Every now and then a game promises to be an action-packed thrill ride filled with so many explosions and bullets that your head may implode at any moment. Ok, so a lot of games promise this, but it is rare that any deliver. In the past, the Just Cause series seemed to be one of the successful ones. While the bombs, bullets, and chaos is still very much there, does it all tie together or does it go up in smoke?
Just Cause 3 puts you back into the role of Rico Rodriguez, this time looking a good bit more, well, dull for lack of a better word. In all honesty, he looks nothing like his previous versions. It’s understandable for a character’s look to evolve over time with new hardware and generations, but this seems a bit drastic in my opinion. He no longer looks like a suave action hero, but more like a recovering alcoholic, that was recruited from the local hardware store. I know it may sound insignificant, but I just can’t get over how uninspired the character looks this time around.
In this installation, Rico returns to his home country to overthrow an evil dictator who is in possession of a new type of element which fuels the war, quite literally. Rico must take out the big bad evil army guy and save the island, and maybe even the entire world. Yeah, it’s about as generic and boring as it sounds. Pre-release info from developers promised that the story would be deeper, more impactful and fleshed out. While I can’t honestly say I remember much of the first two games’ stories, I really can’t imagine them being less interesting than this one. The characters are weak, the narrative is all but absent, and I found myself staring blankly into the screen during cut-scenes in a vain attempt to gain some sort of interest in what was going on as a whole. Sadly, the best thing about the cut scenes and storytelling is when the game stops doing it and allows you to make the excitement yourself.
Once you get past the story you’ll find yourself in a massive world with all the tools you need to create chaos. Nearly everything can be destroyed. Using Rico’s grappling hook, you’re able to tether one object to another, allowing you to do nearly anything you can think of. They also come with the ability to retract into each other. This allows for some hysterical situations. For example, at one point I attached a foot solider to a missile as it was about to launch, I then attached another tether to a nearby attack chopper. While I don’t think the result was ‘realistic’, I personally found it to be hilarious and heartwarming.
The main missions have a few great moments, but overall you’ll just find yourself taking over cities, bases, and blowing up headquarters over and over. If you use all the provided tools in creative and interesting ways, you can make each attack new and fresh. But if you go with the fastest and most efficient, you’ll likely get bored relatively soon. The game also features leaderboards where you can compare various stats with your friends and other players, which includes everything from biggest explosions to highest free-fall.
As always you have your trusty parachute, but this time around you are also given a wingsuit. The wingsuit handles exceptionally well, with increased speed near the land it can make for some very tense and memorable moments. You’ll be using the wingsuit to get around more than you think, too. With loads of open and more or less deserted areas, you’ll find yourself traveling via a combination of grappling hook, parachute, and wingsuit usage. “But what about the cars?!” you may ask. Well while there are quite a few to choose from, which all handle terribly. Honestly, I swear it’s faster to just avoid them all together. There are power-ups and skills that can ‘improve’ your driving, but I still find the driving to be more of a chore than a viable option for transportation.
Speaking of skills, unlocking said skills is a major part of the game, and there are loads to unlock. You’ll get these from completing challenges scattered around the world, which include everything from parachute courses to weapon challenges. While unlocking new skills is great and all, and some really are nice to have, some of the skills that require unlocking should have been included from the start. The ability to zoom in with weapons is locked from the beginning. Not zooming in more or with snipers, but rather zooming it at all. That’s right; you are not able to properly aim your weapons until this ‘skill’ is unlocked. I played a fair bit of the game thinking the ability just wasn’t available. What’s next? Locking the ability to jump and run behind a skill tree? Sorry, but that basic mechanic doesn’t seem to be something fit for being locked.
While the game can have some genuinely fun moments, the controls and handling can impede an otherwise awesome experience. I can’t count the times where I had a massive attack plan and nearly pull it off perfectly only to have the grapple, jump, or aiming screw me up at the last second, making me go from bad ass action star to man who trips over own feet. That being said, when you do pull off something amazing, mostly during the story’s great set pieces, it looks and feels awesome. The explosions are vibrant and dynamic and really leave the player with a sense of destruction.
The biggest downside to Just Cause 3 is the loading times. They are, in my opinion, absolutely horrendous. The initial load can take anywhere from one to two minutes, which is fine. However, the problem lies with the retrying of missions or even challenges. Fail one of these and you’ll be staring at a static image for nearly four minutes, three if you’re lucky. Mix that with some insanely frustrating escort missions and you are just asking for a broken controller. Nothing makes a player more angry than having to sit and stew after repeated failure. There is a patch said to be out soon that addresses this issue, but that doesn’t free my mind of the torturous memories already created by these loading screens.
Visually the game can look beautiful at times. Dusk, for example, looks downright breathtaking while midday can look grainy, muddy and jagged. Lighting is well done, especially underwater, and the explosions are definitely the star of the show. They produce massive bloom, particle effects and honestly looks astounding. If there is one thing Just Cause 3 does right, it’s boom booms.
If you’re looking for a sandbox game where you can literally burn the world, then look no further. Just make sure you’re the type that is entertained by hours of destruction and repetitive killing because that is what you’re going to get. While it’s not the most beautiful looking game, it has its moments, but for the amount of loading it does, you’ll be expecting visuals along the lines of The Order.