I flew today.
Few games can make an open world just as much fun to destroy as they are to explore. The Just Cause series has always been about over-the-top action and, well, stupidity. Think of it as the equivalent of a Summer popcorn movie, complete with bad acting and a ridiculous script. Just Cause 3 is essentially a bigger, badder version of what I have come to know of the series. While this is certainly not a bad thing, those looking for the third entry to revolutionize the series are likely to come away disappointed.
Just Cause 3 once again follows protagonist Rico Rodriguez. He seems older and wiser now, but still prefers back-flipping out of planes and surfing on top of cars. He also seems to have the same luck as Bruce Willis’ character in the Die Hard movies, reliving the same scenario over and over again. Rico is once again on an island trying to help the rebels overthrow an evil dictator. This guy should definitely get a new travel agent.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Time to Beat: 40+ hours
The story never takes itself seriously, but sadly is not nearly as outlandish as the previous entry. The characters feel like doppelgangers attempting to recapture the cheesy magic, but none of them ever really succeed. Still it serves as an entertaining catalyst to move the revolution ahead and of course to set up set pieces for wanton destruction.
What makes Just Cause so special is its playground, and JC3 has delivered an impressive, if not familiar landscape to wreak havoc. The islands of Medici are massive in size, hiding plenty of towns to liberate, and military settlements to destroy. What kept me coming back though is the game play loop. Developer Avalanche nails that 30-seconds of fun so well, and even though most missions and mechanics are repetitious, I could simply not stop repeating them.
Rico’s tools are very familiar to the ones he had in JC2. The grapple hook has been upgraded to allow for more tethers, and the wingsuit accompanies the parachute as a means of conveyance. Everything can also be upgraded through a new system called Gear MODs. There are challenges scattered around the map in a variety of categories. Completing them earns gears that are then used to unlock these modifications. For example, completing a series of tether mods allows for Rico to have up to six tethers at once, as well as increasing their strength.
MODs can also be turned on and off at will, so if there is a combination that is not working, simply turn it off and experiment with different ways to use them. While the system works in the progression sense, it is a shame that some of the best abilities are locked behind these challenges. I am not sure I have ever heard someone say they enjoy checkpoint races in open world games.
The new Rebel Drop system is also much more streamlined than before. It now works like a shopping cart, where Rico can pick and choose something from each category of guns and vehicles, and drop them in one neat package. The firepower available makes liberating bases much more fun. Rico also now has an endless supply of charges that can be placed on structures and detonated at will. It is glorious walking towards the camera in slow-motion as the explosions occur behind him. Big, dumb, fun.
Controlling all of these things takes time though. Learning to switch between the grapple, parachute, and wingsuit fluidly definitely has a learning curve. It took me a couple hours before I was soaring around without issue. Of course, I still plow my face into the ground every once in awhile. Just Cause 3 is also not great at explaining some of its basics. It assumes players are familiar with the way things work, and a lot of helpful tips are locked behind loading flavor text.
Speaking of loading, this is something players will spend a lot of time doing. The initial load of the game is massive. Then during the game sometimes loading into an area two feet away takes an absurd amount of time. It just feels unpolished. The frame rate is also inconsistent. Sometimes I can drop a carpet bomb on an area and things are fine, while other times I would notice slowdown while spinning the camera. It never hindered my enjoyment of the game, but it is certainly noticeable.
Outside of its frame rate problems, the world of JC3 is gorgeous. Soaring over the skies and seeing mountaintops in the distance is great. Explosions are a joy to watch, and the colorful setting really does sell the experience. I loved exploring even though there are gigantic patches of absolutely nothing to find. There are Easter Eggs like in previous games, but I am sure it will take weeks to find them. Hopefully Avalanche can patch out some of the frame rate issues on consoles over time, because I still want to jump back in, even now.
Just Cause 3 is truly a one-note experience, but one with a loop so addictive I can’t stop playing it. This is the most fun sandbox I have toyed around in since the previous entry, and I can easily see myself sinking another couple dozen hours exploring the world of Medici. Those that found JC2 underwhelming or repetitive won’t find much to change their mind here, but for fans like myself that simply can’t get enough destruction, Just Cause 3 delivers on all levels.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.