Just Cause 3 Review – Danger Illustrated


Just Cause 3 brings aerial-based combat and exploration to a new generation of consoles. Are we ready to play it? Is the game even ready to be played?

Developer: Avalanche Studios

Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: Xbox One (Version Reviewed), PC, PS4

Release Date: December 1, 2015

Just Cause 3 went gold on October 22nd, meaning there are a full forty days between completed development of the game and its December 1st release. Based on my time playing the game so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if the development team has been squashing bugs for 15 hours a day since then. The story of Rico Rodriguez’s return to his island home of Medici is one of beauty, majesty and explosive fun, but I cannot get over just how janky, unoptimized and downright frustrating my gameplay experience has been.

Just Cause 3 starts up a few years after the event of the previous game, with Rico leaving the Agency to come back home. Life is not what it was once like for the citizens of the collected Mediterranian islands, however, as General Sebastiano Di Ravello has risen to power to become the de facto dictator. His goal is to command and conquer by playing as the voice of reason to the people, with over 70 collectible tapes illustrating his slow, but methodic, rise to power. His bigger quest is for world domination, a path possible by harnessing the explosive power of the Medici-exclusive mineral called “bavarium.”

Your job is to take back your homeland with the help of the rebel forces, in part led by your childhood friend, Mario. Old friends and new are also around to help you out, in addition to helping to upgrade your abilities. Just Cause 3 carries the series’ traditions in its playfulness with aerial traversal, and the single biggest upgrade in that regard comes in an attached wingsuit. If your traditional parachute takes too long to travel, just break out the wingsuit to whip through the skies like a flying squirrel. It’s the perfect trade-in for vehicle-based launch maneuvers, intended to give the players options to pick up speed both horizontally and vertically.

Medici, itself, is a sight to behold. The mountainous islands are home to lush greenery, Spanish-inspired colorful towns, aqua blue waters and ripe opportunity. Though the main missions will mostly involve you destroying targets of interest (militia, strongholds, etc.), most of the dozens of hours of possible gameplay exists in the liberation of the provinces and cities of the islands. Each city has targets to destroy, labeled red and white for easy marking. Blowing up transformers, taking down propaganda such as billboards plus shooting, exploding or grappling the local militia are all key steps in being able to raise the rebel flag of victory, slowly but surely liberating your country.

Most importantly, tethering is back and better than ever. In Just Cause 3, most of the entire game is completely playable without firing a single bullet. While it may get some getting used to, you can use your tethering abilities to pull close and push objects together, providing opportunities for both offensive and defensive measure. The freedom of choice is well received, giving players the ability to take down massive compounds in unique ways that fall to the user’s sensibilities.

Just Cause 3 is a gameplay-centric open world title, however, with a mostly middling story. The voice acting of Rico is directed at a series best, though, with our protagonist acting a bit more playful than in Just Cause 2. That’s not to say much about the VA’s abilities, as most dialogue lines in the game are basic and cliched in their action movie origins. Each character acts in a manner with purpose and determination to their cause, but outside of the lovably proud and sarcastic Dimah, they all fit a very familiar bill.

If only that were biggest issue facing this game. Just Cause 3 is in an unpolished state that I have only seen one other time during any gameplay experience on the Xbox One; in playing the demo version of to-be launch title, Dead Rising 3. Performance issues come in two major factors; publisher intervention and technical deficiencies.

The gameplay of Just Cause 3 is strictly single-player, yet everything you do in the game is being judged by both your peers and Square Enix in an asynchronous online leaderboard. Again, despite no gameplay interaction with anyone else, upon loading the game you are prompted into logging into the Square Enix servers. That way, every high score imaginable (height gained from parachute, wingsuit timing records, single-reload killstreaks, etc.) can be recorded and shared in real-time, as well as leaderboards for the hundreds of unique challenges.

There is no single online factor involved that enhances my Just Cause 3 gameplay experience…

However, should you have a spotty connection or a review allotment when servers aren’t running optimally, your enjoyment of the game is severely limited. Imagine a scenario where every time you opened up a menu screen you were forced to attempt a login. Your options, during spotty times, is to let the game spend 30 seconds trying to log in, picking “play offline” and pray you don’t need to open a menu again (repeating the process), or log in briefly, only to lose connection a minute later and go through the first process again.

Single player games do not need online logins. There is no single online factor involved that enhances my Just Cause 3 gameplay experience, especially considering no aspect of The Cloud™ is being used to enhance enemy or ally AI in any noticeable way. Instead, it resulted in a frustrating breaking of immersive gameplay.

…It is not uncommon to see slowdown and frame rate drops reminiscent of SNES-era gameplay

No, the more troubling problem with Just Cause 3 is on the game’s technical limitations. I can only speak for my time playing the Xbox One version, but the load times are absolutely ridiculous. I played before and after the Day 1 patch, and on either side I encountered situations where I was waiting more than 100 seconds on a loading screen. The overall load times are, on average, quicker since the patch, but waiting for minutes on end for the game to load the overworld is a momentum-crushing occurrence that happens way too often.

It makes the most varied part of the game, Just Cause 3’s challenges, frustrating. They carry some of the most enjoyable mini-missions, which are crucial to upgrading Rico’s abilities and equipment, but each has to be loaded in. Worse, if you perform poorly in an attempt, you have to re-load the challenge once again, almost defeating the want to improve upon your score. Coming up short of an upgrade is devastating, to the point where re-attempts are barely even bothered with.

To further complicate things, the reason load screens take forever is that the world of Medici is so packed with content that it’s no wonder the Xbox One can’t keep up. Just Cause 3 has yet another 400 square foot map, but because of the leaps in hardware specifications, there is a certain depth in verticality. It’s actually fun to tether and parachute up mountains, hideouts and enemy encampments, but when you’re taking down gigantic structures and causing massive explosions, it is not uncommon to see slowdown and frame rate drops reminiscent of SNES-era gameplay. It makes maneuverability (and survivability) difficult when you can’t properly input a proper reaction to enemies launching missiles at you because of it.

Finally, I have a final issue that seems out of place in a game where parachutes, wingsuits, and aerial traversal take precedence. A lot of the random encounters and events in Just Cause 3 involve driving vehicles. In fact, once you liberate each city you can bring vehicles back to local garages for easy-to-prepare weapon and vehicle beacon drops. Whoever is responsible to implementing the game’s driving mechanics must still be working on completing their full license, because the driving mechanics are sluggish and hard to maneuver to a factor reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto IV. It’s that bad.


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When it comes to liberating the same cities over and over again, in similar fashions, while collecting dozens upon dozens of collectible in fear of going through Load Screen 2: Challenge Boogaloo antics, it’s hard not to come at Just Cause 3 with a slighted experience. If you consider Just Cause 3 as a noble attempt at creating an explosive, engaged world that fulfills Mary Sue levels of action hero wish fulfillment, this is the game for you. However, after playing the part of a wingsuited demigod for hours on end in a by-the-numbers open world sandbox, one can’t help but crave for a more substantive, narratively rewarding adventure.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.