Few games allow for as much demolition porn as the “Just Cause” (2006 – present) series, and Avalanche Studios’s latest iteration, “Just Cause 3,” released on Dec. 1, would certainly feature in any Michael Bay film. Players may enjoy a relaxing afternoon conducting a symphony of explosive barrels or experience the joy of painting a seascape of blazing oil rigs, the aftermath of numerous happy little accidents. The opportunities for self-expression are endless. The game provides a succulent, escapist meal that hearkens back to the ’80s, when brooding heroes and villains spouted one-liners as they sought to combust the incombustible.
The premise of “Just Cause” has always been an irreverent cliché. This time around, players step back into Rico Rodriguez’s rugged combat boots to fight for the freedom of an oppressed Mediterranean archipelago called Medici, ruled over by sinister mustachioed dictator Sebastiano Di Ravello. The self-appointed mission is to blow up Di Ravello’s military armament and tools of propaganda, causing chaos to bolster the revolutionary movement and, in doing so, allowing revolutionaries to take back the villages, towns and strongholds of Medici, one by one. It’s as predictable and ridiculous as the cheesy movies that it borrows its tropes from, and there’s little compelling about it beyond the set pieces it provides. No one is here for the story anyway.
Similarly, conventional logic goes out the window here. “Just Cause” employs a wacky physics system that allows Rico to free fall thousands of meters, fire his grappling hook into the ground just as he’s about to faceplant into a pine tree and reel himself in without sustaining any damage. The same imagined physics allows for what may be the most enjoyable methods of traveling around an open world game to date: the grappling hook and parachute combo, now with the added feature of a wing suit. Although you can commandeer any land vehicle, aircraft or naval vessel, there’s little need to do so when flying around in the wingsuit is significantly more fun and engaging. Using the wingsuit effectively requires skimming the ground in some cases, making it a more risky, but more exhilarating, way to travel. It’s a mini-game of its own that persuades players to cut down on teleporting around the map, as they might be inclined to do in other open-world games like “Grand Theft Auto V” (2013) or “Skyrim” (2011).
Though flying around is great fun, the side challenges needed to upgrade explosives, and vehicles are uninspired. The former requires players to complete timed destruction challenges, which sound fun until you realize that you’re fighting empty strongholds with no enemies. Without being able to enjoy the ample shade provided by the hailstorm of bullets, missiles and grenades flying in their direction, a player may feel like the destruction process has become too sanitized and dull. Vehicle challenges are similarly tediously timed races that involve traveling through a number of giant hoop-shaped checkpoints. There’s no creativity here, just a quest for perfection and a subsequent high score. Why not a timed car chase challenge where one has to jostle with enemy vehicles as she takes hairpin turns around a steep mountainside? Something more along those lines seems apt for a game that prides itself on giving players freedom.
Freedom comes at a price, and that price is technical issues aplenty. This reviewer experienced a crash to desktop in the first 30 minutes while starting a mission but not any of the other issues, such as long loading times, that have raised the ire of many players. Technical difficulties aside, “Just Cause” will never as polished as “The Witcher 3” (2015) or “Fallout 4″ (2015), so if players are hoping for that kind of experience, but with bigger explosions, this isn’t for them. “Just Cause 3” is mindless, hilarious fun. It’s a game where you can simultaneously skydive and spelunk, jump across debris from a collapsing radio antenna as it falls through the air and tether cows to windmills, flinging the hapless bovines around in circles before launching them into distant towns where they become tiny mushroom clouds.