“Here he is! Professional badass!” one of my revolutionary cohorts cheers as I swagger up to the military base.
I’ve just taken out three gas tanks with a missile launcher while hanging like a bat underneath an enemy helicopter, which I then placed an explosive on and detonated as I parachuted away. That’s pretty much what Just Cause 3 is - a professional badass and dossing about simulator. With explosions. A lot of them.
It’s more of the over the top, indulgent power fantasy that the rest of series offers, but that’s not a bad thing. Just Cause doesn’t hide away its intentions in narrative or a grim atmosphere; it makes no apologies for being silly. There’s some vague story about being part of a revolution to take down a nasty dictator and some volatile very fake-sounding material, but it’s fully aware that you are there for the spectacle.
Vehicles, gadgets and explosives
Enabling your psychopathic antics are a plethora of upgradable tools, vehicles and weapons. Along with the grapple and parachute found in previous games, there’s now a wingsuit that lets you swoop through the air like an excessively-armed flying squirrel.
Fast travel is made that little bit more enjoyable as, instead of automatically appearing at your destination, you sky dive from a helicopter. There are a number of vehicles, civilian and military, you can utilise in your destruction. However, the fun really lies in creating the most bizarre ways to complete the missions laid before you.
I mean, yes, I could just take a tank and clear the settlement quickly, or I could ride a tractor and try to catapult a cow at the enemies using my handy grapple tethers. Getting creative is a no-brainer, really.
Fun in the sun
The generic Mediterranean location of Medici is your playground, and it’s a big one: three regions made up of islands with military bases, towns and outposts just waiting to be destroyed. Though it’s far from being the most graphically accomplished game, Just Cause 3 is still very pretty. It’s a welcome change to play a game that contrasts your tank fights with fields full of flowers, ancient ruins and glittering blue seas.
Games have reached a point now that, when I see a huge map, rather than being excited at the possibilities my heart tends to sink a little. Sure, there’s a lot of it, but how much of that will be trudging across a map looking for a collectible? Just Cause 3 manages to avoid filling the map with every icon possible, so that although there seems a lot to do, it never appears daunting. There are collectibles, but they’re not all there on the map taunting you.
Trying to direct your destruction
Tying everything together is a series of so-so story missions - little interludes of “go here, do that” or “follow them, destroy that”, which are designed to interrupt your arsing about. The cut scenes are OK, but as you are often reminded in big letters “PRESS B TO SKIP CUTSCENE”, even the developers are aware you’re probably off making a cup of tea or checking Twitter during these bits.
Along with story missions, you complete challenges to earn gears that are then used to upgrade things. These are fine; serviceable racing sections, wingsuit courses and the like - fun enough but nothing to write home about. Little missions also pop up while you’re roaming about. From killing an informant and making it look like an accident (dropping a car on them from a helicopter counts as an accident, right?) to helping people push their cars to the nearest petrol station.
I did deliver a kindly old man’s car to the station upside down and on fire after what can only be described as an over enthusiastic towing; he seemed happy enough though. Again, these missions have to be treated as a chance to flex your creative capabilities, otherwise they do get quite boring, very quickly.
The best bits of Just Cause 3 come when you’re left to your own devices to take back settlements and bases. This is when your finely-tuned skills of “blowing stuff up” and “zipping about the place” are put to good use. You can pretty much do it however you like. Liberating a town does include destroying a lot of its major infrastructure and perhaps a few civilians may get exploded, but it’s all in the name of freedom. Viva La Revolucion!
Just Cause 3 doesn’t just let you destroy things, it gleefully enables you to create chaos. It’s also great to have a protagonist who enjoys it just as much as you are. Rico’s about as complex as a spoon but he’s the perfect conduit for your destructive fun. He makes amazingly cheesy quips, such as purring “Lights out!” when you ruin a power generator, or chuckling when you attach explosives.
I’m sure Twitter and YouTube will be full of clips of people catapulting unsuspecting goats, attaching cars to planes, and blowing themselves up in all manner of amusing ways. Some of the most enjoyable moments I had playing the game was with friends as we plotted the most extravagant ways to terrorise the citizens of Medici.
At one point I excitedly called people to gather round as I had found the holy grail of ridiculous destruction devices… a nun. We ended up running into the nun and slapping an explosive on her - and as she staggered back, causing a pile up of vehicles, we detonated. The nun was our deadliest weapon. We will all most likely be going to hell, but it was very, very, funny.
Irritating leader boards and frame rate issues
It would have been even more hilarious if I wasn’t having to deal with frame issues at the same time. When playing Just Cause 3 on my well-specced PC, I still ended up having to choose between low graphics and a solid 60fps, or medium graphics and 30fps. Nothing that really makes the game unplayable, but it’s a little frustrating when you’re trying to admire your deadly handy work.
Another annoyance that takes away from Just Cause’s thirst for spectacle are its leaderboards. Do a wheelie on a motorbike for two metres and the game will invade a good portion of your screen to inform you that you’ve beaten your high score. It’s even more irritating when you’re doing a lovely cinematic sequence and it pops up to inform you that xX_K1LL1NATOR420_Xx beat your kill streak. You can turn off “extended leaderboards” but I couldn’t find a way to get rid of the thing altogether without markers and directions to where I wanted to go disappearing.
Just Cause 3 Verdict
Just Cause 3 does exactly what it sets out to do, and achieves it with an explosive sense of humour and understanding of the finer points of arsing about. However, it would be nice to enjoy the mindless destruction and have goals that add to the enjoyment, rather than feeling like pause in your freedom.
The game relies on you being able to entertain yourself, giving you the tools and telling you to go off and have a laugh. Missions that give you some focus and push you into creative uses of those tools are sorely lacking. Unless you’re a massive fan of the series, Just Cause 3 won’t set your world alight. If you fancy a laugh and see it on sale in the future, go ahead and blow up some nuns.