Just Cause 3 Review (PS4)
FULL DISCLOSURE: THIS REVIEW IS BASED OFF THE GAME BEFORE PATCH 1.02, AND THE GAME WAS SUPPLIED BY SQUARE ENIX
Just Cause 2 was a game that never really hooked me, and I’m not sure I can tell you why. The destruction was fun, and farting around the giant island with my parachute was a nice way to zone out and basically cruise from base to base. But nothing ever really grabbed me and made me want to keep coming back to it. Just Cause 3 seems to have solved that problem, because I am pretty much in it to the end. It’s just unfortunate that the game isn’t as good as Just Cause 2.
For the story, the country of Medici has been taken over by General Sebastiano Di Ravello, an insane dictator who wants to use the mineral Bavarium, found all around the island nation, to help him take over the world. The world can’t have that, so they sent in secret agent and god of destruction Rico Rodriguez. It also helps that Medici is Rico’s home country. Once there, Rico meets with his childhood friend Mario Frigo. Mario is working with the Rebellion who are trying to take down the General and free Medici from his grip or some bullshit. To be honest, I don’t really care.
This is one of the things that really took me out of Just Cause 2. The story largely gets in the way of what you’re trying to actually do in the game, namely freeing territories from Di Ravello’s control. Hell, outside of the first few story missions where you get the new hook shot and wingsuit, they’re almost all entirely pointless. Most story missions seem to reward you with a vehicle or something for you to supply drop to yourself. Not opening up new areas or giving you upgrades or whatever, just stuff you’ll probably never end up using. Only three story missions actually help you in gameplay, and those one’s aren’t even tied to the main story at all. You unlock them by free territories and can complete them as soon as they unlock, no matter where you actually are in the story.
It also doesn’t help that the story missions are set up in a way that completely goes against how you play the game. Each mission I’ve played (which is only over half of them) lasted a couple of minutes, and at least half of that was waiting, mostly for loading times. The missions usually start by loading into a 30 second cutscene, then loading into gameplay, then if I’m really lucky loading into another, even shorter cutscene, then loading back into the game world when things were done. All the story missions were these little piece of actually Just Cause gameplay interrupted by loading, cutscenes, or just nothing happening.
All of that is a real shame for anybody just main lining the story mode, too, because the gameplay is actually really fun. Like the previous games, Just Cause 3 is all based around destruction. The huge world map, sizing in at around 400 square miles, is littered with controlled towns and enemy bases. To free them from Di Ravello’s control, you fly in and start breaking shit. In the towns you destroy statues of Di Ravello, propaganda, monitoring equipment, and police stations. In the bases you destroy communications satellites, fuel tanks, transformers, and all kinds of other things depending on the kind of base it is. This is all basically how it worked in Just Cause 2, but they’ve made things better. Now all the things you need to destroy to conquer the base are listed on the side of the screen once you enter the area, and as you destroy them a circle starts to outline the type of object, showing how much you have left to destroy and letting you know what you’ve already taken care of. As you destroy more and more things, other objects begin to fade in on your map screen so that you (probably) won’t find yourself getting frustrated trying to find that one fucking fuel tank that has to be around here somewhere and is the last thing you need to liberate the province but you can’t fucking find the damn thing!
By conquering bases and freeing towns, you unlock a bunch of stuff that can actually help you in gameplay. Every area unlocks either a vehicle, which are all basically pointless because of the wingsuit, or a weapon to be dropped to you. Freeing an area also unlocks challenges in the area, and the challenges are probably the most important things to gameplay. Each of the different kinds of challenges, be they wingsuit challenges, car challenges, boat challenges, or airplane challenges, gives you gears based on your score, with the maximum number of gears you can earn from a challenge being five. The more gears you get, the more mods you unlock for your equipment. And these mods are actually incredibly useful. You can see all the mods you can unlock and they include nitro for all friendly vehicles, doubling the amount of tethers you have, turning triggered explosives into rocket boosters, and all kinds of things that give you more options and make the game more fun to play. It’s actually a really great idea for giving the challenges a purpose to exist in the game other than high score.
The bases and towns themselves aren’t marked on your map screen until you find them, which gives you a great excuse to use the new wingsuit to fly around the map looking for them. So far, that has been my favorite part of the game. Just starting a video or podcast, putting my headphones on over one of my ears to get the sound of the air rushing by Rico’s face, and just gliding. It’s weirdly zen and relaxes me quite a bit. In a game that is as hectic as Just Cause, it’s nice to just stop for a minute and take in what’s around you.
I should probably go with the other, more appropriate word, but hectic is what describes Just Cause 3‘s combat the best. Going into an enemy area, things can go from fairly manageable to clusterfuck in a matter of seconds. The enemies, while in small groups, cause little to no problems for Rico Rodriguez, the earthly personification of Perses. I mean, their AI is so stupid I’ve literally scene enemies trip and ragdoll over their own feet. But things ramp up quick, and soon you have tanks and shielded helicopters and aerial bombardments and everything just goes to shit. It also doesn’t help the damage animations seem to be really messed up. Normal machine gun fire will not even phase you, but a single pellet from a shotgun shell fired from the other side of the base will stagger you the same as getting the full brunt of the blast at point blank range. Not to mention the sometimes ridiculously long time you take to stop ragdolling, and the physics of the hookshot fucking you over, both of which have killed me quite a lot.
But even with all that, once you get into a rhythm it can feel so good. Wingsuiting into a base, blowing up all of their fuel tanks and power generators, and parachuting in while picking off the remaining enemy soldiers so that the base is claimed before you even touch the ground is so satisfying. And even if you die, the game could keep that rhythm going because death has very little in-game consequence. When you die in a base, you respawn right outside the base with all of your destruction progress saved, so once you load back in you can pick up right where you left off. This game could have some almost Hotline Miami level flow to it. If it weren’t for all the loading.
At least a third of any of my play sessions were waiting for the game to load. Be it starting the game up or fast travelling or whatever, the load times are atrocious. Some of them, usually the ones for loading in a challenge, go by in a couple of seconds. Most of them are in the 30 second to one minute range. Some of them take up to five fucking minutes. It kills any momentum you might have had before you died so much harder than the dying did. I actually found myself trying to stay alive in the game not because of any death penalty, mainly because there isn’t one, but because I didn’t want to have to sit through the goddamned loading screen.
The game will also try to break your flow while your playing it. Frame rates are rarely at the 30fps the game is supposed to be running at when your playing it like a Just Cause game. They drop down to the mid-20’s, and sometimes to even unplayable levels. But failing that, the game will just stop if you lose connection to the Square Enix servers. See, the game needs to be always online so that it can monitor your gameplay stats for leaderboards. Don’t worry, though, the game has an offline mode for when you do lose the connection. You just select the option from the black screen that stopped your game mid-whatever you were doing, then you can go right back to playing without having to worry about connectivity. That is, until, you want to look at your map or request a supply drop. Once you go into that menu, it tries to connect to the servers once again, and that can take as long as the loading screens do. If you can’t connect again, go back into offline mode again, but be prepared to do this every time you want to look at the map. With my internet connection being what it is, this has happened more times than I can count and it so frustrating to have to wait there, not being able to do anything while the game tries to reconnect to leaderboard servers that I could not give less of a shit about.
Just Cause 3 should be much better than it is. The gameplay is the chaotic barrel of fun you expect it to be, with enough progression and unlocks to keep things fresh for a good while, and the wingsuit is a great addition that makes vehicles almost unnecessary and makes exploring the giant piece of land that is Medici a good time. But with the loading times, spotty connectivity, and frame rate slapping any sense of game flow out of the sky, and doing it so often that it just gets frustrating, I find it hard to wholeheartedly recommend this game to people.