Review: Just Cause 3

Avalanche Studios’ Just Cause 3 is probably the explodiest game of 2015—a carefully constructed cornucopia of things that to detonate and the tools to ignite them. It’s a caustic, unstable powder keg — and you are the king of matches.

 You are the super-agent Rico Rodriguez, a man who technically doesn’t have super powers but may as well be called SpiderSuperBatman. Rico is equipped with an arsenal of firepower and gadgetry that enables him to grapple and sling, fly, and glide from town to town and destroy stuff—especially red stuff.
It’s a good thing people don’t just leave unprotected tanks lying around. Someone might steal one. 

Rico can also absorb ludicrous amounts of punishment, swim with a rocket launcher on his back, and drive any and every vehicle on land, sea, or air—from clown-cars to tanks to jet fighters.

At one point (ok, actually many points) I fell more than 100 feet from an exploding helicopter and face planted into the ground—and I still got up and swaggered off without so much as a limp. (Rico was hurt, but as long as you get to cover he’ll be combat ready in no time.) Just Cause 3 definitely keeps the good times (i.e. blowing sh*t up) rolling.

Who left this unmanned turret unlocked? Why is it in range of a fuel tank anyway?

Rico must liberate the people of Medici from their dictator Sebastiano Di Ravello—a ruthless 2-dimensional cardboard cutout of someone just waiting to be hurled off an exploding building to his doom Nakatomi-plaza-style. Sadly, he won’t meet nearly as satisfying an end. The game’s final boss fight is as easy as it is uninspired, being little more than a ‘reskin’ of Wolfenstein’s battle against Mecha-Hitler. Enjoy the side missions and liberation of Medici, because the story and its conclusion are almost forgettable.

Di Ravello has discovered a new substance called Bavarium, which turns out is a high-energy material capable massive destruction and not a form of chocolate as the name might suggest. To take down Di Ravello, you must weaken him and “free the people”, which means breaking his toys and liberating towns and cities.

This often means liberating “the people” from their lives (if you’re not careful), because like most open world games nearly anything and everything can be a target (accidental or otherwise). Don’t worry, they’re just digital people. They’ll respawn.

Fairly unfair

Just Cause 3 is ridiculous, over-the-top action but applies its unfairness pretty equally. Despite Rico’s jacked up 80’s level action hero super powers, he also faces countless enemies who often emerge from nowhere (or ‘monster closets’).

Enjoy your air superiority while it lasts.

And most of them can find you almost anywhere, anytime once an alarm is raised (unless you get thoroughly out of a combat zone long enough). Otherwise, those guys you just evaded who are now 300 meters away on the opposite side of the base still know where you are and continue firing at you. Ships, helicopters, tanks, and every kind of vehicle will swarm in to take you down, keeping the action fast and frenetic. You can’t afford to quit moving.

The world is your exploding barrel

It really must take a special kind of fanaticism to serve as a soldier for Di Ravello. Your job amounts to standing near massive containers, barrels, and storehouses full of stuff that may as well be called Explodium. Most of your day is probably spent hoping to god some sociopathic assh*le with a rocket launcher doesn’t come along looking to “liberate” your fuel tanks from tyranny and your body parts from every other body part.

This really never does never get old.

And space is tight. All of these caustic materials (barrels, fuel tanks, storage areas, etc.) seem very precariously placed very near to each other. Even worse: It’s all conveniently painted bright “shoot-and-blow-me-the-f*ck-up” red.

But then again, Di Ravello guards are likely brain washed and sporting double-digit IQ’s at best. They’re more than willing to ride a motorcycle and shoot small-caliber machine guns at the tank you just hijacked. No worries, they’ll be liberated like everyone else and turned into flaming airborne stunt dummies.

It’s all about freedom fighting

Apparently it takes a sociopathic adrenaline junky to take down a sociopathic tyrant dictator. The level of destruction Rico “SpiderSuperBatMan” Rodriguez brings can hardly be called freedom fighting, unless freedom means “scorched earth”, i.e. freedom from life, death, and/or the pursuit of anything.

This is pretty much how a lot of the game will look…

And it’s all deliciously, gloriously fun. “That never gets old,” Rico sometimes quips when you blow something upreeeal good. And he’s right.

There is virtually no stealth in the game, although with the proper firepower you can cause a fair bit of destruction far enough from the target to go relatively unchallenged (Hint: Helicopters are your friend, especially if they are out of range from a base’s missile defenses.).But to finish the job, you usually need to get up close and personal.

You can also hack SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) so they’ll take out enemy air support and free you up to jack a helicopter and rain some death and destruction. (This is a tactic I’d recommend if you really want to enjoy air superiority for more than 10 seconds, although it’s often easier to just destroy as many SAMs as possible.)

Don’t worry, you got this.

You can jack any vehicle you want, or just use your arsenal of grenades and other weapons to cause as much explosive mayhem as possible. Tanks are also very fun…

Like other open-world games, there are plenty of “challenges” (arcade sequences) you can undertake to earn bonus items and gear. Most of these take the form of timed races on air, sea, or land, or “blow the crap out of everything as fast as possible” type challenges.

They’re reasonably fun, and you can unlock a variety of gear and vehicle upgrades by completing them. There are also a bunch of ‘collectibles’ in the game if you care to go find them.

However, most of these extras in Just Cause 3 are unnecessary, and almost feel like they are just obligatory open-world mechanics. They add little to the game and I actually ignored almost all of them, preferring instead to simple move from town to town and liberate everything, which is where the real fun is at. I rarely went out of my way to finish a challenge or even use equipment drops to call in assets (unless I needed a Helicopter to get someplace quickly).

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For the most part I just moved from town to town liberating everything and visiting story missions to break it all up. The story is as ridiculous and 2-dimensional as the game.

Overall: 8/10 – Recommended

Come for the explosions, stay for the explosions. Just Cause 3 delivers addictive, action-packed entertainment and serves it piping hot, but once the dust settles you’ll probably never look back because the story and extras designed to inspire replay value are pretty uninspired.

But the core game play is a red-hot exploding barrel. Next to a fuel tank. In a nuclear gasoline factory.

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