Just Cause 3 Review: A Sandbox Purist's Paradise

Anti-gravity stunts and explosive gadgets abound in Rico's latest sun-kissed outing.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜… When Just Cause 2 landed back in 2010, it felt like an ocean spray of cool, clean water on our faces. It was a gorgeous open-world game that flatly said it didn€™t give a hoot about pretences like story and emotional depth, focusing instead on gravity-defying gameplay that entailed hanging off helicopters by grappling hooks, destroying buildings with bazookas, and all manner of exaggerated action-movie madness. It struck a note with gamers, and now Just Cause 3 seeks to repeat its predecessor€™s success. But is there still freshness in this simple formula? Just Cause 3 takes players to the Tuscany-like islands of Medici - 400km sq. of sun-kissed archipelagos, stunning turquoise waters, lavender fields, and other topography typical of mediterranean paradise. It€™s the homeland of protagonist Rico Rodriguez, and it€™s in the despotic hands of your classic evil dictator General Di Ravello - who€™s equal parts Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Mussolini. It€™s your job to liberate Medici in the only way that Rico knows how - blow things up. Unlike its predecessor, Just Cause 3 doesn€™t make you destroy the oppressed population€™s vital infrastructure like water towers and petrol stations, focusing instead on propaganda structures - speakers, billboards, statues etc. - and military bases. You go about this in essentially the same system as in Just Cause 2, shooting and bombing things until they explode in a shower of fire and residual electrical charges - except now you have more versatile tools at your disposal to do so.
It€™s in these tools that Just Cause 3€™s real appeal - as a gravity-defying explosive sandbox - lies. Rico can now have more than one tether active simultaneously, allowing you to engineer some amusing physics-based scenarios. You can bind people using two tethers, for example, then retract the tethers to send them catapulting over a mountain, strap explosives to cows, hang them from the bottom of a helicopter them drop them into enemy bases. Or why not tether three choppers together then retract the tethers to throw them into a lethal dance of death with each other, sending them all crashing together in a spinning heap (ideally onto a military base). The fun of the multi-tether setup can also be applied to structures in imaginative ways - the classic being tethering a Di Ravello statue€™s upraised arm to its crotch, then retracting the tether to have it smack itself in the balls. If you€™re looking for some silly sandbox fun, then possibilities in Just Cause 3 are vast. But if, like me, you like to have a bit more structure in your gaming, then you€™ll soon find this undeniably beautiful sandbox wanting. The physics-based shenanigans offered up by Rico€™s gadgets don€™t have much function in terms of progressing the game, and there€™s no more reward for your beautifully choreographed acts of destruction than there is for just shooting everything with rockets, guns and grenades. If a game wants me to get creative, then it needs to give me an incentive to do so other than, well, "just 'cause". So what is there to do outside of goofing around? Surprisingly, Just Cause 3 has a semi-decent story going for it, thanks to some solid light-hearted dialogue and decent characters. Rico€™s childhood friend Mario is the warm comical relief of the story, scarred tech-whiz Dimah is aloof and intriguing, and Di Ravello is a well-written villain who doesn€™t get enough screentime.

Gamer, Researcher of strange things. I'm a writer-editor hybrid whose writings on video games, technology and movies can be found across the internet. I've even ventured into the realm of current affairs on occasion but, unable to face reality, have retreated into expatiating on things on screens instead.