IF there was some sort of serious award for Most Explosions In A Computer Game, the judging panel could save themselves a lot of time by giving it to Just Cause 3 and then patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
The plot behind Just Cause 3 is that you play Rico Rodriguez, an operative of a US Government department known as The Agency, and your speciality is overthrowing dictators by blowing up their entire country’s infrastructure along with any soldiers, vehicles, radar dishes, fuel tanks and any other strategically-important objects you can find.
On paper this sounds wafer-thin, derivative and formulaic, but in reality — assuming you can get the game running properly – it’s a lot of fun and the result is like having a starring role in a combination of pretty much every over the top big-budget action or espionage movie ever made.
In this game, Rico returns to his Mediterranean island home of Medici, where the despotic General Di Ravello has seized power in a coup and controls the world’s only supply of a rare mineral which has special properties and you’re not listening anymore because by this point you’re standing on top of a flying aeroplane firing a rocket launcher at SAM sites trying to shoot you down.
The Just Cause games are very aware they’re not Great Art and accordingly do not take themselves seriously; Just Cause 3 is no exception. From openly acknowledging and then handwaving away the ridiculous situations its characters are in, to punny place names and generally pervading the game with a wry sense of humour, the emphasis is on fun and enjoying yourself without overthinking anything too much.
The series’ hook (if you’ll excuse the pun) is Rico’s grappling hook, which effectively turns him into the world’s most heavily-armed and pyromaniacal Spider Man. With his hook, he can pull himself across distances, attach himself (or other people and objects) to vehicles (or other people and objects), drag things closer to him, and generally cause all sorts of chaos, especially when combined with his ever-handy parachute.
Inventive or over-the-top ways to use Rico’s grappling hook are what really make the game stand out over a background of explosions, gunfire, destroyable environments, improbable vehicle stunts and beautiful scenery.
This is, of course, assuming you can get the game running. At release, the PC version — which already has fairly high system requirements — has several performance issues and slows to a crawl and/or begins stuttering terribly on many systems whenever anything interesting happens, making the game nearly unplayable for some gamers. Others have also reported crashes to desktops and failures to start as well, while more fortunate players have reported no problems at all; it seems to vary on a system-by-system basis.
The developers are aware of the issues and have pledged to fix them, but at time of writing (more than a fortnight after the game was released) this has not been forthcoming — the only way I could get the game to run faster than a concussed sloth was to go into my graphics card’s control panel and turn off vertical synching, and then turn the graphics in-game down to a level which might politely be called “adequate”.
The game’s idea is that you liberate Medici one town and outpost at a time, by swooping in, shooting at everything, blowing up a quantity of high-value targets such as fuel tanks, propaganda speakers, radar dishes and giant statues (while being shot at by defending forces), raising the rebel flag, and then heroically jaunting off to blow up some more of the Mediterranean.
The problem is that you’re quite likely to enjoy a brisk few minutes of over-the-top action and explosion adventure as you take out most of your targets, before the proceedings descend into a frustrating exercise of searching around for several minutes looking for a solitary power transformer or fuel tank or somesuch that you’d overlooked among all the flying bullets and fireballs.
Upgrading your weapons and grappling hook are accomplished via a series of side activities such as shooting galleries, obstacle courses and frenzies. They were fine the first few times, but they began to feel like a bit of a grind for me later on.
How much you enjoy Just Cause 3 can depend on whether or not you played Just Cause 2. If you didn’t play the earlier game, then (assuming you encounter no technical issues) you’re likely to have a blast, whizzing about a sunny island chain, shooting bad guys, hijacking vehicles, blowing things up, and generally giving the laws of physics a prominently raised middle finger while you do so.
Returning players, however, will soon realise it’s basically exactly the same thing again, but with a Mediterranean vibe rather than the southeast Asian setting of before. Sure, you get a wingsuit this time around and there’s a more densely populated game world, but mostly the experience isn’t substantially different.
That doesn’t make it a bad game, however, and ultimately once I got the game running acceptably, I did have a lot of fun with it.
It’s not a game that lends itself to long sessions — after an hour or so at a time you’ve probably had enough of blowing up military outposts and parachuting away from danger with a grappling hook while lobbing grenades in your wake for a bit — but the over-the-top nature of it all, the way the game deliberately chooses not to take itself seriously, and the fact Just Cause 3 revels in its own ridiculousness all added up to an enjoyable and somewhat zany experience.
Having said that, however, I’d still suggest PC gamers wait until the performance issues are properly addressed before making a move on the game — and make sure they have a fairly decent system to run it on as well.