The issues with Just Cause 3 at launch were somewhat common knowledge. The major drops in frame rate, the annoying demand to “be online” every time you open the map and many other nuisances that led to the negativity surrounding the game. Those issues are amongst, but not integral to, why I didn’t enjoy Just Cause 3. Now that we’re clear on the situation, let’s get a little more detailed.

Look and Feel

For the most part, Just Cause 3 is a beautiful world. Repetitive, but beautiful. My experience was muddied by the technical issues, but it’s still a simple task to look beyond that and understand that this huge map is without loading screens once you’re inside of it and it still manages to look impressive in the face of such massive scale.

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Having said that, it’s all very similar. I acknowledge that it’s realistic for Medici to be mostly bathed in sunlight and separated by huge, empty stretches of water, but that doesn’t make it fun to look at. The weapons themselves all look very similar too, causing me to consider whether or not I actually did switch to my OTHER assault rifle 20 minutes ago, or if this oddly-named grenade launcher is actually my rocket launcher. They could have done with a less uniform “back in black” look for the majority of weapons.

If I were to compliment the game for anything, it’s the explosions. You’ll spend a great deal of this game blowing things up, and assuming you’re not being dragged in to a pit of frame-rate issues and pop-in problems, I imagine you’ll marvel at the chaotic majesty beneath you as you blow up six fuel tanks via a remote device and see the fountain of flame reaching for the sky. For all of its issues, the fire effects are fantastic, and seeing as that’ll be the majority of what you’re looking at, that’s a plus.

The game’s characters bored me. Everybody’s a stereo-type. Not in an offensive way (says the white guy right here I guess) but just in a “Here’s the hero, side-kick, ambiguous friend, villain and others!” kind of way. They’re well acted. There’s nothing wrong with the performances. It’s more that the character arch-types themselves are typical in a world that’s also just as bland. Despite some great set pieces, like the initial jet-surfing, the story failed to grip me, but this world is designed to be blown up. It just would have been nice if blowing it up meant anything.

Gameplay

So, in this game, you’ll take control of Rico and undergo plot mission after plot mission whilst liberating areas of your own free will as you go (or as required to progress the story). There are many side activities that’ll allow you to level up your skills, and we’ll get to why that system sucked – and I rarely say sucked unless referring to it in a factual sense – in a while. There’s a beauty in the freedom of how you can tackle everything, but ultimately, it’s all the same. Go in, blow stuff up, do it again.

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Here’s where the bulk of my issues begin. I’ll start with the positives though, and those positives can be summed up pretty briefly: when you’re doing whatever you want to, Just Cause 3 is a lot of fun. If you’re the kind of person that thrives on a purely sandbox experience, you MIGHT become invested in Just Cause 3. The problem may come in the form of having to unlock the excitingly overpowered weapons by enduring a bit of a lengthy grind.

The wing-suit is good, but it isn’t amazing. This wing-suit, if you haven’t heard, allows you to glide through the air and assist yourself via the trademark grappling hook Rico is known for. Except that the Batman Arkham games already did this feature to perfection. I’m not saying they originated it, but traversal via these methods in Just Cause 3 was enjoyable to me for a very brief period, and then I’d find myself praying to the revolution for another weaponised helicopter throughout the rest of my stay in Medici.

Oh and may the hypothetical heavens help you if you lose your chopper out at sea. There is no swift movement off-shore outside of a vehicle, and if you lose yours out there, they seem to be few and far between. This is fine if you’re able to fast travel, but if you haven’t unlocked that feature in that area yet, swimming to the nearest ANYTHING can be a nightmare.

Going back to vehicles, this is one of the things the game does (mostly) right. The missile-belting helicopters are awesome and the Bavarium tanks are the greatest ground asset you could possibly have. The rest are kind of just there. Even the fighter jets can be too awkward to control to be worth using. There’s no need for cars when you have your wing-suit unless you  want to pull off some odd stunts via the designated areas. I mean, it’s something to do, but I just don’t get why you’d do that unless you had literally no other games to play and were restricted to having to find fun in this world.

Liberating areas can be great. I enjoyed rushing in to an enemy base after my chopper had been blown up and taking out everything with remote-mines. The issue is when liberating a town/village. Having to make a racket in the police stations and open the gates manually to allow the rebels access is a chore. You have to leave the thing that you enjoy using to do this asinine task and most times, there’s not exactly a helipad, so you’ll lose that chopper. You recall those: the only viable means of transportation around this over-sized map?

Well you’ve most likely received that in a “Rebel Drop”, a supply drop to provide you with a vehicle and weapons. Your drops are limited and your vehicles are on a cool-down after choosing them, so losing your favourite one can be a nuisance. I understand that they want you to consider other options, but why do anything else when it’s not as fun OR effective as my preferred method? Give ME the choice to make a choice, don’t make that choice for me.

Oh, but that’s the least of Just Cause’s design choice issues. No. The worst decision made by the team at Avalanche has to be the decision to lock upgrades away behind challenges related to the gear you’re looking to upgrade. “But David, that seems reasonable to me”. Yes reader, I thought so too at first!

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In fact, on paper, that’d be smart. You have to use the things you want to upgrade in a controlled environment effectively before earning a better version of it. Except that, during my time, the game had severe loading times. I mean a regular five minute wait between loading challenge courses. Now, again, this might have been ok on the first run, but if I’m trying to get a five-star perfect clear of this challenge to earn these “Gear Mods” to upgrade my wing-suit, I shouldn’t have to wait five minutes every time I try to retry.

Given that these challenges, including driving, flying and causing explosive carnage, are the only way to upgrade your various skills, coupled with the sheer number of them, I navigated the game having only made about 3 upgrades. I wouldn’t touch those challenges with a barge-pole attached to another barge-pole strapped to yet another barge-pole. That may not be enough barge-poles.

The fun that you CAN have in this game is out-weighed by the fun that you won’t have in many situations that’ll occur frequently. This heavily impacts the game-play and affected my experience personally. The technical issues aside, the game is vapid to me. Populated with meaningless experiences that unlock more fun ways to undertake these pointless tasks because…. explosions!

Overall

Just Cause 3 has great explosions that unfortunately blow up in its own face when the rest of the game rears its ugly head. It’s a technical mess as of the time that I’d last played (mid-December) and even beyond the technical issues, it’s just a boring world. I do prefer a bit more guidance to accompany my freedom, so maybe this game was never going to be for me.

Maybe it gets better after some upgrades? If so, make the unlock system more open to our own approach the way the rest of the game is designed. It’s at odds with the core experience. If you love a pure sandbox adventure, you might find something to love in a game that’s not so much bad as it is broken, but if you want a bit of focus with your fun, you’ll find plenty of other titles around that exceed Just Cause’s efforts in almost every way.

Just Cause 3
Review Format: PS4

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