It’s Just “Okay”
With the success of Just Cause 2, it was safe to say that developer Avalanche Studios would no doubt deliver a stellar performance when releasing the next game in the series, Just Cause 3. The open world sandbox shooter is filled with destruction and chaos, with some of the most brilliant explosions I’ve seen in a game. Unfortunately big bangs and shiny graphics are not the only things a game needs to be great, and while Just Cause 3 is fun, it does have its fair share of problems.
In the game, you continue to play as original protagonist Rico Rodriguez, a freedom fighter of sorts who specializes in taking down corrupt dictatorships. This time his travels take him to his home country of Medici, a fictional Mediterranean island that is being torn apart by the tyrannical government of General Sebastiano Di Ravello. Now it’s up to Rico with the help of his brother Mario and the rebel Resistance to make Medici safe again, a story that’s honestly been done countless times.
Far Cry 4, released earlier in 2015, was almost exactly the same premise, in which the protagonist takes down a dictatorship. The difference is that this game doesn’t give you options to advance the story in multiple directions. Luckily the actual dialogue is enough to keep you interested, even if the voice acting isn’t. Rico’s brother Mario has several phrases that sound annoyingly similar to a certain Italian plumber of the same name. While it’s funny at first, it quickly loses its appeal when the bullets start flying. Most of the other voice acting is fairly campy, but it fits the feeling of a game that doesn’t take itself very seriously.
One of the greatest things about Just Cause 3 is its presentation. From the lush grass-covered hillsides littered with military bases to its sparkling blue waters that show rock formations beneath the surface, the islands of Medici are absolutely gorgeous. The sound is often good, though some of the rifles sound similar when firing. The Spanish guitar music during gunfights gives the game the same sort of campy feel that the voice acting does, which ties in nicely. Civilians react to Rico as if he’s either a superhero or a crazy person, which is as endearing as it is entertaining. Taking out bad guys is fun in many ways, from using any of your main weapons and causing chaos to creating unique deaths using your trademark grappling hook. Attaching an explosive barrel to an enemy chopper and reeling it in is oh, so satisfying.
And the level of destruction is immense. Bombing reactor spires and blowing up fuel tanks with rocket launchers hasn’t been this fun since Red Faction: Guerilla. Unfortunately JC3 only lets you destroy military targets and there’s no penalty for civilian deaths, so the frantic desperation that comes from protecting civilian buildings in Red Faction is completely lost here.
Gameplay is probably Just Cause 3‘s biggest flaw, and a prime example is the control scheme. Different from most of today’s shooters, there’s no cover system and no way to duck, leaving you open to gunfire from all directions. Your grappling hook is your biggest line of defense, allowing you to escape most situations relatively easily, but some situations don’t afford you that luxury. You can’t even precision aim until you unlock that ability about two hours into the story. Open fields are dangerous under helicopter fire, and enemies tend to swarm and surround you whenever they can. Luckily that seems to be the only kernel of intelligence the AI has, since most of the time the soldiers are cannon fodder; They frequently stand in one spot firing without cover, making them incredibly easy to mow down. Flanking attempts mainly consist of new enemies spawning behind you, and there’s almost no tactical value to anything they do. Shooting down your enemies is great and all, but not at the expense of difficulty. And speaking of shooting, gun fights can be arduous because of the lack of decent controls. Firing from the hip can be frustrating with no way to turn down controller sensitivity. Not being able to change your control scheme means uncomfortable fumbling with buttons you’re not used to, like pressing down on the right stick for precision aiming instead of left trigger. And there’s no sprint, so quick escape or movement is limited to your grappling hook.
Another huge gameplay flaw is driving. Most cars in the game are sluggish and have stiff steering, with only a handful of really driveable cars. Bigger vehicles seem to take less time to react to your commands, and smaller cars are just slow and cumbersome. A few of the sports vehicles handled decently, but were still a pain in the you-know-what to navigate through Medici’s winding roads at top speeds. Traveling by air is by far the most effective and convenient way get around, since helicopter, plane, and even your wingsuit controls are much easier to manage.
The Verdict: 7.7 out of 10
Overall, Just Cause 3 has great moments of chaotic, destructive, and mindless fun, but it’s no game changer. The open world, cool explosions, and frantic gunfights make it something that is very easy to at least enjoy, especially for newcomers to the series. But for series veterans it’s just more of the same, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, not offering any improvements or innovations only makes for an OK game.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Elijah Arnold is an Associate Writer for Middle of Nowhere Gaming, a gamer, and Star Wars enthusiast from Orange County, California. In his spare time he lives out his dream of being a rockstar by being the frontman of a metal band. Check him out on Twitter.