Capsule Review: Just Cause 3

An open-world game with an emphasis on movement and explosive destruction. Play as Rico Rodriguez (no relation) and liberate the fictional Mediterranean island nation of Medici from oppressive dictator Di Ravello - mostly by blowing things up.

The structure is fairly standard for an open world game. There’s a chain of twenty-odd story missions that need to be done mostly in order, and many more settlements to “liberate” at your own pace. These vary widely in size and include towns, guard posts, and military bases, but liberating them is always a matter of destroying Di Ravello’s military assets and propaganda. Liberating settlements grants access to side challenges that test your skills with specific mechanics, such as vehicle races or racking up destruction with a particular weapon. Several kinds of random encounters can occur as well, tasking you with saving rebels or otherwise helping the cause, sometimes rewarding restock points for consumables. There are many collectibles to find, and liberating all settlements in a given province will mark them on your map. The setting of Medici is also varied and beautiful. I often found myself pausing to admire the scenery and take a screenshot - the game desperately needs a photo mode.

There’s a limited sort of asynchronous multiplayer via the “feat” system. The game keeps track of many statistics such as the most height you’ve gained from a single parachute deployment, the most consecutive headshots you’ve made on enemies, or the longest you’ve drifted in a car. If anyone on your friends list is also playing, you can compete with their scores - there’s even an achievement for beating a friend in a feat they called you out on. I found this far more compelling than I expected - no matter what I was doing in the game, I had the secondary objective of beating Senpai-chan at something or other by as wide a margin as I could muster.

The game’s biggest strengths are its movement and destruction mechanics. Rico has a parachute, wingsuit, and grappling hook, and the skillful combination of these tools essentially allows Rico to fly. There’s a bit of a learning curve - especially for the wingsuit - but once you understand how to use and switch between these devices just moving around can be very engaging and satisfying. After getting the hang of them, I favored them over vehicles whenever possible. It’s also possible to use the grappling hook to deploy tethers connecting two objects (including people and vehicles) together and retract the tethers with the press of a button, which adds a lot of possibilities for destroying military assets since they are all physics objects, and there are plenty of settlements for you to try various approaches. I had a great time sneakily placing tethers and explosives, moving out of the sight of the military, and then triggering everything to bring down several assets at once without getting caught. Direct combat is less enjoyable, due largely to gun crosshairs being oddly difficult to see compared to the much more emphasized targeting reticle for the grappling hook.

The story is simple, but that works well for an open world game where you can do things in varying orders. Most events' specific details don’t feed significantly into other parts of the story - everything’s just about undermining Di Ravello’s power. Instead, story scenes focus on likable and memorable characters, to great effect - a significant part of why I kept playing was to see what Mario Frigo would do or say next. The pacing can feel a bit disjointed and there isn’t a strong plot arc or particularly satisfying conclusion, but the characters provide sufficient context for your actions. Somewhat frustratingly, the backstory revealed in collectible audio diaries is far more compelling than anything that happens during the game proper.

The game’s single biggest misstep is its upgrade system. There are a number of “mods” that improve your abilities or add new ones, which should be a way to keep things fresh as the game goes on by giving you a stream of new toys to play with as you master old ones. The obvious way to mete them out would be to make them purchasable with “chaos,” which you earn by destroying Di Ravello’s assets or completing encounters - this would mean that you could play the game freely and be just about guaranteed to make progress toward upgrades. Instead, chaos does nothing outside of a couple of achievements and you must buy mods with “gears” earned by completing challenges. This means there is only one way to play that makes progress toward upgrades, and it’s the way that doesn’t tie into the game’s broader context or narrative. If you don’t play the challenges along the way, you don’t get upgrades. This runs counter to the entire point of open world games, and either means the gameplay gets stale because you aren’t getting new toys or turns the challenges from a whittle to a grind.

I Stopped Playing When: I liberated all settlements, picked up all collectibles, and finished the story missions. I didn’t bother with the vast majority of the challenges, so I never got the vast majority of the upgrades.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

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