Just Cause 3 from developer Avalanche Studios and publisher Square Enix is the closest thing a video game will come to a Michael Bay film: flashy, absurd explosions with little reason wrapped around a loosely-written story.
Rico Rodriguez is set to save the fictional Mediterranean island nation of Medici from the hands of a relentless dictator… but let’s face it, most won’t get that far into the storyline anyway. Even more than the Grand Theft Auto series, Just Cause 3 isn’t a game that people are dying to finish – or even start – the story mode. Instead, it’s all about the explosions and mayhem, of which there is a ton in the brand’s latest installment.
Just Cause 3’s gameplay isn’t much different than Just Cause 2’s, which is fantastic news for fans. Just Cause 2 was a terrific game to pick up and play whenever, since the story isn’t the biggest driver: it’s the explosions and gunfights that made the game impossible to put down.
So taking Just Cause 2 and making it better is just icing on the cake.
Let’s get the weakest part of the game out of the way: the storyline. As usual, Rico is ready to bring justice upon some unjust government types and needs to build up the rebel forces in order to battle.
The game starts with a few tutorial missions following a pretty intense intro battle. Following those, the game hits a tediously boring part: liberating cities.
This was a big miss for everyone involved in Just Cause 3. Rico has to go through and liberate these cities, but the checklist is the same for every single city: destroy the billboards, blow up the loudspeakers, break open the jail cells and let the rebels into the jail, etc.
The process isn’t even long. Once one city is taken down, players know exactly what to look for in the other cities, making it an incredibly easy task and just not a tedious one. It’d be one thing if each city’s police had something special to fight Rico with as he continues to blow stuff up, but it’s just the same thing over and over again. At lower difficulties, the people shooting at Rico can almost be ignored completely.
Once towns are liberated, different challenges are opened up like timed races. These can be easy to complete yet hard to master, so players interested in completing a game 100 percent can have a lot to do there. They don’t exactly add a lot of depth to the game, however.
The spontaneous missions that pop up based on location are also a tad bit shallow, like blow up this depot or escort this person. A lot to do with the missions in Just Cause 3 simply felt lazy and left me wanting a lot more.
Up until now, this may sound like a negative review. And if someone is buying Just Cause 3 for a great story, it most definitely is. Just Cause 3 wasn’t meant to be bought for a captivating hero’s tail, however. Just Cause 3 was meant to be bought to be the game players grab when they want to have some fun in a sandbox environment while blowing stuff up.
In that sense, the game is perfect. Multiple explosions are now a possibility and the game’s new grappling hook feature to tie two things together and pull leads to endless possibilities.
Just Cause 3 is big – like, really big. At 400 square miles, it’s similar in size to Just Cause 2, but the terrain is a lot less mountainous and can actually be traversed. That means there’s even that much more room to parachute and grapple without mountain ranges getting in the way.
The size of the map could have worked against the graphics, but there are actually a bunch of beautiful landscapes throughout the entire game. Lush lavender fields, gorgeous beaches and towns carved out of mountainsides can be found throughout the map and make for a pretty view while parachuting throughout the land.
But Just Cause 3 isn’t exactly perfect in the graphics department. Avalanche Studios got a little lazy when it came to designing the towns, which are all pretty similar. This ties into the repetitiveness of the gameplay. If the same objectives go into liberating each town, then the same stuff has to be in every town.
There’s one simply beautiful part of the game that cannot be ignored: the explosions. Just Cause 2 had simple explosions, meaning once something popped that was that. Just Cause 3 is similar to a jar of Pringles in that sense: fuel tanks, cars, gas stations and just about everything else explosive are rarely one-boom devices.
Voice-acting wise, Just Cause 3 isn’t going to win any awards. Just like the story, there’s much to be desired when it comes to the actors portraying the hastily-written characters.
The best part of Just Cause 3 in the sound department, however, is the propaganda radio broadcasts after Rico completes an objective that causes quite the commotion. Whether it’s a massive explosion, an oil refinery being wiped off the map or a city being taken over, there’s always a rational explanation over the radio that’s sure to get a chuckle out of most gamers.
Think North Korean media, except this is fake, so it’s OK to laugh.
Of all of the games that do not include a multiplayer function, Just Cause 3 has the highest replay value of them all.
Feel like zooming around in a helicopter and taking out government bases? Go for it, and as reinforcements shoot down your helicopter just grapple hook to another in mid-air.
Want to cause chaos on a small settlement in the middle of nowhere found by parachuting around? Use the Rebel Drop feature, which allows players to customize what weapons and equipment fall out of the sky at a moments notice. Now that tank can follow Rico into the craziest of terrains to start battle anywhere.
Feel like hooking a cow to a propane tank and watching it fly? Not only is it possible, but it’s incredibly fun.
Just Cause 3 is the true definition of a sandbox game, where the world is Rico’s for the exploring – and destroying. There’s no more buying weapons like in Just Cause 2, and Rico is now equipped with unlimited C4, allowing for mass destruction whenever it feels right.
Review by Matthew Waters
This review also appears on PS4 Style and was originally reviewed on the PS4. This review does not account for the noted loading issues on the Xbox One.