Just Cause 2 was one of my favourite Xbox 360 games. I spent hours playing and replaying that game, enjoying its free-flow parachute and grapple based action. So when Just Cause 3 was announced I pre-ordered it – a very uncharacteristic act on my part. On its arrival, one critic even went so far as to call it the “best game ever”. Given such a reaction you’d be justified in thinking this is indeed a great game – I wouldn’t be so hasty, if I were you. The devil’s in the details here, and Just Cause 3 falls short.
If I could sum up this game in two words, those two words would be: loading times. Starting the game up, starting any challenge (which I’ll go into later) and any mission is greeted with agonisingly slow loading times. In fact, I’ve switched the game off twice because of the game not loading. I’ve held off on posting this review in the hopes that something will be done about this problem in a patch. I seriously doubt it. Just Cause 3 is yet another game that has been released unfinished. It definitely shows.
This is a game packed with stuff that slows it down. For console gamers especially, you’ve already installed a game with a massive file. I had to delete several games just to install the bits on my console that allowed the game to even play. Once you finally get into the game, you don’t, as it needs to install while running. The small island called “Boom Island” which you can play whilst this installation process takes place is a nice touch. But it took me a very long time to play the actual game.
“Just Cause 3 is yet another game that has been released unfinished.”
It starts more or less as its predecessor did: Rico is in a plane that gets shot at and he jumps out, introducing a tutorial-based mission. Anyone who has played the previous two games knows exactly what to expect in terms of the forgettable plot. It’s in-keeping with the series and whilst it does have better characterisation (plus more characters) than previous games, the only story-based highlight is David Tennant playing a coerced Propaganda Radio announcer who injects some nice understated humour in-between bouts of destruction. The plot of the game is much like the previous one: an insane military dictator with a resource that makes him powerful (and that everyone wants) controls an island that is entirely fictional but sort of recognisable. Cue loads of predictable spy-fi thriller-filler.
The gameplay is familiar, but there have been a number of tweaks. Added to the token grapple-and-parachute combo is a wingsuit. This is mostly an annoyance, because you will find it easier to face-plant into the ground with it than anything else, and in order to improve it you have to complete a load of challenges. The challenges return from the previous game, but there are more of them and they are very difficult – often unjustifiably so. You basically have to perform nearly perfectly to get a good score. As these scores are necessary to improve Rico’s equipment and combo options (including even the ability to get zoomed aim when using firearms), they have the capacity to merely become frustrating. To make things worse, any attempt (and there will be lots of those) is preceded by that agonisingly long loading screen. This saps a large amount of the fun out of the game.
I’m not against a challenging game, but I find Just Cause 3 especially tricky, despite mastering its predecessor. Enemy bases are swarming with enemies who are a little too good at shooting a (fast-moving) target. Rico is now incapable of ducking, meaning that if you find any cover at all, Rico will stand there striking a pose whilst being shot from all angles. Using vehicles is generally inadvisable, and air vehicles especially, seeing as every military base uses a minimum of 5,000,000 (mild hyperbole) anti-air guns, which whilst possible to hack, protecting you from enemy choppers, seem almost impossible to blow up with a chopper, meaning you have to go in, hope you’ve found and hacked all the AA-Guns, go out, get a helicopter, and then in three seconds flat realise you’ve missed four, and enjoy watching your helicopter explode.
There is more variety to destructibles and liberating towns, bases and facilities, with a central area that you can’t liberate until you’ve liberated all the surrounding areas. There is a mixture of destruction and hacking, plus taking over certain areas, sometimes with assistance. Towns must have their police depots taken over, and they all have unique features. This does at least remove some of the tedium one can experience, and the design of the islands in the game is definitely a big plus. You’ll just quickly realise that the irritating loading screens are the cost for all this. Of course, you can avoid the loading screens by just not playing the challenges, but if you’re a completionist like me, this simply isn’t an option. General exploration and destruction can be very fun and rewarding, especially given the visuals and new variety, but you will quickly find yourself needing to have certain perks. I drove myself mad getting the aim function, a standard of most shooters, which is an unlockable “upgrade”.
In-game currency is now gone, meaning that drops are a more renewable resource and vehicles seem to be a bit more viable now. Certainly the handling has been tidied up a bit, and vehicles are definitely tougher. But gone is the seamless transition from vehicle to parachute, and you can’t hold on to the edges of vehicles to use them as cover. The grapple now does more, being able to (if you unlock the functions) grapple multiple objects, and you can physically pull them together, meaning with the grapple alone you can pull petrol canisters together and make them explode.
Generally, I do like the new features, but I feel the game has lost something that made Just Cause 2 such a good game. After playing it for a while and then getting sick of it, I realised what it was. JC2 embraced the idea of what a sandbox is more fully. It was fluid and the controls and features were simple but had multiple uses. In this game, basic controls and functions have been lost by being fiddled with, and made overcomplicated. The amount of times I’ve liked the wingsuit is marginal against the amount of times I’ve wished Rico could just bloody duck. Some of the functions work: the grapple kick is cool, but pulling enemies off ledges is harder to set up, and interactions with the environment are clunky and slowed down by new functions. It’s a perfectly reasonable game, but it’s just not as fluid as the previous game so that it’s harder to “look cool”. Those moments are there, but they’re rarer because the game overemphasises difficulty and side-quests rather than the simple act of utilising what a sand-box does best. So sure, Just Cause 3 is a good game, but it’s not as fun as its predecessor.