Title: Just Cause 3
Version Tested: Xbox One
Where To Buy: Steam, Xbox Live, PSN, Local Retailer
Just Cause 3 feels like you have been handed the keys to the fastest car in the world, but the fuel tank is only a quarter full. The car oozes power and finesse, but one small technical issue prevents you from enjoying the experience. Just Cause 3 is brimming with potential due to its unique combat and traversal options but at times suffers from appalling framerate issues. This transforms the game from an enjoyable experience to a frustrating one.
Grand Theft Auto created the sandbox genre that we know and love today and many games have used this as the stimulus for their own projects. GTA is the behemoth which dominates the genre but games such as Saints Row and Just Cause has found success by streamlining their vision and making their ventures unique. Saints Row focuses on humor and absurdity while Just Cause has chosen to rely on explosions and destruction. Some of the havoc you can concoct in Just Cause 3 is truly phenomenal. Every explosion looks inexplicably beautiful and the chain reactions can quickly escalate into a small scale Armageddon. The freedom that is created by these mechanics allows you to either fling a flaming car into a helicopter or attach a propane tank to an enemy and send him soaring into the stratosphere. Carnage has never felt or looked so good.
The game begins with you literally being dropped onto the island of Medici and you are quickly initiated into the rebel force to fight against the tyranny of General Sebastiano Di Ravello. You play as Rico who is a one man army and wants to return his homeland to its previous glory. You attain this by destroying enemy settlements and completing missions. The narrative is lighthearted and falls on the side of slapstick at points. This is not a deep tale and there are no thought-provoking moments, usually the thoughts evoked here are “how should I destroy this?”
All of the characters are classic stereotypes which are included to progress the story missions. You have the clumsy, loyal childhood friend who frequently needs your aid and the leader of the rebellion who needs your prowess to win the war. The villain is barely an adversary and will harm you more with his bad jokes than his menace. This nonchalant theme is consistent throughout though so it never feels jarring when something silly happens. One such mission sees Rico surfing on a missile through the air, which in the grand scheme of things felt plausible. There are no repercussions in the world of Medici as you can eradicate bridges, sending civilians plunging to their deaths or slingshot people into the sea and the authorities will always turn a blind eye.
Medici is huge. It’s probably the biggest land mass I have ever seen in a game and it is littered with towns and activities. The world is pretty diverse and scenic too. At the beginning of the game, you will be welcomed by open fields of lavender and quaint seaside towns reminiscent of Southern Italy. As you travel further north you will encounter towering mountains with their peaks peppered with snow. Avalanche Studios has done a brilliant job of creating a varied yet memorable landscape. Every mountain, beach or town feels different from the last and it is a massive feat to keep such a huge island feeling fresh.
You will create the most memorable moments in the game. One of the biggest selling points of Just Cause 3 is the freedom to play as you choose. Rico is equipped with tethers, a parachute, and a wing suit. When you combine these together, you can achieve some death-defying stunts and look cool as hell whilst doing it. You can launch into the air, glide over a base whilst unleashing a barrage of rockets and then gracefully parachute in to finish off the flabbergasted enemies. Once you are in the danger zone, Rico can utilize his endless supply of C4 or use his tethers for more creative endeavors. You can attach these tether to any object and the other end to whatever you desire. With the press of a trigger, you can instantly retract the tethers and cause some serious destruction. By using this technique, you can suspend an unsuspecting foe in the air or, if you feel particularly wicked, you can catapult the poor soul to try and break a record for furthest distance flung. As you perform any feat within Just Cause 3, you will see the statistic recorded in the top corner. You will see your friend’s scores and I found myself constantly trying to beat them and moments later a notification would pop up saying someone had just beaten mine!
Up to this point, Just Cause 3 sounds great, and it would be if only the execution of the game matched its creativity and ambition. I would go as far to say that this game can be unplayable at times. The frame rate can be abysmal. Whenever action ensues on the screen, the game begins to severely slow down which has a culminating effect when trying to perform any task. In your mind, you will concoct a genius plan to infiltrate a base in epic fashion but in reality, you cannot pull it off because of the poor performance. I would find myself crashing into buildings because the parachute deployed too late or my aim would be off because of the delay in the camera. Slow frame rates can be found in a lot of games but when speed and agility are so integral to the experience, it not only frustrated me, it caused me to dislike my experience with the game.
The frame rate issue is not the only hitch you will encounter but, because it is so frustrating, you become less lenient with other problems. Firing a rocket or grenade launcher is wonderful as you have a huge blast radius and satisfying explosion whereas firing a regular firearm is not. When aiming at an enemy, the game will auto lock onto them for using your tethers but not your gun. I would find myself emptying clips of wasted bullets around the enemies instead of at them and when more advanced enemies with body armor greet you, trying to fire at their weak points is unbelievably challenging. The foes respawn in endless waves and quickly become a nuisance. They are not particularly smart and will not cause much of a threat but, when you are trying to have some fun by attaching a fuel tank to a helicopter, they will niggle at you and stunt your creativity.
Activities and challenges are essentially in-game tutorials; they will require you to fly using your wing suit, drive cars full of explosives, and destroy refineries using your unlimited rockets. They offer you rewards depending on your performance and these will unlock ‘mods’ which improve your skills and arsenal of weapons. Some are exciting such as rocket-propelled C4 whereas others, such as nitrous boosts in boats, are less useful. I like to perfect every challenge I encounter so when I did not achieve the full prize at first, I would try again. This, however, was an extremely lengthy and trying process, as the loading times to restart a simple challenge can take minutes. I restarted a time trial race where I made a mistake and had to wait seven minutes to reattempt the challenge. I was stuck with a loading screen for the entire time and all I could do was stare at the progress bar in the bottom right corner. The loading times seem random and occasionally they would only be ten or so seconds but more often than not, you will be waiting, at least, a minute.
I cannot express how much I wanted to enjoy Just Cause 3. All of the preview videos I had seen of the game appealed to me in every way with mesmerizing explosions, beautifully executed stunts and breathtaking set pieces but in reality, this does not happen. I can only imagine that the previews were shown on an extremely high spec PC because it simply does not run as well or look as good on consoles. The potential is there and that is the most frustrating aspect because it feels so close yet the weak frame rate heavily affects the whole game. That being said, there is still a lot to enjoy here and I hope that a future patch can improve upon the performance. Until then, Just Cause 3 left me feeling underwhelmed and thoroughly disappointed.
- Gameplay: Exciting, Creative and Unique
- Graphics: Wonderful Landscapes and Beautiful Chaotic Explosions
- Sound: Appropriate Sound Effects
- Presentation: Terrible Frame Rate and Loading Times
- Beautiful Landscape
- Huge Explosions
- Endless Creativity
- Varied Mission Structure
- Awful Frame Rate
- Extremely Long Loading Times
- Lack Of Story
- No Patch To Fix Issues
An Englishman living in Australia. I edit and provide video/written reviews for all of the latest games.