Review: Just Cause 3 (PC)
Rico Rodriguez has a pretty tough life. He reminds me a lot of Bruce Willis in Die Hard. He spends so much time being shot at, nearly killed and dealing with crazy militant dictators. Then he gets home to a power-crazed general messing up his beloved Medici and once again he needs to blow pretty much everything up to save the day. Because explosives solve pretty much everything.
If you have played a Just Cause game before, you know the drill. This is a massive, beautiful sandbox filled with over the top physics and explosions, all the while Rico spouting one liners that would make your dad proud. When you are given a whole island to save from oppression, you need to be creative. That, or you need bigger explosives.
Hook, line and sinker
Rico’s upgraded grappling hook is a central part of the game, giving him the mobility he needs to take on crazy odds. This isn’t a heavily armoured superhero or the like. Rico is pretty squishy and never gets a health upgrade, but he is really good at moving around. He can grapple just about anything: tanks, people, buildings or the ground and either reel himself towards it, or use the momentum from the reeling to get some air in his parachute or wingsuit. It can also now to be used to tether two objects together, before trying to reel the cable in. If the objects are too heavy the tether will eventually just disconnect but if not, you can have some pretty cool fun with it. Tether two soldiers together before knocking one off the edge of a building or attach a explosive drum to a jeep. Also become the bane of helicopters everywhere by tethering a helicopter to the ground, reeling it in and causing it to flip or break its rotor blades. Even without a weapon Rico is pretty capable of taking down vehicles or military targets. It also helps that C4 is now an infinite use item, making it easier to use than in JC2 where I always had to decide if the target was worth the cost of replenishing my C4 stocks.
You can do what?
It takes a while to get used to travelling with the wingsuit, because you need to unlearn a few things that games teach you, as well as your understanding of how gravity and physics work. At first you will be looking for high vantage points and using your wingsuit for short flights that tend to end abruptly. Then, you will master the art of falling with style, just like Buzz Lightyear. The suit is a fun way to get around, allowing you to travel long distances quickly once you get the hang of it. It’s also a quick way to get out of trouble when your health is low and a jet is about to turn the ground you are standing on into glass. Like the parachute you can use the grappling hook to get a bit more speed and keep up in the air. Yes I know it doesn’t make sense, but neither does grappling to the floor to break a fall.
In fact, movement in general is a lot better this time around. Your parachute is much more stable, allowing you to float around and pepper enemies with bullets or, if you want to have fun, tethering enemies to a vehicle just before it explodes. Parachuting into a army base and sniping on the way down is a lot of fun and should help even the odds a bit.
No money no problems
Just Cause 3 has done away with currency, meaning you can call for vehicles and weapons that you like almost as often as you like, provided you have unlocked them. This means for the most part you can tackle missions as you please, unless the mission is too fast paced to call in a drop or happens underground. The potential downside of this is that the AI adapts to your equipment and choices, so if you arrive in a military base in the best tank in the game, expect the first reinforcement call to be for jets to bomb you, instead of calling for more troops or helicopters. If you don’t mind the enemies having loads of explosives that is fine, but there is a good chance your tank wont last for as long as you had hoped. Sometimes it is better to go in on foot, cause havoc and then hijack whatever heavy hardware comes your way, rather than rushing in with the heavy hardware.
Rico’s strength comes from how mobile he is in engagements. Stay in one spot for too long and you might get swarmed or overpowered, but moving around let’s you regenerate or trick the enemies. Its a game of cat and mouse with several chunks of C4 mixed in and your destruction will generally win out.
If you want more of an edge while fighting, or just a few more options available to you, the challenges offer extra progression to items and equipment. Doing wingsuit challenges will unlock mods for an airbrake, or automatically retracting the suit when you reach very slow speeds. Doing rampage challenges will improve your grenades, allowing you to carry more, have them detonate instantly when hitting a person, or even homing grenades that find targets on their own. There are well over 100 challenges to be found in the game, with challenges unlocking as you reclaim settlements in the various provinces. This makes for a pretty fun loop in the game: you kill enemies and blow up buildings to unlock a challenge, you then do said challenge and possibly earn the next unlock, which you then use to go to a new settlement to blow up more things and kill more people. The challenges are completely optional, but why wouldn’t you want homing grenades or double the ammo for your heavy weapon? They also set up some pretty crazy scenarios. Imagine blowing up a base again with a helicopter, but with no enemies or missile launchers firing at you? It is a race to get a high score in a short period of time, and it just adds to the mindless fun of making massive explosions.
Just Cause 3 has a campaign, but you didn’t come here for the story, in much the same way you don’t watch a Steven Seagal for the story. While there are some likeable characters along the way it is mostly an excuse to set up implausible situations for you to enjoy and then explode more things, with the game, at three points, refusing to let you progress until you have freed enough provinces on an island from oppression. Freeing an entire province also makes the collectibles in the area show up, for those who enjoy collecting various objects. All the collectibles, and many of the military bases, unlock some pretty neat hardware, from being able to ask for airdrops of RPGs to unlocking military helicopters, the collectibles at least feel like they have a purpose rather than satisfying your OCD compulsions. The game also tells you which weapons and vehicles come from the collectibles, so you can decide for yourself if they are worth it. Even after finishing the campaign, you will find yourself just freeing one more settlement, or destroying yet another military base. You can even reset settlements and bases once you are done with the campaign so that you can blow them up all over again, this time armed with the best weapons in the game.
On the PC side of things, the game runs really well. Avalanche have not skimped and in my time playing the game, even as a review beta copy, had one crash in my entire playthrough. Its much less resource intensive than AC: Syndicate, while looking, I think, quite a lot better in a lot of places. Hopping into the ocean or just gliding down in a parachute is really enjoyable, serene and serious amounts of eye candy. Then you go back to making beautiful explosions.
This is a game where a cargo container falls from the sky and a tank double its size pops out and nobody nearby minds until you hop in and shoot at them. Viva Medici! Let’s go blow up everything. I’m off to hunt for Easter eggs and tether bombs to a helicopter.