Although I was genuinely a big fan of Just Cause 2, this warm feeling was based more or less entirely on mechanical considerations. The much-touted grappling hook and the delightful movement system that it enabled were expertly implemented, and combined with some gloriously over the top explosions made it enormously fun to play. Although sorely lacking in narrative quality, the raucous action made JC2 feel like a Michael Bay video game in the best possible way. These fond memories meant that I was excited at the announcement of a sequel, but low-to-middling reviews citing a slew of performance issues extinguished my enthusiasm completely. As its sale price dropped to £9.99, I finally decided to take the plunge.
The fact that the price dropped so quickly (JC3 was released in December 2015; contrast Rise of the Tomb Raider’s sale price of £19.99 despite launching a month or so earlier) should really have been the indicator that, despite post-release patching, they hadn’t fixed everything. I do not exaggerate when I say that this game runs like absolute shit. I’ve experienced crashes, the screen intermittently being washed out in blue (I have no idea if this is intentional or not), and excessive slowdown from even the least demanding of explosions. Honestly – and I am fully aware that I’m falling into the PC gamer stereotype here – this is unforgivable from a AAA game, especially as I comfortably meet the recommended specs and even turned a couple of settings down before starting.
Beyond that, the same big problems that beset JC2 rear their ugly heads here too. The story is utter garbage, with its cast of boring clichés further bogged down by some utterly forgettable voice acting. Also, a key member of your team is a brilliant Egyptian scientist (you can tell she’s a scientist because she’s always wearing a lab coat) who, for all of her important knowledge, speaks in stereotypical broken English. Why?
Rounding out an unenviable list of flaws is the game world. Beautifully rendered and hugely expansive though it is, the phrase ‘as vast as an ocean but as deep as a puddle’ springs to mind: it might look great but there are precious few interesting things to actually see and do in it. GTAV had problems of its own, but it certainly succeeded in creating a world that felt like it was actually breathing. As you zip around the sparsely-populated streets of JC3, it’s tough to shake the feeling that you’re the only real person on the entire island. Between this and the story it’s easy to see that, just as in JC2, most of the game’s budget ended up elsewhere.
On paper, this one has mediocrity written all over it and I can absolutely see why it’s sitting at a 67% score on Steam: and yet, I’m still playing it. Despite a laundry list of shortfalls, there’s also a lot that Just Cause 3 gets right. The movement and tethering systems are the only areas in which this game improves on its predecessor, but these things really are better than ever this time around. Getting to grips with the new wingsuit is tricky, but once mastered you’re emboldened to soar over the verdant forests and jagged peaks of the island with breath-taking impunity.
The new ‘gear mod’ unlockables further enhance the experience as you progress, and the end result is a method of transport that truly makes the journey more enjoyable than the destination (good thing, too, as once again the vehicles handle about as precisely as a nitrous-equipped Zamboni). As far as the tethering is concerned, you can now link multiple pairs of objects (or human beings, should you be so inclined), as well as being able to use the left trigger to pull them together. The latter concept is gently introduced by having you fling explosive barrels around, but the true potential impact is limited only by your imagination.
I chastised JC3 for being devoid of interesting content, but that doesn’t mean that its central activity of liberating oppressed villages and military outposts is an entirely drab pastime. In short bursts, it’s actually strangely compelling, not least when it comes to the gigantic radar installations that give rise to some truly bombastic (if not a little slowdown-inducing) and entirely emergent combat sequences. Just as in the previous entry, the developers have succeeded in making an interactive action movie that makes up for its dearth of interesting narrative progression and meaningful character development by being stupendously fun to just dick about with from time to time.
If for some reason it wasn’t clear from the above, this game is basically Just Cause 2, with a few new features added at the expense of smooth performance: if you liked JC2, I have little doubt that you’ll like this. It’s absolutely worth it if you’ve got a spare £10, but you definitely shouldn’t pay any more than that.