Review: Just Cause 3 – You Blow Stuff Up, Just ‘Cause You Can

The game starts with some big explosions. The game ends with some equally big explosions. The middle is jam-packed with explosions. That’s basically Just Cause 3 in a nutshell: absolute chaos. Pure, unadulterated, mindless chaos. It’s fun, there’s no doubting that, but for me at least, there’s got to be something more behind it.

The game takes place in the beautiful Medici region (yes, it’s fictional) and you, Rico Rodriguez, are once again being tasked with liberating the people for a just cause. Geddit? The opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the game and what to expect for the duration. Rico and his mate Sheldon are flying into the region to dump Rico in no-mans-land full of hostiles, only the plan doesn’t go to plan when the plane is attacked by land-to-air missile systems. Without a moment’s thought Rico has already clambered on the top of the twin-motor plane and is firing off RPGs at the pesky defenders. The world whizzes by in a blur of colour as the plane eventually takes a hit and Rico tumbles towards the Earth. Thankfully our hero always has a parachute to hand. Where does he even keep it?

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Stewardess: Please keep your seatbelt fastened. Rico: Fack off lav, you don’t run my life.

The rest of the mission takes you through a crash course on getting to grips with Rico and his abilities. It’s your standard affair, then. The story picks up when Rico meets with his old-time friend Mario who has joined the rebels in the fight against the region’s oppressor, Sebastiano Di Ravello. Immediately I picked up some very familiar vibes, though not from previous Just Cause games. The region is being controlled by a powerful dictator who commands and army. He has a radio broadcast disclaiming any of Rico’s endeavours against the regime and Rico must liberate outposts, settlements and bases. It’s all very Far Cry 4, isn’t it? That’s not a terrible thing by any account, but it’s an apt comparison. In fact, when I was playing the game last night, my partner was sat beside me and she said “it’s like Far Cry 4, but third person,” which, after a bit of thinking, did seem quite accurate.

While the story’s template does seem familiar, it’s not quite as good. In fact, it’s a little bit poop. The narrative is as cliché as you can image: The dictator is after some compound named ‘Bavarium’ that’ll allow for unlimited fuel, as well as some less than friendly uses. The cast of characters aren’t as memorable as I’d have liked, but Rico is a genuinely funny guy. You’ll be parachuting above a bunch of enemies, wildy firing whatever weapons you’ve got to hand and he’ll come out with some snarky remark or terrible pun. Yes, terrible puns. I’m a fan of a good (and bad) pun, so I didn’t mind giggling at the nonsense. What did make me frown was the sub-far voice acting from some characters and their lack of development. Some appear fleetingly for a few missions, only to disappear for hours on end and return later on without any context as to what they’ve been up to. That said, the Just Cause game’s have never really been about telling a masterful tale, but I sort of hoped against hope that this one would keep me engaged a little more than it did.

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A water car. Water bike? Water horse? What do we call these things?

So the story is a bit naff, but what about the gameplay? How does the world feel and respond to your pyrotechnics? Brilliantly, albeit with a few flaws. One of the first things I did was have a go at flying around using the parachute and the wicked new wingsuit. You’ll actually get to try these out before you even start the game as when it’s installing, you have the option to mess around on ‘Boom Island.’ It’s an empty island that’s purely there for you to have a mess around in and get familiar with Just Cause 3’s mechanics. I spent a fair few minutes flying – and failing – with the wingsuit.

Once you actually get into the main game you’re able to pretty much explore right off the bat. You’ll do the first mission or two as they’re necessary (one gets you the upgraded grappling hook) but after that you can just go at your own pace, as per most open-world games these day. I chose to power on with the plot and started taking down as many bases as I could, freeing any settlements that I came across, and moving forward with the story. You’ll be required to shoot some people (how barbaric?!) but there’s always the option to kill them by more inventive means. For example: Using the grappling hook, you can attach an enemy soldier (or even a citizen who just looks like they might be a spy or something) to whatever’s nearby. I chose to attach my enemy to a massive gas canister. Then I chose to shoot a few bullets into said canister. Then I laughed my head off as the gas canister soared into the sky with the enemy soldier in tow. What a way to go.

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Rico doesn’t have a pilot’s license. Can you tell?

It’s these kinds of moments that set Just Cause apart from most other open-world games. GTA V was fun, but I never brought down a helicopter by flinging an old woman into it. Far Cry 4 was awesome in letting me fly those weird little rickety helicopters, but Just Cause 3 lets me fly a plane, jump out of it, kill an enemy helicopter, then free fall 2Km before gliding into a graceful landing using the wingsuit/parachute combo.

With most open-world game that dictate you must do the same thing over and over, I’m usually bored of it by the third or fourth run. Far Cry 4 was a prime example of that; go and save these hostages, go and take over this outpost etc. After you do it a couple of times you pretty much know what’s what and how to beat any more going forward. Just Cause 3 is the polar opposite. Bases can range from being these dingy little areas that take no more than a few minutes and minimal fuss, while others can be grand bases spread out over land and water that require forethought, planning, and patience. I died countless times by just rushing in and opening fire on anything that goes ‘boom,’ only to find myself dead as a dodo moments later.

At times it can be downright brutal, and it was only after discovering that playing through the challenges earned me some ‘Gears’ that upgrade Rico’s abilities. Still, even then I died over and over again. But I didn’t mind too much as it just forced me to rethink my strategy. Instead of running into the naval base and firing off my RPG like a man possessed, I decided to go in by air, ditching the helicopter mid-flight, causing it to crash into some fuel silos which then exploded and killed many a poor soul. Meanwhile, I glided over what looked like a scene from any Michael Bay movie and landed on a war ship. How convenient! I then commandeered the vessel and started pounding the base with the ships weapons, each shot more damning than the last. It. Was. Awesome. 

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I’d have preferred the ears of my enemy, but a PSN trophy isn’t too bad.

That’s just a snippet of the crazy antics that you can get up to in Just Cause 3. If I went into detail about every one of my exploits, I’d be here to till next week. I’ve got a website to run and a “real” full-time job, so cut me some slack, yeah?

One aspect of the game I can’t really get fully behind is the shooting: it’s just not what I’m used to. That’s not a sleight at the developers’ expense, but for me it just didn’t feel all that gratifying. I can’t sing this game enough praises in terms of the fun factor, but the gunplay is the weakest part of the experience and, despite it being necessary, was often not that much fun. Rocket launchers and the like were fine as they didn’t really need much by way of precision aiming, but everything else just didn’t gel for me. Sorry.

Unfortunately it’s not all roses and cupcakes as the game does have its share of problems. I didn’t run into many, but on one occasion I was forced to reset the console during a loading screen. It wasn’t just a case of the loading taking an age (though they are terrible, as I previously pointed out here) but the game has crashed, or at least it seemed to have crashed. I’ve already written about the game’s frame rate and loading screens, so I’m not going to delve too deeply into it, but it’s troubling nonetheless. The game stutters even when you’re not doing all that much and even the cut scenes fail to hold a smooth line of motion. It’s annoying and it does take away from the fun at times, especially when you’re surrounded by combustibles exploding all over the place. I can’t say for sure how low the frames-per-second drop, but it’s noticeable enough that at times I felt like I wasn’t in full control of Rico’s movements.

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Error 404: No funny caption found.

It’s a shame, really, as the game looks splendid, but in my opinion it’s a bit too heavy on the motion blur. There’s a lot of detail in the game world that’s simply lost upon moving the game’s camera. Bright colours punch the eye and encourage you to go just a bit longer; to glide just a bit closer to the ground or sea, just to appreciate their splendor.

Then there’s the loading screens… They’re horrid. Simple as. You die, you get a loading screen. You come out of a cut-scene, you get a loading screen. Sometimes they’re as short as a couple of seconds, other times they’re over three minutes. I’ve no idea why, but they are. It’s a nuisance and I detest it, but it’s fair to call it out as part of this review. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that this review was conducted after applying the hefty day-one patch so please, before you even think of being the ultimate keyboard warrior in the comments, use your bloody brain, yeah?

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Disclaimer: This review was conducted using the PS4 version of the game bought at retail. Yes, it’s a bit naughty to sell games before their date, but we’ve not broken any laws. 

We would have happily reviewed the game and stuck by any embargo date set by Square Enix if we’d received a copy (we play by the rules when we receive review codes/copies) but as we didn’t even get a reply to our emails, we’ve gotten an early copy from elsewhere. Whether we receive codes or not from publishers, it doesn’t affect our review scores. You can read our review policy here.

    1. Pretty much agree. They add so much blur at times that the graphics end up lacking detail. It’s like you’re buying a next gen game but your glasses broke and now it’s all blurry.

      1. I mean motion blur exists as a cheap cover-up for graphical deficiencies right? But of course it also takes away power that could be used to run other things… I wish console games had even minimal graphics options, especially for things like motion blur.

        1. I doubt motion blur is being used to cover up deficiencies, as those deficiencies would be visible when you stopped moving. It’s more likely a cinematic choice. It adds a degree of action emphasis.
          Can’t disagree with wanting to switch it off if that’s your preference mind.

    2. They use it to mask unimpressive filtering . Unfortunately most console games are around x 4 Anisotropic filtering where as PC can go to x 16.
      You can actually enhance the PC version much more than menu settings too. I use x 2 supersampling and i’m still getting above 70 fps most of the time in 1440p

  1. I’m wondering if the whole frame rate issue is a PS4 thing or if the XB1 version shames the issues – game code in general or game code issues for the specific console? All the reviews I have read so far don’t help me answer because the 4 or 5 I have found have been for the PS4 version of the game

    1. I’ve got a mate coming round later today with his early copy, should be able to add a note on this review on Xbox performance.

    2. I read elsewhere it’s as bad. 15m for a load time? May have happened during this review too Chris, if you hadn’t deemed it crashed and reset the console.

      1. Yeah I’ve read that elsewhere it’s terrible for loading on the Xbox One, too. It may have been that my “crash” was just a really, really long load time. Can’t be sure though :/

  2. “Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that this review was conducted after applying the hefty day-one patch so please, before you even think of being the ultimate keyboard warrior in the comments, use your bloody brain, yeah?”

    So the patch came out in like the last 24 hours. You’ve rushed through the game in that time just to get a review out before everyone else didn’t you?

    1. The game is not finished yet though, there is more updating to come. Source: a guy streaming JC3 live from Dreamhack said Squeenix themselves said this to him “updates for optimization” are not fully out.

    2. Patch has been out for three days… A bit of googling wouldn’t go amiss. And yeah, I enjoyed the game so I played it, ended up finishing it and decided to review it. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion

      1. How can the patch be out when the game isn’t released?
        ( I’m probably beog stupid, I don’t even get how they can buy the game..)

        1. That’s OK. Usually, day-one patches and the like are ready a few days before the game releases. Once a game has gone gold (pressed to discs and ready to be shipped) developers usually do a bit more work for things they didn’t have time for. To make sure patches are ready for everyone on day one, they’re usually ready a couple of days beforehand. Hope this makes things clear 🙂

  3. “Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that this review was conducted after applying the hefty day-one patch so please, before you even think of being the ultimate keyboard warrior in the comments, use your bloody brain, yeah?”

    False. You do not have all Day 1 updates. Source: a guy streaming JC3 live from Dreamhack said Squeenix themselves said this to him “updates for optimization” are not fully out.

    I r keebord worrior naw?

  4. Just Cause there is motion blur, doesn’t give anyone Just Cause to hate on the game. Just Cause one guy hates motion blur doesn’t detour me from buying it……. Just Cause I can.

  5. You think this article is going to make me buy this dont ya? Actually it did. And its going to be my last game of the year … I swear!

    1. Only 31 days to get through to fulfill that dream :). Do you have Bloodborne game of the year edition yet ? Heard that is pretty good. Perhaps one to consider when you are not considering buying any more games this year 😉

  6. As a big fan of just cause 2, how the hell do you give a game a 9/10 after admitting it has a consistently low framerate and slows to a crawl when things get chaotic (and things getting chaotic is the very essence of the just cause series’ gameplay loop)

    1. The PC version has none of these issues. Consoles will continue to suffer low FPS and resolution until they die. Maybe his 9/10 review stands in spite of those issues? In my opinion though, if you’re getting half the FPS you should, the game is getting half the score it should. But that doesn’t mean the game is bad, just the hardware.

      1. I’ve said this elsewhere, but it’s wirth repeating:

        Each site has their own scald of what each number means. The Games Cabin’s can be found in the review policy which is linked at the bottom of the review. Worth checking what a 9 means to us as a site rather than comparing it to what another site’s 9 means.

        For me, Just Cause 3 gets a 9 because – despite the obvious setbacks.- it’s still a stupidly fun game and there’s really nothing you can compare it too, except, of course, its predecessors – which it surpasses by a big margin.

        What I ask that people keep in mind is that The Witcher 3, one of the year’s most lauded games, had a horrid framerate at times, as well as other problems. For some it’s a deal breaker, but for others it’s just an annoyance that they’re used to.

    1. I didn’t “destroy” the game in the review, I pointed out what I liked and what I found to be the game’s shortcomings. Despite the frame rate being a wreck at times (and the load screens) it is still a hell of a fun game that, in my eyes at least, provided a good amount of content and a fun game to play.

  7. Thanks for that honest review. Suggestions are elsewhere that a memory leak is the cause of the load times, and they get worse the longer the session you play for.
    I have it pre-ordered on PC, and am hoping it isn’t poorly optimised there.

    1. You know what, that’d make a hell of a lot of sense; I played continuously for hours, but I can’t remember if the loads got worse over time.

      Also, you’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed the review 🙂

  8. Not ok to have an undisclosed referral link to buy the game which gives you a monetary kickback for every copy sold. Maybe make it clear that link people are clicking is actually putting money in your pocket, the FCC rules on this are pretty clear.

    1. It’s in our site terms and conditions, very clearly stated that we make a small amount on referall links. Most sites operate in this manner, including, if I’m not mistaken, EuroGamer, Kotaku, and IGN.

  9. “But for me at least, there’s got to be something more behind it.” Yeah, and i’m sure that’s why you go back and play Pac-man. Or any Mario game. Or Zelda. Give me a break. Sure, a good story in a game can be cool, but we play games to do just that… PLAY GAMES.

      1. I don’t argue that at all, but I’m a lover of stories. I like their to be a reason for why I’m going what I’m doing, but as I said, I appreciate the Just Cause games have never been about telling a good story.

        And thanks 🙂 glad you enjoyed it.

  10. So they ran an early review and gave them an unrealistic score to teach Square Enix a lesson? Or?

    That’s bound to force them to send review code in the future.

    1. Urm, no. There was no “teaching of lessons” or any other motive. I managed to get a copy early, I played the hell out of it, reviewed it and decided to put the review out on my own time and not Square Enix’s.

      As for the score, it’s purely subjective. Others may go as far as givinf it a 10 by their scale, others a 6. For me, personally, I loved the game (despite its problems) and can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard while playing a game. For me, Just Cause 3 is a 9 every time.

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