Rico Rodriguez is back and as usual, this guy loves to blow sh*t up - frequently. Just Cause 3 much like its two predecessors doesn’t take itself that seriously and as an open world sandbox adventure is purely focused on action movie style wish fulfillment. Previous iterations were popular, not massively mainstream popular but they most definitely had a solid following, can Just Cause 3 takes it up a notch on new hardware or will this prove a step too far for the franchise? The wait for the sequel was quite a long one, nigh on five years or so, and the anticipation of all that beautiful destruction on the new consoles (Xbox one and PS4) had rumbled along nicely leading up to the launch.
Sadly though for a game that relies heavily on completely over the top action and explosions to generate much of the ‘fun’, containing a near indestructible hero and a near endless armoury at his disposal, Just Cause 3 is massively let down by the way in which it performs from minute to minute.
This time around there is some sense of a story, however fleeting and silly. The world of Medici is large and beautiful; gorgeous blue skies are matched with lush green fields, littered throughout with small idyllic towns, all of which can be explored in any order you wish, from land or air. The story has never really been a series strong point and that trend continues with earnest here. Rico is returning home only to find a crazy dictator has taken over this beloved Medici, so naturally Rico gets involved in sorting this mess out - doing so using any means necessary with his primary focus on making things go boom. A series of story missions which work to explain the new enemy along with a rare material only found on the islands called Bavarium, a material which is really dangerous in the wrong hands, are included this time around and they really do very little to enhance the experience. One part serious and two parts tongue in cheek, struggling to decide which one to focus on throughout gives a very uneven tone to the story based missions but to be fair to Just Cause 3 people were never going to be picking it up off the shelves for its story - suffice to say that all you need to know is there is a dude with a moustache who you need to slap and a rare mineral which the bad men shouldn't get their hands on - you could mute all the cut-scenes and your experience of Just Cause 3 wouldn't change dramatically.
The game does a really good job of being that stupid over the top bombastic action game right from the off with its opening missions, one of which sets the tone nicely as you stand on the wing of a plane and fire unlimited rockets into enemy territory with consummate ease. Such activities aren’t rare and/or out of place in Just Cause 3 they are sort of its bread and butter. This statement however is at odds with the way the story missions make you feel further down the line - later in the game they feel pedestrian and even dull.
Rico has a plethora of items at his disposal and arguing the most fun to be had in Just Cause 3 is the Far Cry feel it gives you when roaming. Towns and military based litter the four hundred miles approx landscape which you have to explore and it’s hugely satisfying to work through the growing list of items needed to liberate the location as you progress. As well as the liberations and story missions there are a huge array of challenges which can be undertaken. These include using the ever present grappling hook which is awarded to the player early on, use of the new wing suit which complements the parachute beautifully, even down to simple drag races or destruction tasks. The really odd thing however about the challenges is the design decision which forces you to play them. Unlike previous entries where the focus was on destruction to improve your character this time around that is not the case. As a result you are pretty much forced to endure challenge after challenge to unlock upgrades for Rico and in some cases the upgrades are tied to the type of activity. Therefore there is a real chance that you will need to grind an activity you dislike just to get that upgrade for Rico. It’s an odd one as the activities are fun but not that much fun across the board. Combine this with the lacklustre story missions and for a game focused around not taking itself too seriously and being ‘fun’ you can walk away thinking meh, however…
...what Just Cause 3 does excel at is blowing things up! The destruction within Just Cause 3 is so over the top and glorious at times you instantly forgive the annoying way in which you arrived the location you find yourself in. Explosions and gun battles are loud and suitably bombastic, everything is easy enough to achieve also. Hoping in a helicopter, flying over to another island, taking out a base and hopping back is all simple and for the most part seamless. Explosions have never looked both so ridiculous and impressive as they do at time in Just Cause 3 and they can be ever so satisfying.
Sadly for all the good that this does to offset the dull missions and forced activities, there are some performance issues which rear their ugly head. One of the key buzz kills to the experience is actually something you can likely get passed if it were the only failing. The initial load time on console is up to a whopping five minutes on our playthrough and reportedly others have experienced longer. It really is poor and as you boot up the game, your mind wanders to the cool escapades you got up to last time you played, only to then start to think “Jesus, shall I play something else, this is getting silly now!”
Secondly, and some would say most importantly, is the fact that the main draw of the game, the destruction, (the best bit) is massively hampered on console by the title’s performance. The frame rate crawls during these moments, to the point where it is recommended that you stand still to admire any large battle or explosion as moving could either make your eyes bleed or worse still launch a controller across a room. Just Cause 3 is also not a difficult game but it can feel it when you have an army after you, every member of which seems to be an amazing shot with unlimited ammo and the frame rate is determined to stop you from doing what you need to do to even the odds. During the larger more heated battles you are battling the framerate as much as you are the enemies on the screen.
Just Cause 3 is sadly typical of this latest generation of consoles. Ambitious in both scale and scope but sadly is just too much for the console hardware it will be mostly played on. Big, bombastic and most likely an absolute riot on a PC that can run it well - unfortunately the performance issues on console mean that whatever fun is there is slowly eroded the more you play. What should be balls out fun is reduced to a slow loading stuttering mess on our review format, Xbox One. There is a game in there somewhere, a game which perhaps has the potential to great fun but sadly it cannot seem to get out.