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Just Cause 3 Review

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Gameplay:

Truly the gameplay is where the meat of a game like Just Cause 3 rests, because if the explosions are not fun to trigger, nothing else will matter. Luckily it largely is fun, but there are some odd quirks to the game that do not necessarily hurt the fun, but leave me asking why.

Probably the best example of this concerns the missiles of different aircraft, and potentially the cannons of other vehicles. Missiles do not automatically fire if you hold down the appropriate button, so if you press and hold one will be shot off, and that is it. As I keep a pair of rapid-clicking macros on my keyboard, this was not as serious an issue for me as it could have been, but this is still a rather odd design decision, especially when one helicopter only fires missiles. It is simply not fun to have to spam a button to rapidly fire off the primary missiles, which can be fired in quick succession. The heavy missiles of that same helicopter and cannons on other vehicles take long enough to reload that I can understand having to click for each shot. I can also understand the cannons needing to be manually fired each time because they have a smaller AOE, so it is more important to aim, but the missiles go boom very nicely, making spray-and-pray a viable strategy.

Another curious quirk is the absence of a minimap. We had one in the previous game, and given the size of the map and propensity of enemies to surround you, a minimap would have proven very useful. One reason I can think of for it not to be there is so you will not actually see those enemies around you. Enemies will spawn near you and a minimap would likely reveal this and I can understand that being something you want to keep hidden. Of course turning around and seeing enemies that were not there a second ago reveals the truth anyway.

While this spawning of enemies means you can never feel secure as you clear out a base, the balance is where it should be. Even with enemies spawning all around you, you will still have a chance to either kill them or escape. Plus it can be a lot of fun to be in a helicopter and have more spawn around you, forcing you to evade attacks, or even jump out and hijack them. It keeps you on your toes but is not punishing, so I like it this way. Also you do not need to worry about constantly being surrounded. You can still avoid enemies and kill enough to be able to do things like hack the anti-air SAMs, so they attack your enemies instead of you. It just forces you to pay attention to the enemy, instead of rushing in planning to tank through it all.

The combat is where it should be for design and balance, except that maybe switching between weapons should be faster. Of course once I started using the LMG for my Two-Handed option, I never used anything else except the occasional rocket/grenade launcher for heavier targets. Another odd quirk that relates to this is the removal of the health bar. Only by the color of the screen and the sound effects do you know when you are low on health. Again there is a reasonable explanation I can think of, which is that there is no means of upgrading your health, so why bother highlighting it with a meter?

While health cannot be upgraded, plenty of other things can be, including your tethers, wingsuit, weapons, grenades, bombs, and vehicles. All of the 'mods,' as they are called, are unlocked by earning gears by completing various challenges. Land races earn you gears to unlock car mods while the Crash Bomb challenges grant gears for the bomb mods. Some of these mods can impact how you play, like the one that makes your bombs act as rocket engines. After sticking these to an object, activating them first ignites the rockets, so for a while they will burn and propel the object, leading up to the explosion. Personally I preferred to have the bombs explode when I hit the button, so I kept these mods off.

As you may expect, the number of gears you receive from a challenge is based on the score you earn, with a maximum of five. Some challenge types can be harder and less fun than others, but if you want certain mods, you will have to run them regardless. Fortunately you do not need to perfect all of the challenges to unlock all of the mods they are associated with, so do the best you can and reap the benefits.

Personally I did not care much for the races and the Wingsuit Courses were also frustrating for me. The wingsuit itself can take a while to get the hang of and I think I know part of the reason why. The camera is not aligned with your movements, which makes it very hard to actually aim yourself. You have to feather the controls sometimes, but in tight areas that is not much of an option because not turning fast enough will cause you to face plant. At least it appears you cannot die from just slamming into something while wingsuiting. Why this choice for the camera was made, I do not know but it makes me wish a first-person mode was available for just the wingsuit.

Still, over time I got better at handling the wingsuit, and it is worth investing that time because it can be a fast way to get around. It may not be faster than a helicopter or plane, but you always have it as an option.

There are a couple reasons I did not care much for the races. One is that vehicles can be hard to handle, and this comes down to which vehicle it is. Some vehicles will barely turn while others will start turning slowly and then suddenly veer to the side, and you will not know which is which until you start driving, and then there are those that always turn very quickly. The first race I tried used a vehicle that turned very quickly, was itself fast, and involved a jump that had me consistently get the car stuck. Not a fun first experience.

The second reason is that I rarely got to benefit from the mods I would unlock, so why bother? The vehicle mods you unlock, like nitrous, are only available on the vehicles you have dropped in by the rebels, or those spawned for the challenges. Supply drops cost beacons you have to replenish and my preference is always to use what I find in the world anyway, so these mods are of little value to me. Those that affect the gear I walk around with though are a different matter.

Certainly the most important of these mods are those for the grapple tethers. You can unlock stronger tethers and increase the number of tethers you can use at the same time. Initially you may not be able to pull down some structures, but with these mods suddenly you are ripping off and hurling around large objects. It can be pretty fun to dismantle bases this way, especially as you can do it remotely enough to keep from alerting your enemies.

One thing I find curious and a little annoying about the grappling hook is that it arbitrarily does not work underwater. I label this as arbitrary because you can fire it underwater from above the surface, but if you are in the water you cannot use it to grapple to the ground below. Only dry surfaces and boats can be grappled to. What makes this annoying is that if you are in the middle of a body of water, without calling in a boat you are stuck with swimming to shore. At least if you could grapple you could pull yourself along the seafloor much faster. Plus you'd get to explore the underwater world more easily.

Fortunately no collectibles are found underwater, so you actually have no reason for diving below the surface, unless a mission calls for it or if you are trying to avoid enemies. All of the collectibles are above ground and set off an alert for you, like in the previous game. As you liberate areas, the general areas of the collectibles will be marked on the map, which is very, very helpful. Finding all of them can unlock weapons, vehicles, and even free fast-travel. Normally fast-travel costs you a flare that you have to restock on, but once you find all of the Rebel Shrines, that cost is removed.

Besides the collectibles, you unlock vehicles by capturing military bases, except for civilian vehicles which you bring to a garage. While the specific vehicle you will be rewarded with is not listed with the base, you can see what the general rewards will be from a base by clicking on its' icon on the map. Even if you have not unlocked a certain vehicle, like a tank, you may still find friendly versions, because the rebels will get them. I still prefer going after the enemy vehicles, since that means there are already enemies there to attack.

The fights at the military bases can be a great deal of fun, especially when the bases are larger. This opens up the possibility of a sizeable defense, so you can jump between different vehicles, such as helicopters and tanks, as yours becomes damaged. Also some enemies will paint the ground with a bullseye, marking where they are about to attack, and you can use this to destroy the different chaos objects at the bases. It is by destroying all of these objects that you will liberate a military base or town. If you ever cannot find an object, pull up the map and they will be there, though their icons may be faint. You need to have already destroyed chaos objects to make them appear on the map, but it is still very useful. There was one particularly large base that I had completely cleared out except for one object, and it took me over ten minutes to finally think to check the map. (I was very happy to discover it was marked there, as it never occurred to me to check previously.)

After beating a military base a Destruction Frenzy challenge becomes available. This is how you earn gears to unlock grenade mods and they work by putting you in the rebuilt military base with the appropriate gear, whether that is a weapon or a vehicle, and letting you have at it. The timer does not start until the first destruction, which is helpful because it will allow you to set up any tethers, find the best starting point, or even find an alternate means of destruction. Sometimes there is an armed helicopter at the base, so you can take that and proceed to destroy everything with that. It can still be tricky and you may need a strategy to get the full five gears, but using the right tool for the job can be very helpful.

All together I spent 34 hours and 16 minutes in the game, achieving 91% completion, which includes finding every single collectible and liberating every location. The time may be a little off though, as I had to record this manually, but we are still looking at a better than 30 hour game, and after completing the campaign you are able to Re-Oppress locations, so they have all of their defenses back, and have another go at them. As you eventually unlock some fairly powerful weapons, vehicles, and mods, I can see this being a lot of fun, but I have not played around with it yet.

One feature I do wish the game had is some kind of theater mode. It does not have to be as advanced as some, but the ability to capture, playback, and potentially recap some of the chaos would have been an awesome addition. It also would seem to be a natural fit for this kind of game.

While there are definitely some odd quirks to the gameplay, none really substantially hurt the fun, and fun it is. Zipping around, hijacking helicopters and tanks, and all the while explosions are going off and bullets are flying past you is a lot of fun.




  1. Just Cause 3 Review - Introduction
  2. Just Cause 3 Review - Graphics
  3. Just Cause 3 Review - Story
  4. Just Cause 3 Review - Gameplay
  5. Just Cause 3 Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Just Cause 3 Review - Conclusion
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