Gaming is something that I do for enjoyment. In fact, if I were to ask 100 gamers why they play video games, I’d trust that 99 of them would come back with the same answer – fun! The other one would be too busy shouting, screaming and bellowing about 1080p this and 60fps that, before losing all sense of reality and exploding in a ball of rage.
So whenever I fire a game up, my first instinct is to ask – “Will I like this? Will it bring me enjoyment?”.
Now, from my previous experiences with the Just Cause franchise, I kind of know what I want Just Cause 3 to be. I want explosions. I want chaos. I want a huge open world in which I can walk, run, fly, drive or pilot my way around, getting distracted at every opportunity, firing off a hundred missiles a second and plummeting from 10 miles high back down to earth in a few blinks of the eye.
Something that will bring me huge pleasure then. Something “fun”.
Square Enix and Avalanche Games are back as Rico Rodriguez goes to war yet again. Up against the might of General Di Ravello, our favourite skydiving protagonist will need to utilise the skills and crazy antics of his long time friends, Mario and Dimah, as he explores his home of Medici, fighting with the rebellion as they attempt to overthrow Di Ravello and pretty much save the world. A pretty simple task then.
A story has never been the strongest point in previous Just Cause titles, but this time around Avalanche have tried their best to come up with something that is still completely crazy, but very slightly believable at the same time. Have they succeeded? Well, I’m not for one minute going to sit here trying to tell you a load of stuff about the story, because you know what? No matter how much the developers want me to, I don’t care one jot for the narrative behind Rico’s latest adventure. But then thankfully, I don’t have to either.
For Just Cause 3 is everything I want in a video game, plus a whole lot more.
Much of the time, Rico will be found liberating villages, towns and cities, creating havoc as he goes and ensuring that any inkling of Di Ravello’s forces are removed in the only way he knows. Destructively. To help him do so, his signature tools are back and ready for action. With a wingsuit strapped to his belly and a parachute firmly attached to his back, a quick fire of the famous grappling hook is enough to see him take to the skies, ready to battle the military forces from above. The use of all three ensures that at any minute, Rico can forget entirely about ‘the plan’ and will happily embark on a journey elsewhere, without the need to go searching for cars, boats or planes in order to allow you to do so. Obviously, all of these are in place should you prefer to navigate your way round in the standard way (in fact, Medici is populated to an extremely high level), but aside from nabbing cars for side objective collection purposes, or grabbing a helicopter armed to the teeth with missiles for maximum destruction, I would urge you to keep going back to using Rico’s initial tools to get around.
In turn, you’ll get a superb sense of freedom and it all brings about a method of discovery that has very rarely been seen in other titles. Yes, it may be a bit slower than hitching a ride on the back of a plane, but if I were in a rush, then the numerous fast travel points that are in place will be used a hell of a lot more. Taking your time to parachute slowly to the ground, all whilst firing off a ton of bullets as you go, is most definitely the way forward!
Of course, the grappling hook isn’t only used for firing Rico up into the air. With the use of numerous tethers, it’s a simple enough process to attach numerous items to each other, with the only limit to this being your own imagination. Occasionally you’ll be called into action in with a poor bystander requesting you help them out by using your hook to open a gate, but for the majority of the time, tethering together explosive barrels, tanks, cars and anything else you can get your hands on is the way to go.
It’s also the quickest way to liberate the many many provinces that are scattered around the islands of Medici. You’ll rarely find yourself without weapons or bullets (and if you do, the superb rebel drops can get you sorted in no time with a new rocket launcher, rifle or grenades), but occasionally it’s a bit of an idea to have a think and see what you can do just by using the grapple hook. Believe me, it really is!
The fighting that you do get involved in will be pretty intense. Di Ravello’s forces will fight back against any misdemeanor that Rico gets involved in, initially coming to the party with just a few ground troops to dance with. Things escalate swiftly in JC3 though and it’ll be just a matter of time before you find yourself being attacked by mortars, SAM sites, fighter jets and armed helicopters – you can imagine how tough things then become and you’ll need to utilise all of the rebellion and indeed Rico’s skills to battle on through.
It’s not all about the battles though – well it is, but I feel I should really mention some other stuff. With a ton of collectibles hidden away, it’s far too easy to find yourself distracted from the task at hand. I’ve already mentioned that the story pales into insignificance, but there will be many a time when you get distracted from liberation just by the pinging of your radar, hinting that a hidden is nearby. I would usually be one for ignoring these, instead focusing on the task at hand, but in the case of Just Cause 3, I just can’t put it down until I’ve found that final item, collected another vehicle or hit that newly found daredevil jump.
Getting involved in side missions and other challenge objectives is key to your progress because without them, you’ll stand next to no chance of being able to upgrade your gear with the included Gear Mods. Each time you complete a challenge, you’ll earn yourself Gears which in turn unlock a variety of Mods. With a greater quantity awarded for a quicker, faster completion response, these races, shooting ranges or destructive frenzies are well worth getting involved in. Whether you wish to use these however is completely up to you as each one can be switched on, or off, at will. I’m not really sure why anyone would want to go without the additional boost of nitrous power attached to their car, a ship turbo jump, explosives which become rocket engines or a boost to your wingsuit reeling, but each to their own and all that.
For all the good things with Just Cause 3 – and admittedly they centre on nothing but pure destruction – there are however issues. Ones that would be pretty huge for that one raging person out of the 100.
Most of them centre around the visuals. Hang on, no, ALL of them are in some way linked to the decent graphics that are on display. Medici is a huge place, a ton bigger than anything I’ve experienced previously; full of objects, items, buildings, vehicles and people who can be fully interacted with. For the most part this means creating havoc, firing off bullets galore and tethering things to things that they shouldn’t really be tethered too, but it’s this level of interaction that seemingly causes the issues. Frame rates drop at numerous moments throughout, with the bigger the explosion, the higher the drop in visual quality. Personally, I can live with this, as it only really kicks in for a second or two whilst all the hamsters in the background get rolling around on their wheels. Occasionally though it does become a bit of a bugbear, but never to the point where you feel like switching off.
Unfortunately, there have also been a couple of odd moments when things have got so bad that Rico gets sent on a spiral out of control, with the game fully resetting back to the Xbox dash. Obviously no matter how liberal you’re going to get, that ain’t a good thing – thankfully the frequent save points that automatically take place ensures very little is ever lost. Again though, as someone who is well over the 50 hour mark in terms of gameplay time on the island of Medici, I can live with a couple of resets. Just.
It’s a strange one really because one of the other major issues that can afflict Just Cause 3 would at first glance be thought of as something which should iron out any visual problems. I am of course referring to the loading screens, something which JC3 is hit by in huge quantities. Now, some of these are super short, lasting for only a few seconds, but other times, you’ll be looking and staring at a loading sequence for a good minute or so. This wouldn’t be a problem if it only happened once in a blue moon, but with said screens appearing whenever you start a new mission or challenge, you can quickly get a grasp of how annoying they can be. Like I say, if the frequency of these ensured that the game was a little more stable then they’d be a bit more bearable – but it doesn’t and that’s a real shame.
I’ve also got slight concerns over the physics levels that have been included. Much of the fun in JC comes about from tethering items together, before sitting back and watching the madness unfold, but occasionally, this seems to go a bit OTT. Driving along in a fast hatchback along an open road shouldn’t normally be an issue, and for the majority of the time it isn’t, but hitting the small rock that you never saw because of too much pop-up, before seeing your car explode into smithereens is a little dodgy to say the least. It doesn’t happen much, but like the other problems that are present in Rico’s latest adventure, shouldn’t really be in place at all!
It’s also a little strange to see any real form of multiplayer missing. Whilst the solo experience is an engrossing one, the only way you can test yourself against your friends are with the leaderboards on offer. Granted, these cover near on everything and anything you do in Medici, with each and every challenge ranking you on a leaderboard, whilst the likes of longest free fall, fastest bullet combo and biggest explosions are all amongst the multitude of things which are logged. In fact, if you can think of it, then odds are Avalanche have included a way of you checking out how well you compare against your friends. Ultimately though, a cooperative session allowing multiple friends to create chaos together would have been the cherry on top of the very big, explosive icing. But then, with the visual issues that are in place, perhaps this wouldn’t have been the best idea.
So, Just Cause 3 may not be the most technically smooth game, it may have a few issues, and the story may be pushed right into the background by everything else, but for sheer fun and overall enjoyment? I’m not sure there is anything better. The explosions are nothing short of epic, there’s a ton of humour included and the complete and utter freedom that is enabled to you thanks to the combination of grapple, parachute and wingsuit is nothing short of an explorers fantasy. Just be aware that you will, without a shadow of doubt, find that the ‘quick go’ you had promised yourself will see the hours wile away.
And that brings me back to my first point. What do you want from a game? The greatest technological triumph the world has ever seen, or a game that will bring you a ton of fun?
I’m going for the latter every single time! Something Just Cause 3 delivers in swathes.