Just Cause 3 Review

December 1, 2015

Just Cause 3 could be described as a Michael Bay simulator. It could also be described as a persistent game of the-floor-is-lava. This is a game that revels in the magic and wonder of unparalleled chaos and anarchy, fitting for the titular renegade, freedom fighter protagonist Rico Rodriguez in his quest to rid the fictional Medici islands of the tyrannical General Di Ravello. Just Cause 3 is certainly to-the-point in this fact, spending little time dilly dallying around with the set up (it more or less continues off where its predecessor ended, continuing the rebellion) in favour having you armed with a rocket launcher and surfing the wings of a plane. This is literally the opening sequence, and it’s a thrilling, explosive spectacle of adrenalin fuelled fun. It helps that shortly after this bombastic introduction we’re introduced to Rico’s grapple claw, unlimited reserve of parachutes, and the phenomenally useful wingsuit. The opening 10 to 15 minutes of Just Cause 3 is the antithesis to the disproportionate number of modern games that take so goddamn long to introduce the core game systems. Avalanche can be credited with understanding that players jumping into Just Cause 3 don’t want to sit through hours of play before the good stuff rolls around, appreciating your time and impatience, and it’s all the better for it.

Setting the mood is essential in understanding Just Cause 3. Much like its predecessor, and sorely absent in the medium sans the likes of CrackdownJust Cause 3 is a massively open world title that leans heavily on real time utilisation of scale and conquest. Impressive as tittles like Grand Theft Auto V and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are in conveying enormous, sprawling open worlds wherein your experience of play is mostly reserved to a micro level (relative to the scale), neither approaches their impressive scale in the way that Just Cause 3 does. Admittedly their direction is deliberate and for good reasons, but they do serve as a nice point of comparison in just how an open world game can and in this case does embrace its enormous playspace. Where Wild Hunt has you methodically trotting through haunted swamps, the weight of importance felt with each and every step, Just Cause 3 is quite happy to throw you into the cockpit of a heavily armed militarised helicopter and give you freedom to lay waste to whatever you please. Maybe you’d prefer a jet? A bike? Or a tank? You get the picture.


Avalanche has made strides to populate Just Cause 3‘s open world with authentic stuff to do, avoiding excessive arbitrary filler. This is due to game systems sensibly integrated and utilised in minigames and agency driven objectives. Strip back the pulp and at its heart Just Cause 3‘s core objective is simply “blow shit up”. And it more or less makes this clear by littering the world with military bases, towns, camps, and other hotspots under antagonistic control. On paper this is your open world filler, much like your Ubisoft game towers, but in Just Cause 3 it’s the soul simply due to the generally unrestricted breadth of approach. Taking control of key locations requires unleashing chaos (aka: blowing up every gas tank, transistor, billboard, radar dish, etc that you can find), with a few smaller objectives like pulling down dictator iconography and deactivating antennas. It’s simple, but that’s the point, giving you tremendous room to plan and attack, then adapt, then plan again, and so on. Simply taking a town or military base is a process of exhilarating action, grappling up to every height, carefully timing wingsuit and parachute gliding to land on those sweet vantage spots, dropping grenades, blasting rockets, and gawking at the explosive chain reactions. A lot of a work has gone into the visual and audio presentation of the carnage, a wonderful physics and particle system seeing a gigantic spherical fuel storage break free of buckling support beams, roll across an encampment leaking flaming fuel, to finally explode in a glorious, blinding mushroom cloud. Fragments of this will then smash into other dangerously fragile explosive goods, setting them off in succession. Seeing all this unfold as a consequence of your involvement is a sensation that is the best kind of ridiculous and wonderful.

Just Cause 3 is a game of empowerment, providing you with the tools to get the job done and then some. Props to Avalanche for not overburdening the necessary experience points and unlock system with tedious grinds and awesome trinkets hidden far behind number walls. The levelling and experience is there, but it’s a fairly simplified system of “gears”. Gears are marked under categories, pretty much driving/flying/shooting/explosives/etc, and completing designated challenging on the world map (progressively unlocked after meeting story and conquest requirements) rewards you with said categorised gears. So, for example, completing “flying” challenges will unlock flying gears, and those in turn will unlock either new tools to play with or enhancements of what you’ve already got. It’s linear, so you wont be selecting your own upgrades, more just a way of supplementing the base character abilities as a reward for completing smaller tasks. The tasks are a bit divisive. Some are far more on-the-nose with the Just Cause 3 formula, like living out Speed as you floor it in an explosive rigged vehicle that must reach its destination without dropping below a speed threshold. Others just have you gliding through rings and shooting targets. The latter are forgettable, though never particularly invasive or frustrating, largely due to the enjoyment behind the core game systems and the fact you don’t really need to do them all.

I do advise players looking to ignore the smaller challenges to at least complete the first in each category. They’re unlocked early on and quite short and easy, and reward you with access to the first tier gear unlock under each category. I found those to be the most vital for the early game, like precision targeting over the standard auto aim, and a speed up for your grapple. Others, like nitrous boost, are useful (and can lead to great hilarity) and become available through supply drops. Going off the last two games, this is perhaps the most accessible “game changer” reformed in this third outing. Utilising flairs you can, essentially, go shopping for vehicles and weaponry and have them called in wherever you like. It’s not an unlimited resource, and the game does require you deliver vehicles to unlocked garages before they become available on the menu, but it’s a fun little feedback loop that has you thinking about just how you want to interact with the game world and what would be best for the challenge over that mountain. If you’ve ever used a cheat mode in Grand Theft Auto to drop in vehicles, it’s essentially that as a game mechanic and goes a long way towards bringing the true freedom of play within the open world together.


So while Just Cause 3 excels rather tremendously and uniquely on a massive scale, the cracks begin to show on a smaller scale. Particularly in what can be occasionally fiddly controls in tighter areas, mostly due to the grapple system and Rico getting caught on the lip of a building’s tile roof. Similarly for difficulty, which is frankly all over the place. I can imagine a game so free-form in play and open to diversity in tools and vehicles would be a nightmare to balance just right. After all, I’ve taken down military bases on foot, grappling around, launching rockets, while retreating when necessary as waves of opponents roll in. And I’ve also effortlessly decimated similar points of interest from high in the sky while flying an attack helicopter armed with two different types of rockets. When you’re messing around in the open world, this is fine, the freedom of approach part of the fun. But during the structured missions this can lead to some tedium. I’ve lost count of the amount of times a stray tank rocket off screen wiped me out. Or grappling up to a enemy helicopter to hijack didn’t work and sent me into a stunned fall for some reasonJust Cause 3‘s damage values are very lenient; you don’t die easily. However, deaths and mistakes do happen, often seemingly as a by-product of a game that’s maybe in too over its head with the whole “destroy everything, do anything” thing. Thankfully the developers seem to have noted this, as mission checkpointing borderlines on hilariously generous. Outside of maybe having to cover a bit more terrain than I’d like, even the tiniest little objective accomplishment (like blowing something up) saves, and post-death I could pick up exactly where I left off with all my equipment restocked to-boot. The generosity is welcoming, but there’s no denying the surprise deaths and occasionally fiddly control play their part in breaking the otherwise exciting game flow.

While I can’t vouch for console performance, on PC using an i5 2500K @ 4.3GHz, 8GB DD3, and 980 Ti, I chose to play at maximum settings with SMAA and 1440p resolution. Performance on my end was mixed. My configuration crunched over 60fps during general play, rendering a sprawling, vibrant draw distance rich with lush foliage and stone villas. However, frames began to drop fairly significantly as sequential explosions filled the screen during action. I put this down to either high quality alphas on the particles or complex physics that maybe my old four core CPU is failing to keep up with. Additionally, the open world would occasionally stutter during traversal (though oddly only when on foot, not high in the sky), which again could be a CPU or memory issue. Flickering ambient occlusions were the only occasional graphical anomaly, and should be something easily crunched in a patch or driver update. And I certainly wouldn’t say no to said patches also improving overall optimisations. Still, PC users looking to crank settings to 11 would do best to treat Just Cause 3 like…well, every open world game; a post launch patch or two will probably go a long way.

All other qualms with Just Cause 3 really come down to its simplicity, and the impact of such will be highly subjective. The AI is weak, but deliberately so, in that numbers and crowd control are more the focus over intense 1-on-1 encounters. The trade-off being rather odd NPC AI behaviour from time to time, particularly when in a vehicle, when a devastated bridge fails to register in tiny NPC brains and the hapless drivers seem content plummeting to their doom. Similarly the plot is exceptionally simple, and though some might crave a deeper narrative, I personally didn’t have a problem with it. The cutscenes are short and serviceable, loosely (often very, very loosely) setting up the pieces before you can have at it with your weapons of mass destruction.

And to be perfectly honest, if you go into Just Cause 3 for what it is and not what it isn’t, this simplicity isn’t an issue. I’d even go as far to say that the main missions, while certainly littered with some exciting highs, won’t grant you as much game time as as all the side, optional, filler stuff. You know, that stuff you moan about in other open world games. Just Cause 3 lives and dies on its agency, giving you the keys to a kingdom of chaos, and the random military bases and towns begging for your heroic liberation breath this agency life. Just Cause 3 manages to be a Superman simulator, 80s action movie, and Grand Theft Auto cheat mode all rolled into one. Where you’re encouraged, simply through the thrill of play, to bail out of that jet hundreds of kilometres above the surface, soar down in your wingsuit, break with your parachute, and unleash ungodly flaming hell on the bad dudes and their pitiful structures underneath. Just Cause 3 nails that rewarding, satisfying gameplay feedback loop we all crave, with a great degree of confidence, and that’s an admirable accomplishment by any standard.


Q & A

We’re experimenting with a companion piece to our reviews; a community driven questions and answers. To put it simply, we’ll make it clear what games we’re reviewing prior to the review going up, and you’ll be free to submit any specific questions. We’ll throw up the answers to the best of our ability alongside the review, and you might learn a thing or two that we didn’t cover in the main text.

For Just Cause 3 we were a little late to the party, so we only recieved two questions. Both courtesy of Ben Shambrook.

Q) On a scale of 1-10, how good at kissing is Rico?
A) He macks on with a cow, which seemed fairly apathetic towards his advances, so we’re going with a 5/10. Work needed.

Q) Is there any dynamic lip moistening for improved puckerability?
A) No. Personally I think they should dedicate an entire CPU core to real-time moisten simulation, but you know how this industry is. His lips are pretty kissable nevertheless.


Brilliant, exciting action
Phenomenal explosions
Agency driven chaos


Occasionally fumbled controls
Inconsistent difficulty
Fairly simple structure
Performance issues

Overall Score: