When I met Just Cause 3’s game director, Roland Lesterlin, at this year’s PAX Australia, he coined a new term, a ‘game-cation’ saying “Just Cause is kind of a perfect game to go in and play for a few of hours, blow some stuff up and just get some sunshine, and wing-suit through the world.”
Just Cause 3 absolutely achieved this tremendous sense of escapism and successfully tempted me away from Fallout 4 and Battlefront.
Whilst I only dabbled in Just Cause 2 (mainly in the multiplayer mod), I eagerly sank some serious time into this game, with plenty more left to play.
Honestly, I consciously placed little importance on the story in Just Cause 3, deeming is more a vehicle for acquiring new gear, meeting new characters and moving to new sections of the map.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the story which unabashedly pays homage to classic 80s action films. It wastes ZERO time, dropping you straight into the action, leaving you to pick up some story ques rather hastily. I had not complaint in this regards, as within the first minute of the game I was riding on the back of airplane wielding a rocket launcher.
The characters are also each unique and eccentric; Mario is the first genuinely funny video game character I have been able to name in a while and Rico himself, whilst initially striking me as being bland, grew interesting as he expressed somewhat more human sympathies and political ideology that made him more than a gun-slinging pyromaniac with beautifully cheesy one-liners.
Ultimately, I was made to genuinely care for their half-hazard rebellion. Watching the rebels claim a town I liberated, beginning to sing and dance amongst cute little fireworks shows was oddly satisfying and made me actively seek out liberating towns, a typical grind in open-world games I usually avoid.
Just Cause 3‘s open world is perhaps more in tune with the worlds of Far Cry and Batman: Arkham Knight than TheWitcher‘s or Fallout’s. It is essentially a playground; the fictional Mediterranean island of Medici – beautifully rendered on my high-end PC – is evidently inspired less by natural geography but more so by the mind of a wingsuiting madman sculpting their ultimate holiday destination
It’s not teeming with content, large areas can be glossed over as you take in the view from atop you jet plane (yes, I mean literally sitting on top of the plane), but there are some special collectibles required to unlock luxury weapons and vehicles worth looking for.Most of what the game has to offer however is laid bare for you see, ensuring this is a rather accessible open-world to conquer. The 100% target does not seem too daunting a prospect (yet, I admit I am yet to achieve it) which is quite nice considering many open-world games this year are simply too big to take it all in.The game ran surprisingly well considering it is one destined to cause plenty of on-screen chaos, the frame-rate comfortably working within a range of 30-60 fps on Ultra settings. I must stress though, that I played on a PC with relatively beefy specs; I would be interested to see how well it runs on consoles considering Roland Lesterlin considered them “built for Just Cause“.
Loading times were kept relatively minimal with only one major load initially, which seemed to me to be slowed down by the connection to Square Enix online service that syncs the asynchronous multiplayer elements. It’s a big world to load and understandably, that takes some time, but nothing excessively long. Subsequent loads between challenges and fast travel often only last a few seconds.
There’s a nice gender balance too, that has not been drummed up or received an unnecessary attention. Female allies serve as both brain and brawn with even female enemy and rebel variants frequently populating bases.
Just Cause however is ultimately about its systems, mechanics, sandbox and of course its destruction, all of which run and handle effortlessly.
And there is a lot of destruction.
Most of the gameplay revolves around destroying various things and there is a insanely wide variety of inventive ways to cause destruction, using weapons, vehicles, explosives and of course, your tethers. Simply put, it’s fun. Systematically tethering fuel tanks together and strategically placing rocket powered C4 translates to a substantially different experience from piloting a fighter jet over an enemy base and bombing the hell out of it.
At times it can be quite challenging. Anti-aircraft fire and SAM turrets can really rain on your airborne parade. Infantry enemies however tend to be more of a nuisance then any significant threat, whilst sometimes unpredictable explosions brought about a sudden and frustrating end to my existence.
The game maintains a high pace and expects you to keep up, which I respected most of the time.
Unlocks come your way through a variety of activities. Liberating settlements – being towns or enemy bases – typically bring new weapons and vehicles your way, which can be airdropped via flares which I acquired as frequently as I needed. Completing challenges – which introduce slightly different gameplay modes with races (on land, sea and air), destruction frenzies, target practises and flight courses for example – are all much needs breaks from relentless destruction which unlock “mods” for your gadgets and gizmos that were typically more exciting than the weapon unlocks. These “mods” allow you to get more creative with your destruction, which seems to me the real limit of the depth in the gameplay.It’s somewhat unfortunate that all the mods are tied into the challenges; there’s a lot of really cool stuff in there that aren’t unlocked until you acquire enough “gears” by completing challenges within a certain time or acquiring enough points. A lot of gameplay videos leading up to games release were filmed on builds with all these unlocked and to find that unlocking certain “mods” meant chasing down and completing challenges to a certain standard may be annoying to some.
Whilst I’m a little disappointed cooperative or competitive multiplayer elements don’t make an appearance, the asynchronous leader-boards did bring out my competitive streak, most likely a result of the limited number playing the game prior to launch.
Just Cause 3 has been a breath of fresh air this holiday season. The game continually brings a smile to my face with the rather repetitive missions and objectives made new and exciting each time through various new vehicle, weapon and mod unlocks. Its not breaking any new ground here but its struck a chord with me at the right time, allowing me to experiment, explore and destroy at my leisure with a kooky cast of characters at my side, in my own time without ever feeling overwhelming.
As always, if you have any questions about my review, please contact me via twitter @EwanTRoxburgh
Fun and exhilarating
Purposeful and engaging story
Strangely lovable characters
Solid gameplay promoting creativity and experimentation
Slick gameplay and presentation
Pays homage & develops formula with little re-invention