Like any good open-world game nowadays, the Just Cause series embraces the absurd. Just Cause 3 is at its best when it refuses to say no, allowing you to manipulate every tool it provides to pull off the exact stunt, the riveting clutch moment you were thinking of. But the game is still bound by many of the same paradigms it desperately wants to shed, and when it holds back, the whiplash is that much more pronounced.
The game spends no more than five minutes establishing its premise: series protagonist Rico Rodriguez is tasked with ousting yet another despot, General Sebastiano Di Ravello, this time within Rico’s homeland of Medici. Cutscenes skim over essential plot details, and characters come off as benevolently unaware, delighting in the same kind of destruction they want to free Medici from. Considering that’s exactly the kind of the thing you do in-game as the player, I suppose that’s one way to get around the whole “cognitive dissonance” thing.
As with most open-world games, after a few early tutorial missions you’re free to do as you wish, and Just Cause 3 starts you off with everything you need to go around and blast apart enemy bases at your leisure. Some of the important starting abilities are the ability to tether yourself from any surface or object, deploy a parachute at a moment’s notice, and a wingsuit added a few missions in. These three abilities effectively let you fly around the game’s massive islands.
The sense of freedom in movement also makes for more interesting combat scenarios. Rico Rodriguez is extraordinarily resilient even by open-world game standards, 😀 taking hundreds of bullets before the screen starts turning red.
Should you ever feel the need to, you can evacuate from any situation with just a few quick button presses, rethink the situation, and approach from wherever else you’d like. This lets the game throw wave after wave of soldiers, armored mercs, tanks, helicopters, and anti-air batteries after you without overwhelming you. Flying into one part of a base, wiping an entire platoon of enemies, then flying to the opposite end of the base to wipe out another gives combat a rarely felt sense of scale.
Unfortunately, taking bases is by far the most enjoyable aspect of the game. Almost every other aspect of Just Cause 3 plays by more much more conventional rules, and the game’s overall structure hinders your potential rather than help give you direction. If you want to get more options to destroy bases (which the game calls “MODs”, such as stronger tethers or more ammunition for explosives, you’ll have to complete side missions that involve flying through rings, racing a rigged vehicle into a lighthouse, or causing as much chaos as you can in a short time period. None of these activities are new to the genre and feel like busywork. After I saw to obtaining the essential upgrades with the minimal amount of effort, I didn’t bother with them again.
Just Cause 3 feels like it’s afraid to truly let itself go. That this game has any real plot or structure feels like a diversion from the game’s central conceit of giving you as many tools as possible to wreak havoc on Medici’s oppressors. But it wants to have it both ways. It wants you to go with it on this ridiculous ride in its cutscenes, to play along during its missions, and yet provide a completely open sandbox for taking objectives, all while gating access to certain vehicles and abilities. 😀