If there’s one thing the Just Cause franchise appears to excel at, it’s surprises; some are pleasant, while others will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Thankfully, Just Cause 3 has enough pleasant surprises to outweigh the bitter ones, even though those pleasant surprises are a little far between each other.
Taking place on the fictional Mediterranean island of Medici, Rico Rodriguez returns to his native homeland to free it from the tyrannical grip of its current ruler, Di Ravello. There’s not much else in terms of plot after that, just missions that give you an excuse to blow a lot more up. And that is 100% fine. One of the pleasant surprises I mentioned above is that despite having no depth and staying fairly straightforward, the story of JC3 manages to squeeze in some pretty fun humor and zany characters amidst the over-the-top violence. I assumed the story missions were going to stay on the linear path of “just liberate everything I guess” but it was mildly impressive to see just how enjoyable most of the characters (Including David Tennant’s fantastic Minister of Propaganda) were especially when they didn’t have to be.
As far as gameplay goes, there’s two categories to look at; traversal and combat. Traversal as compared to Just Cause 2 has gained a boon in the form of the all new wingsuit. I tried skydiving after using the wingsuit for awhile and I immediately switched back to the latter wondering how I enjoyed Just Cause 2 without it. The wingsuit feels so smooth it almost completely eliminates the need for vehicles, which is too bad considering how much they’ve improved the the vehicle system in general as compared to Just Cause 2. Rather than spending an enormous amount of cash on a car and/or plane and/or boat that will most likely explode by the player’s own doing within a couple minutes, the developers wisely removed the cash system altogether, allowing you to call for almost any vehicle anywhere through the somewhat-new rebel drop feature, so long as you’ve driven, docked or landed it in a rebel-operated garage.
Transitioning to combat, this same feature applies to most of the weapons in Just Cause 3 as well, with the notable exception that the game automatically unlocks around half of all the weapons early on. This proves to be a clever feature; All the Assault Rifles and most of the one-handed weapons are available at your leisure, and to unlock more powerful incarnations of weapons such as a Grenade Launcher that shoots six grenades or an RPG that shoots…eight homing RPGs, you have to continue liberating military bases. Liberating towns and military bases is one of the only things you’ll be doing on Medici; in towns you’ll be blowing up speakers, tearing down statues or liberating police stations, while military bases will have you take out a plethora of generators, radar towers and other military assets. Even though there’s little variation in the objectives, each major military base feels starkly unique in a way that shouldn’t be possible. Some of the most creative bases will be stuck in a cave and/or cove with giant crevices above it which forces you to rethink how you’ll creatively ransack this set of military equipment, while another base high up in the mountains such as a mining facility is wide open and roaring with the sound of excavators (the catch being that it takes more time and ammunition to destroy one of these compared to something like a water tower).
Probably my favorite surprise is just how beautiful Medici is. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game crafted with such detail. There is a unique story to each and every town and military base, and it makes the world feel incredibly alive. While it feels unnecessary to throw biomes such as snowy mountains into a Mediterranean paradise, it’s cool to transition from the smaller sunny islands at the edge of the map and make your way up to the looming evergreen trees at the top.
That being said the game isn’t without it’s fair share of flaws. The lack of a sprint button makes a bigger difference than one would think. While parachuting and wingsuiting insure a fast method of traversal, it doesn’t make sense as to why the game’s predecessor, Just Cause 2, would include the option to sprint while Just Cause 3 would remove it. There’s also a major issue with how big the game is. Around 400 square miles isn’t a bad thing, if you have a lot to do within that sandbox. And while Just Cause 3 does have a lot to do, sometimes there’s not a lot of variation in that content. For instance, one of the three key areas of operation you’re tasked with liberating are towns or villages. And while the Mediterranean coastline provides an excellent backdrop for running amok and causing so much chaos I found that there was only one actual city in the game that dared to move outside of the small village formula, which was disappointing considering how much fun it was to play around in a city with a downtown district and towering skyscrapers.
Something that’s neither good nor bad is the occasional physics hiccups which proved to be entertaining, if not a little disappointing.
All in all however, Just Cause 3 is a very good game that does make significant improvements over its predecessor. If you’re interested in some creative chaos look no further than this game.
I’m scoring it an 8.5/10
^When destroying a statue doesn’t go quite as planned…