Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Just Cause 3’ on Blogcritics.
Just Cause 3 is latest open-world action-adventure game installment from Avalanche Studios and publisher Square Enix. Inspired by the modern Grand Theft Auto series, the Just Cause series and Deep Silver’s Saints Row both debuted in 2006. They’re both over-the-top sandbox games that allow players a huge amount of gaming freedom. While the Saints Row games, play up the criminal element, the Just Cause games allow players to be the face of revolution. In Just Cause 3, revolution agent, Rico Rodriguez returns to his homeland, to free the Mediterranean island of a brutal dictator.
The game opens with a big action scene sequence that intentionally exposes players to the over the top action they’re in for, but unintentionally exposes one of the game’s biggest flaws. Luckily, the intro is put to some pretty distinctive music, in the form of Torre Florim’s cover version of Prodigy’s Firestarter. The problem with that intro is actually a serious detractor throughout. There are some seriously long loading times every time the setting changes. Considering the intro takes you through a few areas, a lot of the time you should be playing, is spent waiting.
The fun parts of Just Cause 3 are all of the crazy things you can do. Not only do you have access to a huge arsenal of weaponry, and vehicles, but Rico also has a zipline, parachute, and glide wings. This does mean that the controller can feel a bit overloaded. Luckily, the control scheme is pretty standard, as far as games like this go. Where it gets a little weird is, that it’s easy to forget which bumper the zipline and grenades are assigned to, when the controller has been out of your hands for a while. The camera control, on the right thumbstick can also make controlling vehicles harder than it needs to be.
Where Grand Theft Auto games are mostly grounded in a realistic criminal underworld, the appeal of games like Saints Row and Just Cause is the over the top action they provide. Unfortunately, Just Cause 3 puts some pretty serious limits on the fun. The most obvious limitation, is that all of the anarchy main protagonist, Rico Rodriguez sows is only effective in towns under enemy control. To advance the narrative at all, these towns need to be “liberated,” which is both repetitive, and tedious. Each town will at least have a police station to be liberated, along with a propaganda van, speakers, and billboards that need to be found and destroyed.
Just Cause 3 not only forces players to do the same exact thing in all of these cities and military bases, but it also ties basic abilities to these liberation endeavors, and forces players to complete a high number of various challenges. While being able to glide across the island can be fun, having to do so through progressively more difficult courses isn’t, particularly if you fail and have to wait through the long load times. For a series built on having fun, Just Cause 3 really makes you earn it. Even in the areas where you can let loose, you can never let your guard down, because Di Ravello’s forces will quickly overwhelm you.
Just Cause 3 is certainly an upgrade over Just Cause 2, released in 2010, but it’s honestly just not as much fun. While sticking to the skies is probably the most effective strategy, all of the real gameplay happens on the ground. Add that to an inconsistent narrative, and unacceptable load times, and you’re stuck with a game that doesn’t quite work as advertised. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll appreciate the new toys, but this isn’t an entry that’s likely garner many newcomers. This console generation is getting to the point where there’s plenty of other games to play, and most probably will.