Just Cause 3 is probably one of the least original games created in the last few years. It’s an open world third person shooter with a macho male protagonist, a throwaway story and settlements full of enemies to liberate. But somehow, having said all of that and despite some serious performance issues, it manages to also be an incredibly fun, slightly addictive experience full of huge explosions and a main character that can seemingly just absorb bullets.
Set on the fictional island of Medici, the game follows Rico Rodriguez as he aids a revolution attempting to take back his homeland from the dictator, General Sebastiano Di Ravello. When playing though, all of that is kind of irrelevant because the story is barely worth paying attention to. The story is simply there as an excuse to go blow more stuff up, with most of the missions involving a hefty amount of chaos and destruction. Nothing about these missions is revolutionary, there’s the usual mixture of ‘go here and destroy this thing’, ‘cover these people for a set amount of time’ and ‘defend this position/vehicle/person’ objectives, but they are all enjoyable. However, these fairly standard, run-of-the-mill missions are improved significantly by some of the more unique aspects of the game.
The parachute and grappling hook combo from previous Just Cause games has returned, and a wing-suit has been added allowing for much faster travel. All three are permanently equipped and can be used anywhere, at any time. These three things combined also open up so many new ways to go about what would normally be frustrating or boring sequences. Got a helicopter you need to take out but you’ve run out of rockets? You could try to shoot the pilot but that’s difficult and there’s a good chance he’s shooting back, or you can grapple onto it, stick explosives to its belly and fly away as it explodes dramatically behind you. Trying to defend a convoy of vehicles? Normally this would require you to either be in one of them, or to bring your own , but Just Cause 3 allows you to choose how to do it. Players could fly above with their parachute, pulling themselves along with the grappling hook, they could surf on the roof of a car or they could float behind the convoy using the parachute, attached to one of them via the grappling hook.
This freedom is taken even further when exploring the huge archipelago of Medici with the various different types of side missions. The least interesting are the random encounters, which can be anything from a friendly rebel soldier in a spot of bother, to a government official to be assassinated. These can be ignored if the player feels like it. Then there are the challenges, where the player’s skills are tested. There are eight different types, ranging from standard time trials where players race against the clock to get from A-B, to more interesting ones like Crash Bomb challenges, where players must drive a vehicle into a group of enemies without dropping under a certain speed, otherwise it explodes. players are awarded 1-5 gears depending on how well they perform and these unlock mods which upgrade their equipment. These upgrades range from extra grenades to nitrous when driving.
Where the freedom to play as you want really shines is the third side objective. Scattered across Medici are towns, villages and military bases which are occupied by enemy soldiers. They need to be liberated and to do so players have to cause chaos and destruction. Blowing up fuel tanks, destroying propaganda speakers and pulling down billboards are just a few of the possible objective for each settlement, but each one is different to the last. Players can attack from any angle, they can attack on foot, in the air or in a vehicle. They can try to plant explosives without being noticed or run in firing RPGs in every direction. Because there are so many ways of completing these objectives, the gameplay doesn’t get stale and repetitive as soon as other games with similar mechanics. Even killing individual enemies can be done in an interesting variety of ways. My personal favourite is to tether enemies to high places then reel them in, leaving them dangling in the air.
Unfortunately, Just Cause 3 hasn’t got everything right. Combat is obviously a massive part of the game, but the guns and incredibly unsatisfying to use. They feel weak, particularly when there are armoured enemies who may take multiple reloads before they are dead. What makes it worse, is that there is much less variety in weapons than you might expect from a game like this, with just a few different weapons in each class (and only one LMG!) To make matters worse the cross-hair is inaccurate at any kind of distance. It would be fair to say that the gun play takes a fair bit of time to get used to. Explosives on the other hand are brilliant. There are several different grenade and rocket launchers, and all of them pack a great punch, as does the GE-54 (basically C4) which players can plant on things then detonate from a safe distance. The explosions are probably the most well done aspect of the entire game in fact, and detonating a fuel tank, only to set of a chain of explosions will never get old.
One final annoyance with the combat is the way health works. Like most shooters these days, there is no health bar. Instead players just regenerate health by being out of combat which works fine, but it helps when you can actually tell how close to death you are. Most games gradually make the screen go red as players lose health, but in Just Cause 3 it seems to go red almost instantly, despite Rico Rodriguez essentially being a bullet sponge. It isn’t until you are pretty much one bullet away from death that there is a real noticeable change to the way the screen looks. Health does regenerate quickly though, which is always good in a game like this.
Being an open world game, players need some way of getting about. While you can just use the parachute/wing-suit/grappling hook combo for this, there are quite a few vehicles available. Motorbikes, a massive variety of cars, military vehicles, helicopters and planes are all at the players disposal. And once you’ve found a vehicle once, you can take it to a garage and have it permanently unlocked. Simply call in a supply drop and the rebels will drop whatever vehicle and weapons you want right on your location. With such a range of transport available, it’s a shame then that the driving is so awful. Cars feel heavy and unresponsive, unless you manage to get a supercar, in which case they’re twitchy and feel out of control almost all the time. The bikes are worse, feeling like they were designed by someone who had never ridden one before, instead they asked someone else to do it and just got them to describe what it was like. It is a real shame, because they all look gorgeous and collecting them would be a fun diversion if they were actually good to drive.
Fortunately flying doesn’t suffer the same fate. Helicopters are an easy and fun way to get around, and are incredibly useful in combat if using one with missiles or mini-guns equipped. The controls are simple and easy to master, meaning everyone should be able to pull of some awesome looking manoeuvres like flying through tunnels and under low bridges. Planes are also easy enough to fly, but serve less purpose than helicopters because only fighter jets come equipped with weapons and they are too fast to actually be of much use in a combat situation. Like most games, the map is just too small to be flying such a fast plane. And both are in plentiful supply, with players being able to get them dropped in via the supply drops, as well as being able to find one in most military bases. It’s a good thing too, because one of the only drawbacks is how hard it is to dodge surface-to-air missiles. Seriously, it is nearly impossible.
Now though, we have to discuss the games performance. This is where Just Cause 3 lets itself down badly. It might be worth noting that I’ve been playing on the PS4 so these issues may or may not be relevant to other platforms, but it is honestly one of the worst running games I have played. I’m not even talking about bugs and glitches here, I’ve actually hardly had any of those. No, what I’m talking about is the massive frame-rate drops whenever things start to get a bit hectic. More than a few explosions happening at once will cause the game to slow down massively, to the point where it almost becomes unplayable for short periods. This would be unacceptable from any game, but this is a triple-A title, made by a large developer and published by Square Enix. If I had paid £50 for it, I would want my money back because it is clearly not a finished game. It doesn’t even look particularly special. Yes, the explosions look great, but so do many other games that manage to run properly. This combined with the way it is always trying to connect to the Square Enix servers, but never can, is infuriating.
All in all, Just Cause 3 is a fun, if slightly cliched and unoriginal game that is let down by terrible performance. Is it worth playing? Absolutely, if you have Playstation+ it is free this month and you should download it. But I wouldn’t buy it, not unless it is heavily discounted, just because of how poorly the game runs. That and the way the cars handle. Seriously, how did they manage to make cars so bad?
6/10 (Would be more like a 8/10 if it actually ran properly).