On December 1st, devotees of the Master of Space and Time (known in his mortal guise as Rico Rodriguez) were treated to the latest instalment in the dictator toppling franchise Just Cause. Just Cause 3 sees Rico return to his home of Medici, a small island group in the Mediterranean, to free the people of this land from the clutches of General Di Ravello. Boasting over 1000km2 of space to play around in on the Steam store page and promising videos of huge booms in the trailers, can Just Cause 3 deliver the explosive goods? Let’s find out!
The story of Just Cause 3 is perhaps one of the weakest aspects of the game, with some parts bordering on the ridiculous. In addition to the traditional dictator removal storyline, which basically involves blowing up as much of Di Ravello’s equipment as possible, pausing to tackle the occasional stronghold, there is also a sub plot involving a mineral known as Bavarium. This pleasingly blue rock can apparently create invincible tanks or super weapons and Medici is the only know source of this mineral, which gives Di Ravello far more power than is probably advisable. This mineral brings together a cast of characters including Mario (an old friend of Rico), Dimah (a well intentioned but quite mad scientist) and, of course, Sheldon who returns for an encore. The characters are mostly forgettable, but I especially like Di Ravello, whose rise to power is documented in tapes scattered throughout Medici. For me though, the character of the game has to be the Propaganda Minister (voiced by David Tennant) who will come on the radio after a major base is taken, to reassure citizens that the good General had this planned all along. Some of his lines are the best in the game and it provides a humorous acknowledgement of your destructive progress.
But, let’s face it, you don’t fire up a Just Cause game for the story, you fire it up for the booms and Just Cause 3 has those in spades. Gameplay wise, there are new ways to create mayhem, such as tethering multiple objects together with the trusty grappling hook as well as a wingsuit which has effectively made all land vehicles obsolete. Speaking of the tethers, they can be upgrading in strength and used to literally rip attack helicopters out of the sky, giving you a sense of god-like power at the higher wanted levels. Coupled with an unlimited amount of Bavirium based C4, there are plenty of ways to deal with those pesky military bases in the most appealing manner. This does come at a slight cost, which is the execution of the gunplay. Ordinary grunts who wear nothing but fatigues and attitude can soak up a ridiculous amount of fire, and once you come up with the elite troops it’s explosives or GTFO. Sometimes, it seems Rico has forgtten how shoot and aiming is more difficult due to the inability to zoom in (unless you have a sniper rifle) without getting an upgrade. However, one you unlock the UPU-201 (a pleasingly compact grenade launcher that fires 6 impact grenades per round) the sun comes out and raining death from a parachute becomes even more awesome.
Whist we’re on the subject, let’s quickly look at upgrades. Upgrades are now unlocked by earning gears, which can be had by completing challenges. The challenges are effectively minigames and you have to complete a challenge in a certain area to get a certain upgrade type, for example completing wingsuit courses to get wingsuit upgrades. Whilst at first these provided a diversion from the main game they soon grew stale and became more of a chore than a pleasure. It’s a little frustrating that these upgrades are not unlocked by actual gameplay and some of the upgrades can turn out to not be upgrades. They are your death. Choose wisely! The challenges feel tacked on in places and the difficulty varies wildly even in the same area of the map, but a little patience will see off most of them.
In some ways though, I am grateful for the minigames, because the gameplay (much like in the other games) goes like this: you turn up to a province, stop off at the first town/base, explode everyone and everything, raise a flag (in civilian settlements only) then repeat with the next settlement. For each settlement you liberate you can unlock challenges and sometimes vehicles. That’s pretty much it. After exploding enough things, the rebels will call you to come help them with a mission (some of which are very tough) then it’s back to exploding. There are apparently rebels fighting the good fight, but outside of missions and certain bases you never see them trying to take territory on their own, meaning you have to personally liberate every settlement. This can all get a bit tedious, but the explosions usually make up for it. Plus, if you get bored, you can have the rebels either fast travel you to a location or drop you some toys (a fighter jet can drop a large tank, apparently) to play with. These drops cost flares, which can be earned by completing encounters that appear at random on your map.
As we’re on rebel drops, when choosing your drop, you can select one side arm (say, a pair of pistols), a primary weapon (LMG’s, shotguns, assault rifles) and a special (such as the UPU-201). Then, you can choose a vehicle. There are an array of civilian vehicles that you add to the drop list by stealing the car. If the car is in motion then the unfortunate citizen is often hurled into oncoming traffic like a wet paper towel (especially on the bikes). Crime committed, it’s off to a friendly garage where they will “chop” the vehicle and add it to the list. Military vehicles are unlocked by liberating bases for the rebels to use and this is, of course, where the best stuff comes from. My all time favourite has to be the fighter bomber jet, which has unlimited rockets and bombs. This beast is so over-powered, that smaller bases can be liberated at the push of a button – which can actually feel like cheating at times. As far as handling goes, the cars steer like shopping trolleys full of bricks with broken wheels, the bikes are even worse (the in-game cow is easier to steer!) the boats are not too bad, but usually slow. Helicopters are reasonably precise but are so fragile they may as be made of glass and jets are pretty tight, but can be a little clumsy. Given the awful controls on land, it’s often better just to wingsuit everywhere, unless you can nab an air vehicle or a tank (which are heavy handling wise, but then they are tanks!).
Now, let’s consider the more technical aspects. Visually, this game is great. The colours are nice and bright, the explosions look incredible and there are little details like having a nice variety of rebel models. However, on an MSI GTX 970, there have been instances of graphical stutter, chop, frame rate variations and other oddness. In general, these took place in the cut scenes, at high speeds or in busy areas and are not game breaking, but are annoying. Reports suggest that AMD cards had some issues on launch, so it may be worth checking to see if these have been fixed if you are considering a purchase. Other than that, the game has been reasonably stable, with only 1 crash to desktop in 42 hours of gameplay. There have been instances where the game will freeze for a few seconds, but these all have 1 cause. One of the groups of enemies in Just Cause 3 is the DRM (Di Ravello Malitia). I would go one step further and argue that the DRM is the ONLY enemy in the game, because the accursed always-on DRM keeps locking the game up because it has lost its connection! Ostensibly, the connection to the Square Enix servers is to run the leaderboards, so let me be perfectly clear. This is a SINGLE PLAYER game. I do not wish to compare my performance to some random Steam user I have never heard of. I wish you to connect me to your servers if, and only if, I am playing MULTIPLAYER.
Ahem. Now that I’ve calmed down, a word about the controls. I play Just Cause 3 using an Xbox One controller which is wired into the PC. This has made for a pleasant experience – the controls are, in general, very responsive and feel tight, which is important when you’re barrel rolling Rico on his wingsuit. However, the controls are not perfect – they can’t be remapped for one thing, meaning that you’re stuck with the C4 and the grenades being tied to the same button. Then, there are the tethers. They work well for the most part, but releasing accidental tethers requires a two button combination which is not the first thing in your mind when someone is trying to turn you into Swiss cheese. Finally, the swimming controls. This world – beautiful as it is, has a large percentage of its area devoted to water. Please explain to me then, why it is so difficult to swim up if you fall into said water? The first time I fell in I drowned, the second time I just humped the sea bed to drag myself up an atoll to the surface. It’s a minor issue, but it is an annoyance – plus it means that I avoid boats like the plague.
With all that said, the annoyances of Just Cause 3 are just that and there are far fewer of them than in the previous games. There is a lot of scope in Just Cause 3 for fun an silliness, which will ensure that the game endures. Take this for example:
For no other reason that “Just ‘Cause!” – and it is this sentiment that sums the franchise up best. I mean, a tank with nitrous that can boost jump over cars? “Just ‘Cause!” In spite of the issues, this game is so much fun it’s almost criminal. On that basis, it can be heartily recommended, because pure silly fun is a rare commodity in AAA games these days and in this regard, Just Cause 3 delivers. Hopefully most of the issues will be resolved in the next few patches and it would also be awesome to see multiplayer added to the game, because dictator removal is even more fun with friends!
Just Cause 3 is developed by Avalanche Studios and is published by Square Enix. It is available to by now from your favourite game shop, or on Steam for £39.99 (correct at the time of writing).
When JC3 was played for this review some video was recorded which can be seen below.