‘Just Cause 3’ Review

Platforms PS4 / Xbox One / Windows

Publisher Square Enix Developers Avalanche Studios

Genre Open World Action-Adventure Platform Played Xbox One

Open world games have been dominating 2015, with high budget releases such as Batman Arkham KnightAssassins Creed Syndicate, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, to name a few, all being praised for their high quality and unique approaches to the genre. The Just Cause series is no stranger to the genre having released it’s first two entries in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Just Cause 3 tried to replicate the success of the previous games by expanding upon its sandbox features, demolition and by making the story a little more personal to the game’s protagonist, Rico. While trying to build upon the series foundations Avalanche Studios left itself developing a sequel that was almost surely predictable, in both quality and quantity.

Players take control of Just Cause series’ main man, Rico Rodriguez, a Che Guevera-esque character that works for an agency that is typically known to profit from overthrowing corrupt governments and bringing power back to the people. The game takes place when Rico returns to his homeland of Medici, an oppressed fictional island in the Mediterranean Sea, that is run by a madman dictator named General Di Ravello. The main story of the game focuses around helping the rebels overthrow Di Ravello. As we go on we meet some familiar faces and some interesting new rebel characters like Dimah Al-Masri, a scientist that Rico knew and Mario Frigo, Rico’s childhood best-friend.

The characters in-game undergo steady character progression as we slowly see some of Rico’s friends’ fruition from naïve rebels into legendary leaders willing to put it all to on the line to win back Medici’s freedom. A witty new character that was highly enjoyable and crucial to the authenticity of Medici but never seen on screen was General Di Ravello’s Propaganda Minister who was voiced by the highly talented David Tennant. His character was both a comic relief and a riveting representation of how convoluted the media and brainwashed the general public can be when under the rule of a dictator. The propaganda minister was constantly assuring citizens over the radio that the destruction and overthrowing of specific towns and locations were all planned by Di Ravello as part of a massive “reconstruction phase” that the island was undergoing. This subtle character really drove the authenticity and feeling of roaming around in an oppressed island.

The game, story-wise, laid the foundations of a brewing civil war and began great but later faltered as some missions and story choices became both predictable and repetitive. The story felt too basic and didn’t feel substantial in terms of depth. The basic premise felt uninspired and copied from the first entry in the series where Rico overthrew a dictator on an oppressed island that was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, only in Just Cause 3 those weapons of mass destruction were ‘Bavarium’, an explosive and magnetic material that can be used to ‘conquer the world’, It all felt very cliché and overdone.

In addition to the main story, the game also offered some side missions/challenges that would improve Rico’s skills. These missions were usually time-trial based and encouraged the player to improve their use of vehicles/core mechanic skills in order to upgrade their gear. The one major dislike with the way missions were set out was that in order to progress in the story the player would have to take over provinces/towns by destroying a certain set of monuments or items within the locations. Initially this approach to slowly recapturing Medici felt as if Rico was stuck in the heat of a civil war, but this process quickly got repetitive. It felt strenuous as after finishing a story-based mission the player would have to then spend an hour or two clearing locations just to progress with the story. Personally this drove me away from the game as it turned into a game of endless grinding to take over Medici just to progress with the story. Perhaps if the majority of story missions incorporated taking over a location it would’ve made things more enjoyable.

Where the game lacked in story it made for in gameplay, new mechanics introduced in Just Cause 3 built upon and successfully improved the core-gameplay that made the Just Cause series unique. In addition to the parachute and grappling hook items being greatly improved Rico was equipped with possibly the best in-game flying piece of gear that has ever graced our screens, the wingsuit. This wingsuit allows the player to travel distances and manoeuvre around the intricate world of Just Cause 3 in a fast and smooth manner. The wingsuit and parachute almost negate the need for in-game vehicles as I found myself always opting to fly to locations as it was ultimately faster, and more fun.

There was also a great variety of weapons ranging from handguns to massive rocket launchers. In a typical Just Cause fashion this game really strived on delivering the best sandbox experience. The sheer focus the game had on chaos and destruction made the game unique as players were able to approach missions / problems in a multitude of ways all that resulted in massive explosions and some visually pleasing destruction. Ultimately the gameplay can be summed in one simple word, fun.

Although the gameplay was significantly greater than the previous game, it did come with some definite baggage in the form of bugs and technical glitches. As with a lot of games in this generation, a day one patch helps significantly to clear bugs and fix the game in a general sense. After downloading and applying the patch I still found significant game-breaking bugs and as a result found myself having to replay around four, 20 minute missions due to the game crashing. Due to a memory leak the game also gradually slows down the more and more the person keeps playing and means that the game needs to be reset every now and then just to keep it up to speed. Now as much complaining that can be said about the bugs, they are hopefully and surely going to be fixed with more adequate patches.

When you take away all the setbacks due to bugs, the in-game engine is phenomenal and renders the island of Medici spectacularly, offering some breathtaking visuals of clear blue oceans and stunning mountains. It captures the authenticity of a Mediterranean island with the various villages and beautiful architecture that lies within them.

In the end we end up with a somewhat misstep in the franchise as it tried to get back to it’s roots. I instead would’ve opted to see the series go in a different direction story-wise while keeping some of the perfect antics of the gameplay. Through focusing and revamping the engine and gameplay it left the game with a predictable story that was very cliché. The focus on improved gameplay must be praised as it delivered some phenomenal upgrades that made the core chaos and destruction of the game a whole lot enjoyable. The wing suit showed off possibly the greatest gliding mechanic I’ve ever seen in-game. The engine perfectly captured Medici and provided the crazy destruction with some fantastic HD visuals that will be sure to make any fan of in-game explosions scream with joy. Unfortunately, due to a lackluster story, disappointing technical bugs Just Cause 3’s only redeeming factor comes from its crazy antics gameplay, take that away it becomes a bland generic open world game. Viva La Evolution? Viva Medici? No.

The Good

  • Amazing Sandbox.
  • Steady progression with characters.
  • Great destruction mechanics & explosions.
  • Wide array of weapons and vehicles.
  • Engine provides great visuals and captures authentic feel of Mediterranean island.
  • Overall fun gameplay.

The Bad

  • Cliche story.
  • Repetitive missions.
  • Significant slowdown.
  • Game-breaking bugs.
  • Need to spend an hour or two between story missions to progress further.

The Score: 6