Posted on 07 Mar 2016 by Kyle Johnson

Just Cause 3

The Defence

Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: US 30 Nov 2015
EU 01 Dec 2015

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3.3 GHz
Intel Phenom II X6 3.0 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 670
AMD Radeon HD 7870
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 54 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 3.4 GHz
AMD FX 4.0 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 780
AMD Radeon R9 290
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 54 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: Possible
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

Rico Rodriguez returns in the third installment of his open-world explodathon, Just Cause. Developed by Avalanche Studios, fresh off of their success over the summer of the open-world Mad Max game, Rico heads to his home region of Medici, to take down yet another power-hungry dictator. Does Rico’s newest adventure explode with bravado and style, or does it fall flat, in a puff of smoke?

The Trial

There’s a part near the beginning of FEZ where graphical glitches appear, the sound starts looping, and the game appears to crash. It’s random, confusing, and almost a near mirror of my time spent playing Just Cause 3. Sure, the core gameplay is cathartic fun, but there’s something missing that would catapult JC3 into the same outstanding tier that Just Cause 2 exists in, and it’s not just the game’s stability.

What is good, thankfully, is the destruction. Objects can now be tethered to one another, meaning that you can send gas canisters careening into soldiers, helicopters, billboards, what have you. The quality and intensity of the explosions has also been improved, and it probably has the finest quality explosions seen in a video game. Barrels, tanks, civilian cars, and fuel tanks explode in a shower of voluminous color.

What a lovely view. Now where is the next red barrel?

The islands of Medici are also gorgeously rendered as well. Farmland and city environs alike are bright with color and detail, the water is a lovely shade of teal, and rebel vehicles are painted in appropriate, colorful camouflages. Rico has been given a few new movement options as well, as even though you’re more than welcome to parachute through the sky, by grappling intermittently along the ground, you’re given a wingsuit almost immediately, giving players the opportunity to zip dangerously close to the ground at ludicrous speeds.

There’s also a greater variety of weaponry on show as well. Gone are the obvious hitscan days of Just Cause 2, where you’d constantly be swapping between a single pistol, submachine gun, assault rifle, or explosive. Now, Rico always carries a dual-wielded weapon, some sort of rifle, and a shoulder-mounted explosive. He also seemingly has limitless deployable explosives, though you’re rarely sitting still long enough to make use of them. Everything is streamlined to give the player more destruction options, and Just Cause 3 certainly knows it.

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Certainly, when other features are left in the dust because of it. Gone are the endless collectibles from Just Cause 2, offering players choices as to how to upgrade their guns, cars, and whatnot, and now, upgrades must be unlocked in sequence, by completing challenges scattered across the landscape. This in and of itself wouldn’t be a problem if the challenges offered something new, but they’re racing challenges, flying your wingsuit through colored rings, or destroying objects in areas you’ve already been through, and usually with a single weapon at that. They’re not particularly fun, and I eventually just ignored them, even though I wanted the upgrades associated with them.

Ups, did I do that?

Curiously, also missing is the minimap on the HUD. Finding enemy vehicles becomes a challenge of wildly spinning your mouse until you find just what is shooting at you, and sometimes, that happens too late. Gone are the wildly different terrain varieties as well; as pretty as the farm fields and hills of Medici are, there was nothing remarkable about them, no colossal volcano, no towering casino spire, no blimp nightclub, nothing particularly remarkable. The in-game government radio mentions the tourism appeal of Medici many times, but aside from the rolling landscapes, there’s nothing that would really draw anyone into the game world, it seems.

Another problem carried over from Just Cause 2 is the cookie-cutter towns. Most of the settlements seem to be small, coastal villages, and much like the islands themselves, none are particularly remarkable. Blowing up generators is fun and all, but there’s only so many repeated structures I can take before it becomes mind-numbing. It’s been nearly five years since the release of Just Cause 2, but not much in JC3 really indicates this.

The story missions as well aren’t anything special. While a gripping story has never exactly been the strength of Just Cause, whereas the second installment had this terrible, B-movie charm, 3 feels as though it’s just a shameless rehash than anything. Some of the missions can feel virtually identical, and there’s no overbearing goofiness that drew me in the same way that 2 did.

Just like Spiderman.

Most importantly, the game runs extremely terribly. Granted, my hardware is a few years old, and AMD, nonetheless, but after coming off of the impressive graphics of Battlefront or Rainbow Six: Siege, the fact that I have all of my settings turned to low/off, and I’m still getting stutter is frankly embarrassing. As Just Cause 3 set most of my hardware options to medium-high upon first launch, I was impressed with the graphical fidelity, but disgusted by the choppy framerate, crashes, stuttering, and overall uneven experience.

Avalanche has posted that they are still working on updates for the game, but a month into the game’s lifespan, I would expect a better product than what’s been offered so far. The stability issues are further compounded by long load times, and a bizarre need for always-online leaderboards, the latter of which can leave you stranded in a perpetual “reconnecting” screen, if you happen to lose connection. The music, at the very least, is nice, with fitting orchestral crescendos at the height of the explosions.

The Verdict

It seems weird to say, but Just Cause 3 feels like an incredibly safe game. There’s a fun game in here somewhere, but it’s held back by massive technical problems and an overwhelming sense of mediocrity. With years of development time, I would expect more out of the game. Some may say that it’s too much to expect more out of a series like Just Cause, but in a game renowned for its wanton destruction, there are few standout moments to make buying 3 worthwhile at full price.

Case Review

  • New Bag of Tricks: New weapons and flying mechanics streamline the destructive experience.

  • A Beautiful End: Medici and its explosions are the best the series has seen yet.

  • One for the Ages: Story is unremarkable, and missions repetitive.

  • Crash and Burn: Immense technical problems on almost all graphical settings.

  • Trimming Fat and Muscle: Necessary features from Just Cause 2 are missing.

  • Endless Expanse: No memorable locations and few memorable moments.

2.5 Score: 2.5/5
A shallow, yet fun playground.

Evidence

  • Visuals: A good amount of options to customize how good the game looks or how well it runs as well as the ability to disable options like motion blur or depth of field. All it’s missing is the FOV slider for those needy people.
  • Audio: Basic but functional. Customize your voice, music or effect volume to make sure you can hear what you want to hear. Or enable subtitles to be able to read what you can’t hear.
  • General Gameplay: Customize your sensitivity and vibration here as well as HUD display or vehicle auto-alignment.
  • Controls: Avalanche were really generous here enabling you to customize controls for each type of transportation and movement individually. If only they enabled wingsuit steering with the mouse.
3 Score: 3/5

After the original Just Cause, Just Cause 2 was a huge leap forward making the game bigger and better in pretty much every aspect. Being realistic, the good old days are over and such huge jumps in quality don’t happen anymore but to expect to get a better game is just natural. Unfortunately this is not the case. Just Cause 3 is a living proof that bigger doesn’t mean better. Instead of having improved on the previous instalment Avalanche must have went again to the drawing board and tried to start from scratch.

Just Cause 3 is just boring. It is a sandbox experience with a very thin storyline and a lot of grinding. After a couple of hours of play you feel that you’ve been there and done that. Combine that with some of the technical issues and/or oversights it can also be very frustrating. The loading times are insanely long even on an SSD and god forbid you lose internet access because in that case even trying to get to your map takes minutes for the online features to time out.

But most of the technical issues are fixable. And some people enjoy the destruction over and over and over again. If that’s your case then you are up for a treat, a beautiful looking game with lots of shit to blow.

Appeal

3 Score: 3/5

Just Cause 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. Parachuting my way across the islands was always very enjoyable. It is memorable, rich and explosive. Just Cause 3 however is pretty much just extremely explosive.

Flying through the islands of Just Cause 3 you just didn’t get the same amount of crazy over the top fun that you’d did get playing the second game. The way the game works makes it feel less alive. Previously in the franchise you had memorable places to go to like “The Mile High Club” which made the game unique and fun to explore. This game just feels overall bland with more wheat fields than any game should probably ever have. There’s nothing special to see other than the billion repetitive challenges that are scattered throughout the game. Which were pretty much just a large amount of grinding just like everything else was. You were promised a huge playground to play with and do anything you can imagine. No one told you about the grind which came before-hand. Even the grinding some people couldn’t do as to some like me, always online DRM made the game extremely hard to play with the words “Connecting to servers” popping up every few minutes in a single-player experience. It doesn’t stop pirates and it hurts the buyers more.

With a boring cliché storyline, dead map, not a whole lot of new features, technical problems across the whole thing and way too much grinding, Just Cause 3 felt like it should’ve come before Just Cause 2. It ends up being just overall a less appealing experience.

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