A just cause indeed
Sandbox games have become increasingly ubiquitous across this industry of ours, as such a gameplay format that allows for a contemporary campaign while also providing virtually limitless playability in a world free of restriction is a much sought-after style of game design these days. Just Cause 2, released in the last generation, epitomized the concept through one of the largest maps seen (at the time) in a video game combined with all the appropriate tools to make your time with it as anarchic as possible. Just Cause 3 now looks to re-light that familiar fuse?but while it is a great experience on its own merits, it may not be enough to live up to the standard of its predecessor.
Series protagonist Rico Rodriguez returns as a dictatorship destabilizer to take down his now third oppressive tyrant. This particular mission, however, hits a little close to home for Rico?literally. General Di Ravello has taken control of Rico?s home country of Medici, ruling it with a violent iron fist. Having separated from The Agency, the organization that employed Rico in Just Cause 2, our hero has returned home to aid his old countrymen in a rebellion aimed at taking back their land.
The supporting cast aiding Rico in his endeavor are quirky, but mildly one-dimensional. Among the individuals who have just enough personality and charisma to pull you through the narrative are his childhood friend Mario Frigo, a socially oblivious scientist/engineer Dimah al-Masri, and his morally questionable mentor and Agency contact Tom Sheldon. Meanwhile, the generically evil General Di Ravello isn?t much to write home about either, but Just Cause 3 is far more about the world than the people within it?and it?s there that the game makes its mark.
The island nation of Medici is a richly detailed, Mediterranean-inspired region. Split between three different regions, players must liberate the various provinces of Medici from the grip of the General?s army by obliterating everything with Di Ravello?s face on it. Doing so unlocks perks and equipment to use as well as opens up new mission opportunities. Challenges, such as time and score trials, are among the features earned through this process. Excelling in these challenges unlocks modifications to Rico?s equipment, adding game-changing and occasionally hilarious effects to his normal loadout.
While Medici?s southern European style does not possess quite the level of variety found in Just Cause 2, it makes up for this deficiency through significantly greater verticality. Expansive vistas and secluded beaches make each turn a discovery, and the sheer scope of terrain can lead to hours of exploration from the highest cliff edge to below the waves. Rolling hills and sheer cliff faces may sound like nothing but obstacles in other games, but Just Cause 3?s most fundamental feature turns these hindrances into assets.
Just Cause?s trademark grappling hook is the most versatile piece of equipment in Rico?s arsenal, with its predominant application being getting Rico from point A to B. Any surface within range can be grappled to, and Rico will stick to these surfaces often providing a better vantage point than being rooted to the floor.
An unlimited number of parachutes?another Just Cause staple?are also available, and opening one while zip-lining will launch Rico into a smooth cruise through the air. ?Slingshotting? your way across the environment is an effective method to cover distances, but this is not even Rico?s most efficient mode of travel. That would be the wingsuit, a tool new to Just Cause 3, which can be operated in tandem with the other two functions. When these three systems are synchronized, they make traveling across the massive landscape as smooth and effortless as it is completely badass. Parachuting through a military base while gunning down enemies before zipping to the end of a runway and wingsuiting off into the hills for a clean getaway is an experience few other games can match.
Those looking for a respite from the aerial acrobatics also have a plethora of both civilian and military vehicles at their disposal. Planes, helicopters, cars, motorcycles, tanks, and boats are available if players need something more expedient, but these objects are also useful in causing chaos, whether weaponized or not. Rico can surf, tether, or bail out of almost any vehicle in the game, turning them into makeshift battering rams, bombs, guided missiles or whatever else the situation may call for. While attached to the exterior of these machines, the player can move around and use equipment, and grappling to one from a distance is a quick way to facilitate an easy hijacking.
Grappling and car surfacing are impressive mechanics, but they are mainly there to serve the core of the Just Cause 3 experience: the destruction. Much of the map?s architecture can be demolished with spectacular effect; statues crumble, gas stations explode, and radio towers smash to bits. Tight, fast-paced gunplay helps keep the adrenaline up. Devising the best way to cause chaos during shootouts interspersed between the destructible scenery becomes half the challenge. A diverse selection of weapons do the job well enough, but again, the grapple is often your best bet.
Possibly the most notable adjustment since Just Cause 2 is that grappling hooks can again be fired as tethers, but now the timing of their retraction is left up to the player (instead of being automatic). Several tethers can be fired at once, and the game?s sophisticated physics dynamically determine the behavior of the contracted objects based on the multiple tethers?perfect for when you?re trying to take down larger targets. Sure a gas tank could be shot, but why not rip it out of its supports and launch it into the air? The possibilities for creative annihilation are vast, and players will often find themselves standing around in the middle of a fire fight simply weighing the epicness of their options.
Despite the unbridled enjoyment to be derived from the experience, nothing is ever perfect. When the action peaks, with countless explosions and enemies filling your screen, the framerate can begin to chug, and loading times have been excruciatingly long on particular occasions. These are mentioned in the format of an afterthought, however, because they essentially are; while periodically irksome, neither take away from everything this game has to offer.
Just Cause 3 may not trump its predecessor in every way, but it does excel beyond Just Cause 2 in its sheer creative freedom. The new tools and tweaks to old ones work great, it’s just up to gamers to discover how best to use them. Having so many choices you lose track of them is one of the best things any game can offer, and Just Cause 3 does so in spades.
|Developer: Avalanche Studios ? Publisher: Square Enix ? ESRB: M – Mature ? Release Date: 12.01.15|
Just Cause 3 lives up to the series? standard of high quality explosiveness by exhibiting just how a sandbox game should operate, with chaos and variety.
|The Good||Dropping a radio tower perfectly onto an enemy?s head is so satisfying.|
|The Bad||A frame rate that occasional struggles to keep up with the insane action on-screen.|
|The Ugly||Loading screens?..after the first few minutes.|
|Just Cause 3 is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Square Enix for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|