To say that Just Cause 3 isn’t fun is a bold face lie. It can be an absolute blast, pun intended. I don’t know how many times the complete and utter destruction of my target made me smile. But with every fantastic moment this game offers you, comes the horrible truth that Just Cause 3 is not a well-made game. While this may change with a patch later on, this review is about the current status of the game on consoles.
I’ll get this out of the way first; Just Cause 3 is a technical nightmare. Larger bases near the completion of the game run at such a low frame-rate I started to question if this game had bullet time like that of Max Payne. When the action steps up and explosions surround you, it’s almost impossible to do anything until the game calms down and starts to steady its frame-rate. While those later huge bases and towns are a huge cause for this framerate drop, smaller and earlier areas in the game you’ll notice it as well, it’s just not as bad.
Just Cause’s 3 story is generic and for the most part poorly told. As Rico Rodriguez, you show up to help your friend Mario Frigo take down a dictator by the name of Sebastiano Di Ravello and liberate the oppressed people of Medici. The game has a few interesting characters but fails to do anything substantial with them. A moment later in the game it tries to pull at your heart strings but it’s directed and executed in such a way that the emotional moment you are supposed to have is just not there. It’s probably worth noting that I don’t think many people are going to play this type of action game for a compelling story.
Graphically the game is nice to look at. Locations in the game look really good in the day, but truly shine at night. Character models are fairly well done with some really nice animations. The voice cast is enjoyable, especially Dimah. Sebastiano Di Ravello was too on the nose for the voice of a dictator and mostly was annoying. I really enjoyed the 2 mercenaries, Annika and Teo, there were just too few missions with them.
The game has a well-used gimmick with the grappling hook. This hook shot of sorts will catapult you forward to any object or person you target with it. You’re also outfitted with a parachute that disappears into your back somehow, and a wingsuit upgrade that allows you coast on currents of the wind. When these systems work the game is immensely enjoyable. It can be thrilling to soar through the air and hijack a helicopter, cause it to spin out and crash into a large explosive container while you dive bomb out of it and glide to safety. It’s just a shame that most of the time the controls are not responsive enough to time it right, and with the steady drops in frame-rate, well… you’ll often not be able to pull off that last second escape. I also found that because of the delay in retracting the parachute that I often overshot my landing area. It can take a while to get the parachute to wingsuit to grappling hook shot system down, but when you do, it works quite well.
The grappling hook this time around will let you tether items together. You can tether a helicopter to a car and then watch as the car is almost about to lift off the ground then the helicopter flips on its side and explodes into the side of a building. Tethering explosive barrels, which seem to be as common as dirt and rocks, to an enemy solider and watching the explosion send him flying, is such a great moment. I even tethered 2 helicopters together and forced them to collide into one another. It’s moments like this that the game can shine.
While Just Cause 3 is an incredibly fun game, it can get extremely repetitive and features some very poor level design. You can tell that the game’s mechanics and the world itself was designed far before the story was even conceptualized as each area in the game is no different than the last. Sure, the designs of the bases are different, but the objectives and gameplay is the same half hour repeated again and again. Each base or town has a set of objectives to complete. These range from freeing prisoners from the police station, to destroying propaganda speakers around the town, or taking down billboards or statues of Sebastiano Di Ravello. You’ll repeat these same objectives with a few others sprinkled in for the entirety of every single base or town. I really wish this game would have had entirely destructible environments and terrain as blowing up the walls of the prison, or taking a chunk out of the mountain to destroy a compound would have been fantastic. There are sections that do crumble down, but it’s so incredibly minor. Some missions like protecting the train were really well done, until I had to redo it because my character glitched and got stuck in the train. Providing cover for your mercenary friends in one of the protection missions was really enjoyable as sniping in the game is surprisingly fun. There is a huge amount of missions and side activities in the game that don’t follow those generic objectives in the bases and towns, and I just wish the variety of those missions were passed on to how to liberate the people of Medici outside of a story mission.
Speaking of liberating, it never feels or appears like you are making a difference. You’ll get a radio message about how you have liberated a town, but you never see the effects of said liberation. In fact, you will still be considered a hero no matter how many citizens you blow up or just down right murder. It makes no sense. Had the game had some sort of approval system where you had to be cautious about how you took the action to the enemy with the possibility of collateral damage, I think the moral choices you would make during the game would have some weight to them.
The area of the game that makes up Medici is packed full of military bases and towns that all pretty much look the same. Aside from an area north of the map, and some underground fortresses, the game has the same environment at each and every turn. Unlike games like Witcher 3, Fallout or even Skyrim, the area given to explore here is far too big for what is available to you. Sure, it takes an incredibly realistic take on distances between settlements, but there is nothing to explore or come across between them that justifies the colossal map size. You’ll see a church or old ruins here and there but they are empty areas that serve no purpose.
You can traverse the game with your grappling hook, parachute and wingsuit, but you’ll also have access to a variety of vehicles. Helicopters, when the frame-rate holds up, are super fun to pilot and can lead to some fantastic moments in the game. Jets were not my favorite and I just didn’t care to be behind the cockpit of one at all. Tanks and armored cars are great to use, and you’ll want to use tanks often when you take the battle to the ground. You’ll also have access to cars, trucks, bikes and for some reason, a tractor, but those vehicles are mainly there for getting around the island than anything contributing to destruction. There are boats as well, but I only really used them to complete missions that required me to do so, or if I was stranded at sea.
You’ll have a vast assortment of challenges to partake in as you can match your scores to your friends and everyone else playing the game. I am not sure if these are based on your location as I am sure for everyone playing this game that I am not 2nd in the world for the most amount of headshots in a single clip. The game will tell you when your challenge has been bested, and you can challenge your friends to beating a particular score of yours.
You can upgrade each of the vehicles, guns, and your traversal abilities with mods. These mods are earned by completing challenges. Some challenges are well constructed and are indeed difficult to pull off. The upgrades are anything from better handling with the wingsuit, to nitrous boosts and jumps for vehicles. One upgrade I found immensely puzzling was the ability to zoom in with your gun to get a better over the shoulder view. This “upgrade” should have been a standard ability as it makes shooting so much easier, and is usually a standard shooting mechanic in 3rd person games. Once you upgrade even half of the options given to you, the game gets incredibly easier and almost a cake walk. You can complete the game without even attempting any of these, which makes them so optional that you’ll forget about them in no time.
While there is a type of complete freedom to how you play the game, it all comes down to Just Cause 3 being a very repetitive experience despite the various ways you can bring down destruction to your enemy. The frame-rate doesn’t hold up nearly as often as it really needs to, and the staggering amount of loading screens is disappointing. As much as I found some parts of the game to be immensely fun and well crafted, there is just so many problems this game suffers from to allow it to be anything more than a mediocre game. The variety in the main story missions is fun, but doesn’t translate to the rest of the game. I felt that by the end of it, during my roughly 30 hours with the game, taking down a base or liberating another town started to feel more like a chore than anything else.
The PC version of Just Cause 3 is known to be the far superior version and has almost no frame-rate hiccups. A patch for consoles to address the majority of the technical problems will inevitably come out, but as the game is right now, it just doesn’t run well enough when the action gets super intense in the larger bases and towns.