause is not bug-free. The bugs are not as bad as some critics would have you think. Once or twice, I got stuck underwater. Regrettably, the frame rate stutters and slows a lot during the more intense action sequences. This is, however, most likely a result of my processor (1.6 GHz) being a mere hop and a skip above the minimum requirement (1.4 GHz).

Appropriateness

First of all, let me just say that Just Cause is considerably tamer than most other sandbox games out there, e.g. Grand Theft Auto and True Crime. Violence -People killing other people in cold blood (-5) -Red droplets or dots (-1) Interestingly, blood sprays from bodies, yet never hits the ground or walls. There’s a lot of it, but it kind of just disappears into the atmosphere or something. Profanity -Frequent misuse of the Lord’s name (-5) -Sexual jokes made once or twice (-2) The worst profanities were misuses of the Lord’s name, usually combined with d***. Surprisingly, these only cropped up once in a while. Every once in a very long while, a civilian utters an s-word (I have only heard it three times), and it’s used in the cutscenes once or twice. All of the worst profanities were in the cutscenes, which can be skipped Sexual Content -Very skimpy clothing worn (-3.5) It’s implied that Rico sleeps around a lot. The main female protagonist is seen in a bikini multiple times (it\'s non-sexualized; she\'s always sunbathing, but Rico has trouble keeping his eyes off of her), and some areas of the game have scantily dressed prostitutes. Interestingly, Rico is almost always either blown off or not paid any attention, a change from the lusty come-ons seen in other games. Occult/supernatural issues -None Cultural/Moral/Ethical -Requires active rebellion (-2.5) -No prejudicial biases -No crude humor There is the questionable concept and means of a revolution. Many missions involve sabotage and assassination. It tempts the topic of how far a government can go before the people have the right to overthrow it. It’s unclear if a peaceful revolution could have been an option or if the guerillas are merely bloodthirsty. As appropriateness goes, Just Cause is the best choice (between True Crime and GTA). It is not, however, a game for children or anyone under about 16 or 17 years of age. It is still quite violent, profane, and mature, even if these moral problems are in lesser measures than its bretheren. Just Cause needs to be approached with caution.

Conclusion

Just Cause is an exciting, lighthearted action romp, and sure to please thrill seekers. What’s even more amazing is that the developer, Avalanche Studios, made Just Cause its very first project, so a few missteps are understandable. While Just Cause is not the most polished game I have ever played, this debut release is better than what many “veteran” developers put out. I would love to see a sequel made to address the current issues with the game. And while it is doesn’t revolutionize gaming, it is a big step in the right direction. Whatever happens, know that Avalanche has tremendous potential, and I will be watching their future projects closely.

Final Ratings

GAMING FUN FACTOR Gameplay: 18/20 Graphics: 10/10 Sound: 9/10 Control: 4/5 Stability: 4/5 Subtotal: 45/50 APPROPRIATENESS SCORE: Violence: 4/10 Profanity: 3/10 Sexual Content: 6.5/10 Occult: 10/10 Morals: 7.5/10 Subtotal: 31/50

Final Score: 76% C

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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