If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like to read long reviews, Just Cause 3 can be summed up in four words; vehicles, explosions and grappling hooks. If those rock your boat then this is the game for you.
There is, of course, more to the game than this; the huge map is a surprising realisation when you first lay your eyes on the map screen and zoom out from the small group of islands you start on, the multitude of vehicles gives you a playground full of explosives in many shapes and forms and the weapons are pleasingly effective.
The story begins with Rico Rodriguez, hero of the Just Cause series, returning home to his own country to tackle another evil dictator, making it far more of a personal mission this time around. Thankfully he has a few familiar faces to help him out and a few new ones (for us, at least). The story is pleasingly tongue-in-cheek and manages to stay just the right side of corny to make it worth a play through. Characters are a little one-dimensional but can’t help being likable at the same time, particularly Rico’s childhood friend, Mario Frigo, who desperately wants to be like Rico.
Wingsuits and better tether controls are at the forefront of the changes in this third entry to the series. The former is an initially tricky way to get around the island, requiring you to get enough air to avoid you slamming face-first in to the ground, but soon becomes an essential way to travel when you don’t have another form of air transport (usually because it’s just been blown out of the sky). Tethers take on a whole new use now that you can wind in tethered items; tether a gun emplacement to the floor, then reel in to move it across the ground to a new position or take two tethers and stick them to different vehicles, pulling them all together to form a flammable sandwich of metal.
While the bombastic introduction and first few missions introduce you to each new feature, the new wingsuit mode of transport in particular, the game throws almost all its toys in your direction from the start. It’s great to be able to grapple up to an enemy helicopter, throw the pilot out and just take over the controls or fly onto the deck of a gunship and do the same, using the massive gun to inflict huge amounts of damage.
Much as getting all the toys is a fun way to start Just Cause 3, this also becomes the game’s downfall. You have very little in the way of progression, short of a group of time trial style or skill challenges which earn you new unlocks to your existing abilities (more tethers, exploding sticky rockets etc) that aren’t really essential to the main game but do give you a few more options for creating bigger and better ways to defeat the enemy. It’s certainly not that the vehicles becomes less fun over time, I still enjoy going back to the game, grabbing a chopper with missiles and obliterating a settlement, but it gives you nothing to look forward to.
That said, the huge map, the differing terrain that takes you from forests to seaside towns and sea-based oilfield and the sheer fun of exploding things or hijacking an enemy vehicle and trying to cause as much damage as possible is still fun right to the end of the campaign, though it’s true that there’s a lot of repetition here and you’ll be doing much the same thing at the end as you did near the start of the game.
It’s also worth noting the excellent radio host, played by David Tennant, who reacts to each base’s destruction with an ever increasing sense of panic. In fact most of the voice cast are spot on here with Rico and his best mate Mario providing both comedy and drama when needed.
Having played the game on both Xbox One and PC, it’s obvious that the current generation console still can’t quite handle all the physics based stuff going on here. There’s stuttering during particularly busy moments and the loading times are a bit of a joke. It’s not half as pretty as a standard PC gaming set-up, either. On PC (we’re using an i5 with a GTX970 and 8GB RAM) it’s pretty smooth most of the time and looks great on full detail. Loading is far better, too, especially from an SSD and it’s only a few graphical glitches, such as the sea disappearing or odd parts of buildings going missing, which spoils the overall effect. On the technical side, though, the Xbox One version, while still enjoyable, is disappointing in comparison.
Just Cause 3 isn’t about complicated plots, nuanced gameplay or steady progression, though. If you bought the game for any of these you’d be missing the point. It’s a destructive playground held together with a light-hearted story that doesn’t try to be too clever and just succeeds in being a fun romp through an explosive landscape of highly combustible buildings.