#715 Just Cause

Posted: 18th August 2013 by Jeroen in Games
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263rd played so far


Genre: Action/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive

Some games seem to just pigeon hole themselves. An action sandbox game like Saints Row 2 (because, well, we’ve not yet played the original big name in the genre, GTA3 and beyond, yet), set on the islands of some South American dictatorship. You are (presumably) to overthrow them.  It also gave rise to a whole line of humour: “Why you playing that?” “Just ’cause”.

We’ll get to the game that reminds us of in a moment.

Part of the notability in the book is how the game is partially fairly buggy and seems to always be ‘teetering […] on the edge of a devastating nervous breakdown.’ Oh dear.

Our Thoughts

Here’s the thing. Anything that matters in this game, most of the areas we’d touch on, overall, in all that matters, Far Cry 2 did it better. It’s a sandbox game set in a foreign, jungle-like environment. Less island-like in the comparison game, but for quite a part of it that doesn’t matter.

Here’s the thing. This game feels rushed. It seems as if it was developed for the PS2/XBox generation, but then they discovered the PS3 and XBox 360 were coming out and they had to rush to get it out to still be for the right platform. There was a port to the XBox 360. This shows in a few ways. First, the graphics (at least for the PS2 version that we played) were crap. We initially thought we were looking more at a PlayStation 1 game. This seems better on the 360 and PC versions, but it’s still off. It’s probably because of the size of the world, but there’s no real excuse for grey blocks of buildings. Cut scenes don’t look much better, but are prerendered – the change in style is jarring.

And then there’s the bugs. I’ve not seen some of the worst ones mentioned, but we’ve been hit by some too. Probably the most annoying were the randomly disappearing boats. Here you are, trying to take over one (god knows how – you press the button at the right time, and you’re magically on it. Or near it. No clue what happens to those on the boat) and you turn away for a moment, seeing where to go to hide. You turn back to look where the boat went… and bam, it’s gone. A big, 3 tonne ship just disappears. On other occasions, during certain invasion missions, people just won’t spawn for ages, or get stuck in a place they should never be in. It just feels lazy. It is known that in the PS2 version of this game (i.e. the version we are playing) there are a number of pretty lethal bugs that mean levels can never be finished. Okay, lethal is an overstatement but in my hands it would mean a very gnawed controller (I did bite the hell out of a controller when I was playing Crash Bandicoot at the tender age of 7).

On those cut scenes we mentioned earlier, and the story from before, they just don’t really seem worth it. It’s a flimsy story, barely explained, and just doesn’t seem to matter much. Yeah, I got bored partway through them. It might have introduced some later night changes, but they didn’t do much for us.

The world design is mixed. There’s a few nice places and sidequests – it has the same find random stuff sidequests other games like it tend to have. There’s some nice design features. There’s some good ideas. However, just as many things seem to be repetitive. Each village has the same ‘take control of this area’ sequence, which is a case of kill people, blow up barricades, kill more people, until you get to the flag and raise it. Cities have the same, but with less barricades and more people to kill. But that last bit… you raise a flag, everything goes away and you’re safe? It just feels a bit too lazy somehow. Sure, put in an end-goal where you’re not attacked. Don’t make it just ‘race to the flag’. Or rather, race there at the right time.

Beyond that, the meta game is fun enough – conquering areas, slowly taking control of the island. And even if it doesn’t look that gorgeous, that are some interesting sight and variation in the places where they’ve tried. The game just feels too unpolished and unfinished for that to keep having appeal. A world to get back too… but probably better to get back through with a more polished game like Far Cry.

Final Thoughts

I want to do more sandbox games! I love the idea of the game. I want to play more like it. I just can’t get past all the issues here – the unpolished graphics, the bugs, the wooden voice acting, the repetitiveness of a few too many sections that seriously don’t make sense.

For a game trying to be this size, wanting to rush it and get it out at the end of a generation just seems like a waste. With these results, it might not have been worth it, especially when it means the reason your game is notable is that it’s about to crash.

In retrospect it would have probably been better to play this on the PC but you can’t say no to a £2 second hand version from Gamestation.