The spectacle of awesome destruction isn’t enough. Utterly destroying a military outpost, tearing down communication arrays, hacking anti-air installations, planting explosives on electrical relays and flammable tanks doesn’t provide enough enjoyment to see you through the entirety of Just Cause 3. It’s quite the revelation. The previous Just Cause titles seemed to thrive on the chaos of highly destructible locations and immense, ludicrous action sequences. Just Cause 3 improves on these aspects significantly, providing even more destructibility across a massive map and implementing enhancements to your abilities and arsenal that are ideal for causing even more havoc. It’s depressing to discover this just isn’t enough.
Instead Just Cause 3 feels less impressive than its predecessors, with an overwhelming scale, a more obvious narrative dissonance, and frustrating restrictions that pull you out of the experience. However, although the overall package isn’t great, there are moments of brilliance that do a lot to distract from the flaws, and although it may be fleeting for some, there’s still a lot of fun to be had within this island paradise.
You once again play as Rico Rodriguez, returning to his home country, the fictional Republic of Medici, during the height of Sebastiano Di Ravello’s military dictatorship. Having left the CIA, Rico is now driven by more personal motives where he means to rid his homeland of the dictator by helping the rebels liberate each district one at a time. However, his method of ridding the island paradise of Ravello’s military control remains the same: lots of explosives.
The shift to a more personal story hits a fair few bumps as you work your way through it. The dissonance of trying to save your homeland from dictatorship by destroying large sections of its infrastructure doesn’t make sense, and largely your quest for independence for Medici makes you seem more like the bad guy than Ravello, something the narrative fails to question. It also flitters between amusing and serious, making the story largely forgettable and unquestionably silly. On the odd occasion it achieves a good balance, similar in tone to Capcom’s Dead Rising titles, but then it shifts too much one way or the other and compromises your investment. It also suffers from bad pacing, forcing you to liberate more districts before unlocking certain missions. It tries to force you to explore Medici and embrace the chaos-fuelled destruction of liberating towns and destroying military compounds, rather than allowing you to discover the fun for yourself.
However, blowing things up in Just Cause 3 is terrific. A good variety of weapons and vehicles makes your quest for destruction creative and fun, allowing you to string together gunplay, vehicle piloting, ordinance planting and grappling hook tethering in all manner of ways to tear down structures. It’s wonderfully free-flowing. Your improved grappling hook now allows you to tether things together and pull them into each other, inviting numerous ways to destroy and otherwise have fun with the destructible world and the soldiers and citizens unlucky enough to get in your way. Meanwhile, an unlimited amount of explosive charges allows you to blow things up remotely and other abilities can be unlocked to increase the amount of charges you can set at a time as well as rig vehicles to explode. Gunplay feels like a last resort and when you do start shooting enemies or firing off rockets it feels just as satisfying as the rest of the destructive experience. Also the explosions and huge fireballs looks absolutely stunning.
However, many of the more inventive options for destruction are locked away, only to be accessed by completing challenges specific to the abilities you want to unlock. These appear on the world map and challenge you in a variety of disciplines – from driving through checkpoints within a time limit to shooting targets and achieving a specific score. Up to five gears are earnt from each challenge depending on the criteria, which can then be spent on unlocking new abilities. However, bafflingly one such ability that’s locked away in the ability to precision aim. Moreover, the challenges are true tests of your mastery of the mechanics and prove difficult and frustrating, even more so due to the horrendous load times each time you fail.
Whether dying during ordinary play or failing a challenge, a frustratingly long load time await before you can get back into the action. It completely pulls you out of the experience and frequently leaves you waiting several minutes before you finally get a chance to try again. It’s a flaw that completely compromises the fun you can otherwise have.
Medici is huge, comprised of three islands, one of which is truly massive. Working your way across them is tediously longwinded, despite the improved parachute controls and the addition of the wing suit. You can now string together your grappling hook, parachute and the new wing suit to effortlessly glide around the environment and reach any structure, natural or otherwise, on the map, and the improved verticality of the level design makes the process of reaching mountain settlements and military bases interesting. However, it’s a fairly slow method of transport. Calling in vehicles, especially aircraft, offers a faster way to travel, but in order to call these in you need to have unlocked the vehicles and have the flares available to call in support. It feeds back into the unlock system, forcing you to complete challenges to increase the amount of flares you hold and search out vehicles and complete side-objectives to increase the arsenal available. It gets frustrating and distracts from the fun.
Just Cause 3 doesn’t marry the highly destructible open-world, its narrative and its side-objectives in the most compelling or harmonious way. The result feels too restrictive. When things do come together and you’re creating chaos through explosions and high octane action sequences, its tremendous fun, which is then consequently ruined by the abysmal load times. It’s possible a few patches could improve this aspect, and there’s certainly a lot of fun to be had regardless, but the overall package leaves you wanting more freedom and more silliness from a series that’s yet to nail its tone.
Thanks to Xbox and Square Enix for their support
[rprogress value=72 text=”TiX Score 72%”]
[xyz-ihs snippet=”XboxOne”][xyz-ihs snippet=”Pegi18″]