Just Cause 3
Avalanche Studios/Square Enix
The original Just Cause game came out a pretty long time ago (at least in gaming PC years), way back in 2007. It was billed as an action/adventure title and featured a (for the times) immense open-world environment. It differentiated itself from the monolithic Grand Theft Auto series in that it featured the first Hispanic action hero (to my knowledge at least) as the main protagonist, took place in a tropical setting instead of an urban environment, and gave gamers the opportunity to use highly creative ways of transportation.
It became somewhat of a hit, and so a few years later the developers of the burgeoning series, Sweden’s Avalanche Studios, created the second game which debuted in 2010. Just Cause 2 was lauded for basically improving on pretty much everything the first game lacked, and had more weapons and vehicles, a larger sandbox setting to play in, and even more varied methods of getting around. It also had more of what the games were known for: Big orange fireballs.
Many in the gaming world were wondering how the developers could possibly out-do themselves when Just Cause 3 was announced in late 2014. As far as many were concerned, including myself, there was only so much you can do with the game’s setting and penchant for blowing things up and racing cars, trucks, and all other manner of vehicles around, or zipping through the sky on a parasail or parachute. Well, Just Cause 3 has finally arrived and miraculously it is indeed bigger, louder, and flashier. But does that necessarily translate to being better?
This time around, the series’ main protagonist, Rico Rodriguez, has retired from The Agency that he had previously worked for, and decided to return to his idyllic (fictional) Mediterranean home island called the Republic of Medici. Just coincidentally, a malevolent dictator by the name of Sebastiano Di Ravello has seen fit to take the strategically placed island over in order to mine it for precious resources that it rests upon. In this way, Di Ravello will be able to manufacture more armaments for his emerging military forces and turn Medici into a launching pad for further conquests. But…one man stands in the way…and that man…blah, blah, blah. The story is pretty generic and also relatively inconsequential since the island is little more than a series of set pieces to blow up and otherwise exploit in destructive manners.
Beyond Just Cause 3 presenting Medici as an island divided up into numerous districts containing people going about their business in the wake of a full-on tyrannical takeover, it seemed as if everything about it was in a vacuum. The island’s citizens can’t really be interacted with in any meaningful way nor do its structures really have any importance, other than to function as objects that can be blown up. But the game is still fun to play in some respects.
The unique ways that Rico can get around has always been a hallmark of the series, and Just Cause 3 is no exception. He has a grappling hook, wingsuit, and a parachute, each of which can be used in some very creative ways. He also can eventually become equipped with a tether, which may be his most unusual (and fun) piece of gear. You can attach the ends of the tether to various surfaces and then retract the device. This can result in some pretty dramatic outcomes such as tethering two vehicles together and watching them collide, or tethering a person to an explosive barrel and watching the grisly results.
I know that this is a video game and that it isn’t real and isn’t really trying to be so, but I’ve always felt that the series’ physics were just a little too floaty for my tastes. Unfortunately, I feel that that same issue is present in Just Cause 3. During one game, I remember careening off of a cliff and rolling end-over-end down its three hundred or so feet of jagged rock outcroppings—and I was on an ATV. When I finally reached the road far below, my ATV and I were practically unscathed by the ordeal. Many such ridiculous feats of sketchy physics transpired over the course of the game, breaking any sort of immersion that might have been accumulated during the earlier parts of it.
Just Cause 3’s mission structure basically consists of assaulting each of Medici’s districts and liberating them from the oppressive iron fist of Di Ravello and his cardboard cutout military forces. This can be done by destroying his installations and conspicuous propaganda equipment such as billboards and loudspeakers. Once you rid a province of any traces of the dictator’s evil presence, that area is liberated by the rebels and you get access to additional challenges. Completing these individual side-missions grants you access to gear modifications, such as the aforementioned grappling hooks’ tether mod.
The game’s scripted missions felt stiff and restricted, but they luckily only take up a small portion of Just Cause 3. The more free-roaming ones are where what fun is to be had in the game takes place, and the go-anywhere-do-anything nature of it can be exhilarating at times, at least initially. Some gamers may tire of the cavalcade of fiery explosions and grow bored by the more repetitive aspects of the missions. But others will probably find hours of entertainment since the sheer amount of ways that you can create and inflict carnage in the open environments is fun.
The visuals in Just Cause 3 are probably one of its strong suits. The character models are both detailed and solid looking. The weapons all handle differently and are a blast to use as well, and feature brilliant effects and sounds. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a tropical paradise so fully realized, at least graphics-wise. From white powder beaches to quaint towns dotting the sun-drenched horizons, the tone is adequately set, if not the mood. Just make sure you have a beefy gaming PC though, if you want to enjoy its settings on high. My GTX 970 managed it well enough although a friend with a lesser video card reported framerate drops.
Just Cause 3 can be a fun, flashy ride, with unique ways to traverse its highly detailed island settings. The creative ways that mayhem can be invoked builds upon the previous games of the series, and for many gamers, that’s enough. However, those looking for meatier storylines and more immersion, gaming-wise, may be a tad disappointed when all of the orange fireballs have finally dissipated.
As mentioned, Just Cause 3 can really impress with its fast gameplay and stunning graphics, but in order to pull all of that off one might want to invest in a new gaming PC:
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