Just Cause 3 Review: A Box of Broken Toys
Imagine Just Cause 3 is a box of new toys. Initially you open up the toy box, and your imagination is the only limitation. Explosives, tethers, tanks, an un-killable action hero...mix and match these toys and you can make anything happen. However it isn’t long before you realize that a lot of these toys are broken, really broken, and the ones that aren’t become dull and repetitive the more you are forced to play with them.
It’s a little late for a review on Just Cause 3. It released in December of 2015, and it’s now well over 6 months later. But I wanted to give Just Cause 3 a chance. I played The Witcher 3 upon release, and the entire experience was ruined for me due to a diverse assortment of bugs and performance issues. I felt I’d missed out on something others regarded as phenomenal when Game of the Year discussions rolled round. So when it came to my attention that Just Cause 3 was riddled with unacceptable performance issues on PS4 and Xbox One, I decided I’d give Avalanche Studios a chance to tidy things up. So with a great deal of annoyance I must say that not only did Avalanche studios release a broken game, but over 6 months later they still haven’t fixed it.
Let Me Tell You a Story…….Or Not
Welcome to the open world sandbox of Medici. It’s been 6 years since Rico Rodriguez’s last explosive coup. Now he returns to his place of birth, ready to overthrow the tyrannical dictator General Sebastiano Di Ravello….. That’s really all you need to know story wise. Because nothing else happens. Seriously.
The game's narrative is shallow at best, downright lazy at worst. Almost every story mission began with the same cut scene of Rico walking into a room, being told to blow something up, and nonchalantly proceeding to do just that.
The voice acting is downright terrible, as character accents are strong, the audio is hard to hear, and many characters speak in various shades of monotone. It became almost impossible to understand what was happening without subtitles, and even then I was confused. Throughout the game, characters pop up, whom you think may offer something to the story, but never do. It’d be almost generous to call these characters one dimensional, as they are that hollow and lifeless.
And to top it all off, despite returning to Rico’s homeland, we aren’t given a conclusive end to Rico’s story -- and the ending that is provided is perhaps one of the most unsatisfying in all of video games.
The New Features that Make It So Much Better Than Just Cause 2
Like an over the top action film, you don’t buy Just Cause for the narrative. You buy it for the countless, unnecessarily extravagant explosions. For Just Cause 3 and titles like it, gameplay is the be all and end all. Within my first few hours of exploring Just Cause’s mechanics, I believed I’d stumbled upon one of the most ‘satisfying-to-play games’ of this generation. Sure, there were flaws. Many of the cars feel clunky and uncomfortable to drive and there could be a little more enemy/location diversity. But I was able to overlook all of this. The shooting mechanics, parachute, grappling hook and boat-load of explosives have all returned following Just Cause 2.
However, added to the toy box are the wing suit and tethers. The wing suit provides what was missing in Just Cause 2. Previously, the player could grapple a short distance ahead of them and launch into their parachute, which they could then use to navigate the island. But the parachute felt slow, so to keep up the necessary speed to traverse a sprawling map, Just Cause 3 added the wing suit. The wing suit allows Rico to fly throughout Medici at unprecedented speeds. And although initially difficult to control, Rico’s comical invincibility stops the learning curve from being an annoyance. Many times I found myself rolling on the floor with laughter, as I sent Rico hurtling at a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour, only for him to get up without a care in the world.
Another necessary addition has been made to the game's combat. The shooting mechanics were never great. However, whether it be a sticky bomb or an RPG, the explosions in Just Cause were magnificent and plentiful. With an abundance of ammo always nearby, there was never an excuse to be conservative and take things slow.
Just Cause 3 takes destruction to a new level with tethers. Attach tethers between various objects within the world and watch the chaos unfurl. Send a soldier hurtling towards a helicopter, or watch the devastating effects of a truck colliding with a gas station. The tethers turn everything into a weapon and allow your creativity to take control.
When the Toy Box Runs Out of Toys
However it is with an unprecedented amount of disappointment that I must admit, this is where the fun stops. Because after those first few hours, repetitive and uninspired level design, a half-hearted story, and an unacceptable amount of bugs turned Just Cause 3 into one of my biggest disappointments of the last year.
Firstly, with the creative options Just Cause 3 offers players in its tools, you’d think they would inject some of that creativity into their level design. I say this without a hint of a smile. Every. Single. Mission. Is. An. Escort. Mission. Yes -- the bane of all gamers. The escort mission. Where you do everything right, yet fail because the poorly programmed A.I. got itself killed. Virtually every main line story mission in Just Cause 3 involves protecting someone or something. And at times it’s completely unnecessary. An army of tanks, gunships and helicopters could be assaulting your base, and your task would be to destroy them all…oh, and keep Mario alive. It seems ridiculous that I singlehandedly took out an entire army, yet failed the mission because Mario couldn’t just stay inside.
This lack of diversity stretches throughout the game. The side missions you tackle 30 hours in are the same ones you were exposed to when you first entered Medici. And the bases and towns that were so fun to overthrow end up becoming chores.
One of Just Cause's other problems is that unlocking new abilities is linked in with completing side missions. So by getting a great score in a speed run or a wing suit challenge, you get that much closer to unlocking new mods for your vehicles and weapons. However despite completing the majority of the games side missions, by the time I reached the final chapter, the mods I had acquired did very little to change how I played. Although the bases around Medici had grown stronger and well-fortified, I was still wielding the same weapons I was 20 hours earlier.
At this point, reclaiming Medici became boring. I felt I couldn’t be creative with my now underpowered tethers and landmines, as I was shot and pushed to the verge of death within seconds of entering a higher level base. I found myself resorting to the same cheap tactics again and again, such as using helicopters and tanks to get the job done. Just Cause 3 offered some truly liberating ways to play, but with a lack of upgrade options and terrible mission design, these tools go to waste.
If It’s Broken, Don’t Fix It
And now for my final gripe with the game -- an issue no gamer should experience. The more I progressed, the more broken the game became. From the onset of my experience with Just Cause 3, the game struggled to run.
The framerate dipped well below 20 frames per second on a regular basis and large amounts of texture pop in, especially in areas with large amounts of water. But for the most part I let this slide, as I was still thoroughly enjoying myself at this point. However, further down the road my game outright crashed several times, parts of missions didn’t load properly, and just before I beat the game my save file was corrupted.
I’m not usually the biggest advocate for criticising game developers over performance issues. But when you power through 30 minutes of a mission for the third time, just to have it crash again, it’s just not good enough. Especially considering the amount of time they’ve had to do something about it.
Just Cause 3 offered players the tools to creatively destroy the world in whatever manner they saw fit. However with lazy storytelling, boring mission design and unacceptable performance issues, Just Cause 3 will deservedly fade away into obscurity.