As the third game in the much loved Just Cause series, Square Enix’s open-world explode-athon has some very big boots to fill after the sublime Just Cause 2. Much has been made about how big the game is and how much there is to do, but when all is said and done, is that really enough?
Small fish in a big pond
Make no mistakes – Just Cause 3 knows what it is from the outset. The opening credits suck you straight into a world of bullets, bombs and ballistic action, as protagonist Rico Rodriguez croons his way to liberating the island paradise of Medici from the tyrannous rule of evil dictator Di Ravello. The first couple of minutes of the game rounds up all the major characters, and introduce you to the sheer absurdity of what’s on offer. You enter Medici riding atop an aeroplane, shooting limitless RPGs at missile silos, and the game only escalates from here.
You’re free to ignore the story and roam the world as you see fit pretty much straight away, though it’s worth running through the first 20 minutes or so just to get your bearings and a heads up on the gadgets Rico has at his disposal. Once you do decide to explore however, Just Cause 3 will overwhelm you with it’s sheer monstrous size. Tasked with taking over government-controlled towns for your rebel group, you’re going to spend a lot of time travelling, so it’s lucky Medici has plenty of ways to get around.
There’s almost no point traversing the enormous map on foot because it would take you hours. The best way to see the island is from the air, be that in an aircraft, or by the brilliant interplay of your grapple, parachute and wing-suit. Rico can catapult himself into the air at a moments notice and glide off into the sunset using these gadgets, and it never ceases to be a thrill to do so. The wing-suit, though fiddly, will provide you with endless hours of fun as you hurtle through the countryside at breakneck speeds, just inches from shaving your face off on the ground below.
Mo’ missions, mo’ problems
Unfortunately, it’s in this enormous size that Just Cause 3 suffers its major downfall. It feels like you’re steeped in stuff to do, but not enough of it is diverse. The meat and potatoes of the game lies in liberating a multitude of settlements by basically blowing it to kingdom come. While this is fun for a couple of hours, it gets repetitive very quickly.
Almost all instances have you hitting ‘chaos items’ which are nine-times-out-of-ten the same. Blow up x number of containers, take charge of police station, destroy statue and raise flag. Rinse and repeat. Outside of the main story missions and challenges, this is what you’ll be filling your time with. The main story is fun and campy with its tongue stuck firmly in its cheek, but you’ll likely only visit it sporadically throughout your time in-game.
The challenge quests are a real bugbear. In order to unlock upgrades for Rico’s gear, you must complete the challenge quests that litter the world. The problem is, that these quests are so devoid of interesting mechanics that it becomes a chore to play through them. Whereas GTA and Saint’s Row games have you completing these quests in an open environment, Just Cause 3 sanitises the whole experience. You’ll be shooting tanks and machine guns at destructible targets and flying and driving through static rings over, and over again in an effort to unlock some of the coolest things in the game. It feels like a punishment.
These kinds of things are probably okay if you’re just planning on dipping in and out of the game – after all, blowing anything up in a game that looks this good can be a real treat – but in extended playthroughs, it just becomes routine and annoying. The amazing vehicles are all pretty much available to you from the get-go, which makes immediately exciting, but ultimately quite shallow piloting them.
If it ain’t broke..
Just Cause 2 was a triumph of sandbox gaming upon its release, and Just Cause 3 has done little to add to the formula five yours on. Although the map is obviously bigger and the game undeniably shinier, some key things have been removed. For example, there is no mini-map, so you either have to rely on your eyes or the game’s main map which is more than fiddly to navigate. There is also no health bar to indicate just how much damage you’re taking. This one isn’t massively important since Rico is a walking bullet sponge, but it’d be nice to know how much danger you’re in.
If you’re a fan of the Just Cause series you’ll know exactly what to expect here, and that’s part of the problem. In a year of such fantastic sequels, Just Cause 3 has played it a little too safe to be considered extraordinary. It’s dependent on how much repetition you’re willing to take, and how much of your own fun you’re willing to make. Yes the map is huge, the explosions are fiery and the game looks pretty, but it’s ultimately a case of style over substance that probably won’t have you coming back for more.