Digital mayhem: Just Cause 3 review
It’s time to buckle in and get ready for the impossible physics of the third-person explosion-fest that is Just Cause 3.
Rico Rodriguez, dictator removal specialist, and general mayhem-maker is back. Having removed Salvador Mendoza from power in San Esperito and Pandak "Baby" Panay from Panau, Rico is heading home, to Medici in order to free his people from General Di Ravello and avert the evil dictator’s plan for global domination. Aiding the local rebels, Rico must recapture settlements, outposts and bases to relinquish General Di Ravello of his power.
Plot wise that’s all you need to know and all you are likely to remember. Yep, the plot of Just Cause 3 makes Call of Duty Black Ops III look like Citizen Kane.
And I’m fine with that. As Just Cause 3 is all about blowing stuff up in amusing ways. To do this Avalanche has really outdone themselves this time by giving players access to a fantastic arsenal, some really unique equipment and load of air, land and sea vehicles to mess about with.
The formula that made the previous entries’ so addictive has been distilled for Just Cause 3. This time the reins have well and truly been handed to the player, giving us even more tools to unleash mayhem across a huge map packed with ne'er–do–wells deserving of the chaos coming their way.
The first ten minutes of the game sees Rico fitted-out with his equipment, some new, some familiar, but all enhanced. Rico’s impossible parachute - that opens and closes with a button press - returns, but this time more refined, allow players to unleash precise strikes whilst gliding to the ground.
Fast self-propelled aerial travel is provided by the amazing wingsuit, that allows for some breathtaking ground-hugging locomotion. With the help of Rico’s grapple, you can propel yourself using the wingsuit almost indefinitely. About that grapple, for this outing Rico can fire multiple grapple lines (up to six can be unlocked), and increase the tension to move and/or pull stuff down.
The world has been upgraded as well, with fully destructible bridges and even a working train system. There is no game engine out there capable of rendering such a detailed and beautiful-looking vista with such low overheads. As with its predecessors, Just Cause 3 looks amazing.
The islands of Medici are beautiful and varied. From the traditional Mediterranean look of Insula Fonte to the snowy peaks of Insula Striate, the landscape is absolutely breath-taking. New for this third outing are intricate caverns and tunnels carved out of the rock- perfect for base jumping and wing-suiting through.
The vehicles have had a bit of a polish up. Whilst the aircraft feel pretty-much the same, Rico can now walk about on aeroplane wings. Cars and trucks feel a lot more responsive, with the handling that you would expect from a dedicated racing game rather than a jack-of-all-trades sandbox.
Enemy defences have been stepped up with mortar fire and even nukes to content with. This time, though, surface-to-air defences can be hacked turning them against your enemies. For added fun, the hacked SAR can be lifted by helicopter creating an absurd, but effective mobile weapons platform.
And this is the thing with Just Cause 3. Being a physics sandbox, players are limited only by their imagination when it comes to causing mischief. Helicopter bothering you? Tether it to a jeep. And then tether the jeep to a passing boat and watch what happens.
As with the previous games, Medici is a county made up from several islands divided up into regions. Each region has a number of occupied settlements, outposts and military bases. In order to liberate these areas Rico must destroy the dictatorship’s infrastructure, such as transformers, oil tanks and speakers—basically anything with a bit of red on it needs to go, preferably in as bigger an explosion as you can muster. Because explosions are cool.
As areas are liberated (with fireworks), side challenges are unlocked. These challenges involve races vehicles, wingsuit time trials, shooting things and, of course, blowing stuff up (because blowing stuff up is cool). A good challenge score awards players with gears which unlock equipment modifications. In real times this means faster and better grappling, better parachuting and bigger explosions!
Many of the settlements are very similar, requiring destruction of pretty much the same things in order to liberate them. This should get old, but it doesn’t- as every destructive solution that you unleash tends to have a mind of its own. The potential repetition actually gives you the confidence to try some pretty absurd solutions. Like those enemy guided-missile helicopters that used to give me so much trouble at first fast becoming a godsend after I hijack them and use the enemy’s weapons against them.
There is a main story mission path, but the game is just so packed with optional activities it’s next to impossible to not get side-tracked. On route to a mission you might come across a military base in need of levelling. Ten minutes of explosions later and you’ve unlocked a handful of challenges each of which will earn “gears” which can be used to upgrade equipment. Then there’s the random encounters- people that need offing in a manner than looks like an accident or soldiers that need you help getting evacuated to safety.
This is a game that whilst being full of carnage, doesn’t take itself too seriously. After every liberated military installation, the voice of former Doctor Who, David Tennant, comes on over the radio to explain how the destruction was all part of the dictator’s plan.
I reviewed Just Cause 3 using a two-year-old rig powered by a i7 3820 running at a stock 3.6Ghz. Complimented with 32GB of RAM, the 2xGTX980 SLI- armed machine was able to run the game at a reasonably solid 60fps (v-synced to the monitor’s 60hz) from a dedicated solid-state drive. Reports are coming in that some people are having framerate issues and glitching. I’ll be honest and say experienced none of this. I even got the game running across three monitors at a steady 30fps, but my personal preference was for a faster framerate over the ultra-wide display.
Even with a SSD, loading times were slower than expected, and likely to be noticeably long for users with mechanical hard drives. To be fair, once the game has loaded, players can travel from one side of Medici to the other without any further loading as long as they don’t get killed. As always, PC owners need to be mindful that the performance of the game on their system is dependent on the machine's specification as well as a little bit of luck.
Just Cause 3 was a real hit for me, and a game that – like it’s predecessor – I’m likely to still be playing in five years’ time. The islands of Medici are such a glorious playground and the toys available so much fun to play with I had trouble putting it down.
But, if you are after a deep narrative, a social statement or even a mildly coherent plot, you are not going to find it in Just Cause 3. Remember, this is a game where you can survive a fall by grappling the ground and pulling yourself down at breakneck speed…and not break you neck.
It’s a game about blowing stuff up and doing stupid things in ways that will make you laugh. Some imagination is helpful, but not required. A sense of humour, however, is essential. If you need you games to guide you by the nose, you perhaps need to take a look at the latest Call of Duty entry, instead.
If you like ridiculous action and orchestrating huge over-the-top explosions, you are really going to have trouble putting Just Cause 3 down.