Just Cause 2 is one of my favorite open world games. The exploration, the raw action, the personality; I loved it. However, when I heard about Just Cause 3, I honestly didn’t care much — Up until it was released, that is. It was then that I got excited. Was my excitement justified? Yes and no. Please be aware that this review was written using the PC version of Just Cause 3, and that any optimization issues I point out will differ between PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Just Cause 3 is an open world action game developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Square Enix. It follows the continuing adventures of Rico Rodriguez, a now former agency member who has left his job as an agent to return to his home of Medici. Unfortunately, Medici’s government has been toppled by a ruthless dictator known as General Di Ravello, and it’s up to Rico to lead the local rebellion and take the fictional nation back from the hands of oppression.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about Just Cause 3′s story. There are more details, but honestly the story is so hum drum that I forget what they are. There’s some sub-plot about a powerful ore that can be used to power weapons, but I can’t quite remember the details of it. However, I wouldn’t fault the game for that; Just Cause 2‘s story wasn’t memorable, and I doubt the first entry’s was either. The story only serves as basic motivation for Rico and his allies, and that’s honestly okay in this instance. Story isn’t what Just Cause is known for, anyway. The characters are also pretty flat. I think Rico is a funny and likable protagonist, but the supporting cast is boring at best.
What Just Cause is known for is blowing the ever-loving snot out of everything in your path in the most absurd, hilarious, and epic ways possible. The main gameplay in Just Cause 3 comes from liberating villages and destroying enemy outposts. In order to achieve this, you must destroy every military asset present in said village\outpost. These can vary from propaganda billboards, to statues of Di Ravello, to gas tanks, to power generators, and even massive radar domes. You’re given a variety of weapons and vehicles to blow stuff up with; Some assets can be destroyed by shooting, while others require heavier firepower. You can jump into helicopters, tanks, boats, and cars to wreak your havoc with. There’s nothing more satisfying than planting explosive charges on four giant gas tanks all lined up, and watching them simultaneously explode in a firey hailstorm of doom and mayhem.
If that sounds amazing to you, well, you’re right. It is amazing. It’s also very, very repetitive. This was a problem present in Just Cause 2 that many complained about (I can’t speak for the first game because I haven’t played it). Just Cause 3, or Just Cause in general is nothing but a grind. You go from place to place, blowing up military assets, then you move on. There are main story missions and challenge missions, but the main draw of the game is also the most monotonous. It’s best to play Just Cause 3 in shorter bursts, rather than five hour long play sessions.
There are also many collectables scattered throughout the game world. These can be used to unlock special vehicles, guns, and unlimited fast travel through certain parts of Medici. These all add to the overall playtime, but searching for them ends up becoming a bit tedious as well.
Unfortunately, gameplay in Just Cause 3 barely differs at all from Just Cause 2. I can think of maybe three significant gameplay changes, and they’re not enough to change up the way the game works at all. You’re immediately given a new grapple hook and something called a swingsuit (Think the wingsuit from Far Cry). The updated grapple hook allows you to tether items together and yank them around. You can use it to tether explosive barrels to military assets to save ammo, and you can use it to attach things to vehicles. I found it particularly entertaining to tether a Di Ravello statue to my helicopter and tear it down. The swingsuit is very straightforward; It allows you to travel through the air much faster than your standard parachute\grapple hook combo, but it’s also very difficult to control. These are both very handy additions, but as I said, they simply don’t change the formula up enough.
The third addition are Mods. These are like perks you can unlock via completing challenge missions throughout Medici. They give you various abilities such as turbo boosts for vehicles, extra grenades and c4 charges, stronger grappling hooks, etc.. With each challenge mission you can unlock up to five “gears.” Get enough gears in a specific mod category and you’ll unlock a new mod. Sounds simple, right? It would be simple if the challenges weren’t abysmal. These challenges can range from simple time trial races, to swingsuit courses, to just “blow everything up before time runs out.” Pretty typical fair. However, all of these challenges are one of three things: Boring, repetitive, or downright infuriating (especially the latter) — Never fun. I cannot recall one moment when playing a challenge where I experienced any semblance of enjoyment.
They’re all so unforgiving that it’s ridiculous, and when they’re not unforgiving, they’re just bland. The races always require you to make impossibly quick times in order to achieve all five gears; The destruction challenges always seem to make sure to place you in the most inconvenient spot so you can’t really destroy anything quickly to build up combos; And do not even get me started on those weird tether challenges where you have to bring the ore to the orepits. I’m pretty sure the bombing run challenge is also broken. These involve you having to drive a carbomb to a destination and jump out at the last second to blow up a group of enemy vehicles. The problem is almost any time I would do this, the massive explosion wouldn’t so much as dent any of the objective vehicles. You have to hit some ridiculously specific sweet spot in order to even achieve anything — It’s nonsense. I would simply ignores these challenges altogether, but some of the mods you unlock make the game a heck of a lot easier and it’s almost necessary to get them.
This is all made even worse by how horrible vehicles control in general. Planes and helicopters aren’t awful — though they aren’t great either — but land vehicles like cars and motorcycles have some of the worst handling I’ve ever experienced in a video game. You either feel like a sack of 5,000 bricks through a tar pit, or you feel like a piece of paper stuck in a wind tunnel — Usually the latter. The slightest adjustment in your course can send your vehicle crashing and burning in the blink of an eye, and this is incredibly frustrating when trying to do time trial challenges. In fact, using vehicles in general seems completely discouraged in Just Cause 3.
Why drive in a car when you can use your parachute and swingsuit to get places faster? It’s usually even faster than helicopters and planes. Attacking bases is absolutely pointless with vehicles, too. Attack a base with a tank? You get surrounded by dozens of enemies who will destroy you with grenades in seconds. Attack a base with a helicopter? SAM sites will shoot you down in moments. Get rid of the SAM sites prior? You’ve bought yourself some time, but missile equipped boats and helicopters will eventually come from nowhere and swat you out of the sky with laser beam-like accuracy. How exactly can a boat 1,000 feet below me in the water shoot a fast moving helicopter that easily? It’s completely idiotic. I eventually gave up on trying to use vehicles because it’s much easier just doing everything on foot. It doesn’t even end there — Apparently three shots from a shotgun from several yards away can destroy a heavily armored helicopter. I don’t even have words for that. That is stupid. 100% stupid. It’s not like I was playing on the hardest difficulty or something. This is definitely my biggest complaint with Just Cause 3; It goes from entertaining to downright cruel with its difficulty seemingly at random.
My favorite part of Just Cause 3, however, is its size and look. Holy moly is this game beautiful. Medici is honestly one of the best open worlds I’ve seen in a very long time, and it’s also massive. And I mean massive. The first island (which serves as the game’s first “act”) seems to be about as large as the entirety of Just Cause 2 alone. And there are two other landmasses, the biggest of which being at least three times larger than the first. It’s insane. People complain about how long this game takes to load, but why on earth wouldn’t it? It’s a gargantuan game. I can’t even complain about the load times, either. I’ve heard it can take up to a minute to load on console, and some people on PC end up waiting close to that, as well. I guess I’m the lucky one because my game loads in about ten seconds. That is kind of long I suppose, but for what you’re getting I think it’s worth it.
Even with all of its frustrations, I’ve really enjoyed the 20 hours I’ve put into Just Cause 3 so far. It’s got some obnoxious aspects to it, but the core gameplay is still there and it’s still as fun as ever. If you’re new to the series, I would definitely recommend picking up Just Cause 3, as it’s probably the best in the series overall. Unfortunately, it’s simply no different from Just Cause 2 from a mechanical standpoint, so if you own Just Cause 2, I wouldn’t recommend buying this entry for full price — All you’re going to get out of that is a bigger and more beautiful game world. I don’t think that’s worth $60. You must be careful if you’re on PC, too, as the game has a lot of optimization issues. I was lucky enough to merely experience a handful of crashes, but I’ve heard reports of massive texture bugs and frequent crashing. I’ve also heard that framerate is very bad on console. Just Cause 3 is a solid game, but it may be a risky buy for a lot of people at the moment.
A PC copy of Just Cause 3 was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review
Just Cause 3$59.99
- Blowing stuff up is still a blast (pun intended)
- The world is one of the biggest I've seen in a game
- Gorgeous visuals
- Almost no different from Just Cause 2, mechanically speaking
- Repetitive, boring, and infuriatingly difficult challenges
- Vehicles handle horribly
- Randomly difficult and unforgiving in certain instances
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