Having enjoyed the previous instalment in this franchise, despite its rough edges I was looking forward to playing Just Cause 3. Hoping it would be ‘GTA V but where you can blow everything up’. It comes close to this, it is certainly a graphical improvement over its predecessor but still perhaps lacks the extent of visual polish compared to GTA V and I should mention I’m referring to the PS3 version of GTA. As with previous games, there is a plot of sorts and story missions, namely ‘Agency’ agent Rico Rodriquez must topple yet another ruthless dictator. Thankfully I think the developers know people don’t come to Just Cause expecting a rich story, instead focusing on refining gameplay.
An interesting new addition to the series are the so-called ‘Gear MODS’. These are changes to your core equipment and weapons, such as grenades that explode on contact and remote bombs that are also rocket boosters. You can see the developers put these in to allow the player to do even more ridiculous things within the game’s world. A big problem with this however is that these MODS are only unlocked by completing the entirely optional side missions. I understand why this was done, it means that players who don’t bother with side content are not penalised in the main missions. But precisely because of this I felt no incentive to seek out the side missions to unlock more MODS. I feel that perhaps a better route would have been that a small proportion of the MODS are naturally unlocked through story missions. This would then make you wonder what else you are missing and drive you to complete side missions.
Just Cause 3 certainly remains an open world; it takes a long while to get from one end of the map to the other, with quite a few things sprinkled in your way to slow you down. Despite this I have two problems with it, one more serious than the other. We’ll start with the less bad news, to me for an open world game the world just doesn’t feel alive. In other games your actions in the wider world feel like they have an impact but in Just Cause 3 you don’t get that feeling. The second, bigger problem is that of repetition. The game’s map is split into 13 provinces, within those are numerous settlements that Rico must ‘liberate’ AKA destroy all the government marked property. Some missions are locked, meaning you must have liberated a particular number of settlements before it’s accessible but you can complete the story with most of the map still not liberated. The issue here is that liberating areas is neither interesting nor challenging. But the worst thing is that with a few tweaks it could have been made far better. Namely if the game world was a bit more dynamic. To explain, ‘oppressed’ areas will contain objects like fuel tanks and radars that must be destroyed, once done you can liberate an area. However I think it would be better if doing this had a tangible impact. Such as destroying fuel tanks cuts the local police’s fuel supply meaning less cars will pursue you as your ‘heat’ level increases (think GTA’s ‘wanted’ system). Or less radar makes it harder for aerial units to track you. The likes of The Witcher and Fallout have systems like this already so it’s clearly a possibility.
I began this review by talking about this game’s predecessor’s ‘rough edges’, while I do not like bringing up areas of games where they are lacking polish I feel for Just Cause 3 I must. In my around 20 hours of playtime the game has functioned pretty smoothly for the majority of the time. However during one session a glitch was triggered that led to all the textures being incredibly low resolution and none of the game world was solid. Though this was quickly solved by restarting the game, I was struck that such a major glitch went unnoticed. The biggest ‘rough edge’ however is the frame rate. This is a topic that I don’t often talk about because it doesn’t bother me, I don’t care if a game isn’t running at a constant 60 frames per second. Basically if I can’t notice it I don’t care about it. But when the game freezes completely even I will sit up and notice it. Throughout my playtime I’d noticed minor drops in framerate but these were always when lots was occurring on screen at the same time, when you’d expect any game to suffer. But more strikingly however the game would drop to basically 0 fps when there wasn’t much going on, on screen. I’m no game designer so I’m not going to hypothesise about possible causes. The bottom line is, it was a problem that affected both my enjoyment and ability to play the game
To end things off on a more positive note I want to talk about the improved driving mechanics of Just Cause 3. This was one of my biggest complaints with Just Cause 2, cars weren’t fast enough to make them a viable means of transport across the map and the few faster cars that did exist were almost completely uncontrollable. Thankfully for the sequel they’ve increased both the range of available vehicles and the frequency with which you’ll see them so you are rarely left stranded. This doesn’t mean that the driving is a perfect simulation along the lines of Gran Turismo. The physics are still a little ‘wonky’ meaning that the slightest clip of rock sends you into a crazy 360 degree corkscrew. But in actual fact this doesn’t bother me, it seems like a deliberate decision on the part of the developers to remind you that this game doesn’t take itself too seriously and just wants you to have fun playing.
Just Cause 3 is a definite improvement over the previous instalment in the series, giving you a bigger world to explore and more to do. While it is still lacking the technical polish of some of the bigger AAA titles, this is at its heart a fun little game to lose a good few hours in.
+Improved driving mechanics
+Plenty of side missions and extra content available
-Poor frame rate in places
I hope you enjoyed this shorter and slightly altered format for my reviews. You can find me on Twitter @AnotherGmgBlog. You can also find my weekly gaming podcast Gamers Without Borders at http://gamerswithoutborders.podbean.com/ or you can also find us on iTunes.