Each iteration in the Just Cause series has been an over the top, outrageous experience that featured gorgeous tropical environments, weird physics, insane grappling hook manoeuvres, and artful explosions. Just Cause 3 embraces everything that made the previous games great and somehow managed to make it even better.
The story takes place six years after the events of Just Cause 2. The protagonist Rico Rodriguez returns to his fictional Mediterranean island home, Medici. A country of colourful, vibrant environments, covered with rocky mountain ranges, pastel coloured villages, lush green pastures and crystal clear blue waters. The country has been taken over by a vicious megalomaniacal dictator called General Sebastiano Di Ravello. Rico bands together with new friends and old to overthrow his tyrannical rule and foil is evil plot.
You would think that a story that opens with a hero revisiting his home would have more of a focus on developing that character’s backstory. Rico has never really had a distinct personality in the previous games and though we did get some moments to define somewhat of a personality, it felt mostly like a missed opportunity. Even action heroes should have some clear, demonstrated emotional and personal motivation aside from the mission. However small the exposition we could have been granted it would have been nice to learn about Rico as a person and something interesting from his past.
The story was not a detailed narrative driven experience with arcing characters. There are however some interesting characters that have real personalities. Although the story itself felt generic, there should be some credit given for the collection of non-generic side characters that make it a definite improvement from the last game.
There were some insane moments in the story that did not disappoint. The game starts like a blast out of a cannon as you ride the wings of a plane and rain rockets down on enemies. Unfortunately, most of the scripted moments in the story are quite uninspired and repetitive that sadly do not capitalize on the unlimited creative solutions players use during free roam.
What the story does mostly is introduce you to a fun cast of characters, and act as a sightseeing tour and tutorial of all the game has to offer. Just Cause 3 doesn’t seem to mind if the characters or story aren’t memorable, and instead puts all of its intentions purely into the fun factor.
The strength of Just Cause 3 comes from the gameplay with its nonsensical massive action, and creative experimentation. The source of all this action and creativity comes from the tools that are given to you.
The grappling hook, parachute, and wing suit used in combination are a great way to both dispatch your enemies with meticulous preparation or extemporaneous frivolity and travel across the map. You can use the grapple to tether any two items together – a soldier to a soaring plane or an explosive barrel to a pesky locked gate. You will certainly never want to drive or fast travel again, as the collaboration of all your gear is a fluid, fun, and speedy form of transportation to traverse the map.
The best part is that the game gives you access to the entire collection of equipment without requiring you to reach a certain point in the story. You can immediately feel superhuman with your ability to soar through the air at any time, commit near cataclysmic levels of destruction, and overpower the vast numbers in General Ravello’s army.
The AI is a bit weak and somewhat limited, but in this case it is not detrimental to the game as a whole. It is not necessarily important for them to be sophisticated as you’re not engaging in stealth or close quarters combat and thus you don’t necessarily require intelligent responses from enemies where they diligently search for you and learn from your strategies. The soldiers are essentially there as cannon fodder and fuel for your fireworks.
Some may say that as a diverse sandbox game it is subpar when compared to the competition. That being said it isn’t really trying to be a Witcher 3 or a GTA V, and it is doing something that no other game allows you to do by giving you the freedom and the tools to creatively conquer any situation or simply obliterate the impressive destructible environment.
Throughout your time in Just Cause 3 you complete story missions, liberate settlements, complete challenges to level up and modify your gear, and blow up a ton of fuel tanks. But the most fun you’ll have will be that of your own creation. It is a testament to the quality of a sandbox game if you can accomplish so little in the context of the game but still engage in hours of unwavering fun within the world, consistently creating new experiences.
It may not have a brilliant story and an arcing cast of characters, though it does have some interesting personalities, but that’s not what made this series great. It is about having just plain fun, being creative, and making a serious mess of everything. Just Cause 3 does a far better job than its predecessor in every way. The best work was done embracing the grappling hook/wing suit/parachute combo and making it an exceptional weapon, tool, and form of transport.
Despite some of its faults that could not be redeemed in other games, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed this game. I can play Just Cause 3 for hours on end without tiring my enthusiasm, and that’s because of the thrilling gameplay.
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