Explosions are a beautiful thing. No company has proven that more than Avalanche Studios, developers of titles such as Mad Max and the frantic third-person action series Just Cause. Their newest installment, Just Cause 3, builds off of their love for explosions in various ways, while also allowing the player to accomplish a multitude of other preposterous activities along the way. You can glide on a parachute while shooting RPGs at one lonely enemy below, attach explosives to a car and drive it off a cliff, and even grapple a sheep to a helicopter and watch it fly away. Those are just some of the simpler things that Just Cause 3 allows you to do.
Your adventure begins as you see Rico, our beloved protagonist from the last two games, enter his home country of Medici. He has learned that there is an oppressive regime running rampant on his people, lead by the dictator known as Sebastiano Di Ravello. Rico wants to topple this regime, and to do so he returns to his famous tactic: Blow a lot of stuff up. The narrative in Just Cause 3 seems to hold a strong fondness for B movie themes as it holds quite a few of its own. Characters’ lines are read with a comic undertone, stereotypes are prevalent, and much of the actual plot development is thrown out of the window in favor of more explosions — a solid trade off in Just Cause 3’s case.
One of the key elements in eradicating the Di Ravello party is taking over the villages throughout Medici. As you discover new settlements, you will get a checklist of things you must destroy. These things can range from paparazzi vans to actual statues of Di Ravello. How you choose to do this damage is solely up to you. This acts as one of the larger gameplay mechanics you will run into in Just Cause 3, and it’s only fitting as that means you will spend most of your time lobbing grenades endlessly and cackling with glee as orange puffs of explosions continuously arise.
Once you actually topple the enemies within these towns, you will open up challenges in the area. These challenges can have you using your Wingsuit to fly through checkpoints, drive a car that has a bomb strapped on it that will explode if you go below a certain speed limit, or the old favorite of get into a helicopter and just make a ton of stuff explode. Once you finish a challenge, you will earn a rating, depending on your performance. This rating will help you earn more modifications for your guns, cars, Wingsuit, grapple hook, etc. It’s a smart system that doesn’t force you to play the challenges, but incentivizes them perfectly for players who love to just soar in the Wingsuit.
You will run into a plethora of small towns that need your help throughout Just Cause 3’s vast open-world. Just Cause 2 featured a rather large map, but that is only further increased in the newest installment. Traversing from one side to the other is an absolute time sink, but a gorgeous one at that. The scenery throughout Medici is truly beautiful. Lush green jungles extend outwards, and even the most basic of plains and farmland are a sight to behold. However, those sights take a hit when the frame-rate begins to act up.
Playing on the PS4 version, frame rate hiccups are to be expected. That is only heightened when you are playing a game so reliant on high-octane action like Just Cause 3. But the extent of these hiccups is incredibly disappointing at times, especially when you are on a roll and just want to see the bit of destruction take place. It remains steady when there is no action on-screen, and it sometimes holds strong when there is some combat and explosions, but there are definitely more than a few moments where the frame rate takes a horrible nosedive. This issue is one that does not exist on the PC version of Just Cause 3 so if that is an option, do not hesitate to take it.
When you have a title so packed to the brim with content, there are a lot of elements that go into making it work. A lot of those get overlooked, but something that is obviously noticeable is just how strong the sound design in Just Cause 3 is. From the outset of the game, you parachute down and hear wind blaring past Rico’s head while bullets echo throughout the atmosphere. The weapons all pack a hearty punch, especially the RPG. The thud of shooting out a rocket and watching it bury into your target is endlessly satisfying. Of course, dropping some C4 on multiple fuel tanks and watching the madness occur can sound appropriately crazy as well.
Since I have yet to actually finish up this bonkers adventure, these are just impressions from the first half of the game. Up to this point, Just Cause 3 feel exactly like what we all wanted it to be: a raucous and rowdy adventure that never stops throwing explosive materials in front of you. It features a few nagging issues, such as the frame rate, but that can be easily overlooked. Just Cause 3 is the definition of sandbox-style fun, and it feels like a crime to put the controller down for any extended amount of time. Expect a full review later this week.