Review: Just Cause 3 (PS4)

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Title: Just Cause 3
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (42 GB)
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €69.99 (EU), £44.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
Just Cause 3 is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Just Cause 2 made games fun again. It allowed you to perform insane and impossible feats of pure adrenaline filled mayhem. I spent so long playing Just Cause 2 that I obtained the Platinum, which was no easy feat, but fun from beginning to end. It amazed me at how impressive the world looked back then, the sheer beauty and detail Avalanche Studios squeezed out of the PS3 still astounds me.

Just Cause 3 has a lot to live up to, my expectations are high, probably unfairly so. I excitedly play one of my most anticipated games of the last few years.

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Gameplay:
I take control of one Rico Rodriguez, who, at first sight is lounging in a deck chair on a sun-kissed beach, with one hand gently holding his trusty gun and the other swirling the ice cubes round a glass of whiskey. A fire rages in the distance from an enemy controlled oil rig, it billows thick black smoke into the clear blue sky. I didn’t ponder too much about that opening menu as I wanted to get right into the action.

While the game installs I make Rico run around a small island off the coast of Medici, his homeland. I make use of the time by blowing a few things up and taking a conveniently placed off-road buggy for a spin. The controls feel nice and familiar, except the driving seems to be slightly more refined, probably thanks to the ex-Criterion Games developers taking the helm in the vehicle department.

After a few story missions, Rico takes possession of a nice Wingsuit and after just a short time, I feel competent at controlling him whilst he glides along. Combined with the grapple, the Wingsuit becomes a faster and often an exhilarating way of travelling. Once mastered it becomes strangely addictive, and now my preferred mode of transport.

… immensely fun blowing things up …
Shortly after acquiring this excellent mode of transport I stumble upon a Wingsuit Challenge. This entails guiding Rico through many floating checkpoint rings trying to get a top score and all five cogs, more on those little beauties later. I suppose this was the point where I took a tumble down the rabbit-hole of addiction.

Six straight hours had gone by and I was hooked on playing the many different challenges scattered around the vast Mediterranean islands, and reclaiming the towns and bases from the evil clutches of the oppressive dictator. It was immensely fun blowing things up and tearing things down, striving for the cogs in challenges and trials, and unlocking new mods, I was obsessed.

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What am I doing? I haven’t even mentioned the story of why Rico is doing what he does best. A civil war has been raging in Medici against the evil General Sebastiano Di Ravello, the crazed despot vying for complete power over Medici, who’s using the newly found resource called Bavarium to aid in his conquest.

He decimates large parts of the land by strip-mining the earth with gigantic bucket-wheel excavators, without remorse or mercy to anyone or anything that stands in his way. Building imposing police stations and propaganda towers, billboards, and anything else he can think of, the crazy General has all but won the fight. This is where Rico comes in to turn the tide and defeat Di Ravello.

… I found almost every mod to be useful and fun …
By reclaiming the settlements, the rebellion against Di Ravello grows, and with it comes more equipment, weapons, and vehicles for Rico to use. It also reveals the numerous collectibles in the area on the handy map. Finding those also has similar benefits as well as free fast-travel and a few rare items once you’ve claimed enough.

Back to mods, cogs, and my addiction now. Once a certain amount of cogs are acquired you can unlock mods, these do things like add homing-grenades to Rico’s arsenal, allow Rico to use more tethers at once, and even add a turbo jump to land and sea vehicles. You don’t have to use them but I found almost every mod to be useful and fun.

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You’re shown the next mod and the required cogs needed before each challenge and I became fixated. Each one looked good and I had to get it, so I spent hour upon hour going from one challenge to the next. It would seem that this game is perfectly honed to feed my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Damn you Avalanche Studios.

I also became addicted to the beautiful destruction, capturing an enemy base for the Rebels to occupy or freeing a town by blowing things up, namely Chaos objects. These could be anything from massive gas silos, satellite dishes, propaganda speakers and vans, masts and loads more – all easily identifiable by a nice big, painted red stripe.

… I didn’t want it to end …
It became clear after attempting a record-breaking continuous flight in my Wingsuit for the third time in a row that I realised I was captivated by every little thing, I had gone on such a massive tangent away from the missions available, doing a speed run here, a hijacking there, and before I knew it days had gone by.

What was I doing? This was supposed to be a review and I had been having so much fun tethering enemy cars and helicopters to gas silos and buildings and then winding the tethers in, causing satisfyingly delicious carnage that I had not completed the story. Then it hit me like a metaphorical freight train, I didn’t want it to end, I was having way too much fun.

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By completing the story and technically seeing all the other things that could have be done in the game, I could have written the review and then moved onto the next, but I was holding off, as this game is too damn fun. Just one more mod and then I’ll finish the story, I recall thinking over many days. Well I have all the mods now and it’s been two weeks.

Because I had regained control of every single area on the map and unlocked almost every mod and weapon, the story missions were quite easy and over all too quickly when I hunkered down to play them. They were still very enjoyable with some excellent set pieces and a few battles that played out across many miles.

… huge amount of collectibles and Easter eggs …
I must mention that the game has crashed on me twice and one of those corrupted the save file, I was seething I can assure you. My anger quickly turned into relief as the game recovered the previous save state, and seeing as it saves after every notable feat, mission, or visit to another area, I only lost a tiny amount of play.

Part of the appeal with the last game was the huge amount of collectibles and Easter eggs dotted around the large map for you to hunt down. Well this time round the clever people at Avalanche Studios have expanded upon these. Stunt jumps, vintage parts, tombs, and more are scattered across the land and appear on the map if you manage to reclaim the area.

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What about when the game ends and you just want to blow sh%t up? Well you can reoccupy settlements before you fast travel to them allowing for more carnage or simply begin a new game. Although I would almost guarantee there’s probably still loads to do like RPG Frenzy Challenges, Target Practice, and the like.

Just Cause wouldn’t be the same without Easter eggs and thankfully Avalanche Studios didn’t disappoint this time round as there are loads to find like Charlie Kelly dressed as the Green Man or Thor’s Hammer.

… a beautiful cacophony of destruction …
With the Platinum trophy close to being attained, I think I’m going to spend some more time in this wonderful world that Avalanche Studios built. I would suggest leaving some troublesome challenges until you have unlocked most of the mods and vehicles as a few demand a nitrous boost or an improved weapon to attain top marks.

I’m not a trophy hunter as I rarely have the time or inclination. This game however became an obsession and I’m happy to report that..

I GOT THE PLATINUM.

Chazz H.

Visuals:
Be ready for a beautiful cacophony of destruction on a massive scale, all governed by the laws of physics and some stupidly large explosions. Want to destroy a large reinforced water tower? Well you could pummel it with several clips of an assault rifle or just quickly tear down a couple of the weak support beams and watch it come crashing down.

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One thing that bothers me with almost every other game is the lack of grass and shrubbery deformation. I know that sounds ridiculous and trivial but it’s rare, even in the latest games. Just Cause 3 has it all, and to see grass being flattened when driven over, or the down-force of a helicopter’s rotor pushing the flora and trees as it hovers above, adds to the realism and immersion.

The density and variety of tree and plant life is astounding. Flying over fields of sunflowers, poppies, and corn has never looked better. Soaring over the tops of rich green forests, fire scorched woods, and vineyards while glimpsing some fauna through the undergrowth is intense. No longer do the towns and bases feel copy and pasted like in the previous game. Yeah, you still get the same buildings, but the layout of each settlement is quite different and some are very large.

… like a crazy C4-laden moth to a flame …
Character models look good and they ragdoll in a believable and often comical way. Bus shelters, lampposts, bushes, trees, and fences, they all break apart in a somewhat realistic manner. Any vehicle you occupy seems to be able to take more damage and can even survive deadly stunt jumps and several head-on collisions before bursting into flames.

The destructible Chaos objects are rarely hard to miss thanks to the instinctual red painted marker that draws you in, like a crazy C4-laden moth to a flame. A noticeable improvement is that the more Chaos objects you destroy, the more clearly they appear on the map, so now you aren’t aimlessly wandering around anymore.

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Everywhere I turn I’m amazed at how stunning this game looks. Cattle grazing, thrill seekers jet skiing, trains crashing, bridges collapsing, and broken-down cars at the side of the road. So much detail and only a small bit of slowdown when I blew up an entire base in one fell swoop, which kind of looked better in a brief three-quarter speed.

For the many people who like making YouTube videos, the developers were very gracious in allowing you to turn off the camera lock and remove some or all of the on-screen paraphernalia, so you can capture some great shots with the Share button.

… an extensive leaderboard system that continually tracks everything you do …
Audio:
The sound design is excellent in Just Cause 3, from driving through a tunnel to soaring above the mountains, it sounds perfect. With each thing you do, the musical score adapts to fit and helps to deliver the right amount of excitement, tension, or tranquillity as needed.

Voice acting is excellent but I did notice some dialog being out-of-sync during two cutscenes, nothing too jarring mind you. David Tennant’s voice stood out and was nice to hear every time I captured a base.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Just Cause 3 is a single player only game and understandably so. Having another player running around might sound like a good idea but then a lot other things would have to be sacrificed to accommodate that other character. What you do get is an extensive leaderboard system that continually tracks everything you do.

If you perform a significant drift in a car or ascend a great distance using a parachute and grapple, it’s tracked and tallied alongside other players. An indication of your current performance appears on-screen and this in turn coerces you into bettering each player. Yet another reason why I neglected the story side of the game was this clever little leaderboard.

Constant online communication with the Square Enix servers to grab and send the leaderboard information was causing some sluggish loading here and there when a challenge was loading usually. There were a few times when the game lost the connection to the servers. This instantly paused the game without a care for what was happening at the time and attempts to reconnect.

… the perfect game for you …
Failing to gain a connection will prompt retry or play offline options. Don’t be fooled by these as both try to re-connect. Avalanche Studios did release a patch that seems to have fixed these issues but I thought it best to mention them regardless as some of you may still be suffering. It was never a continuous problem, which made me think it was more of a server issue anyway.

Together with the leaderboard system, you can – depending on the challenge or trial – download another player’s ghost. This comes in very handy when you’re struggling with achieving the best times or scores. A nice addition is being able to Call-Out a friend to try and beat one of your scores or times.

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Conclusion:
Like a gambler on a winning streak, a junkie on a high, I want Just Cause 3 to keep on going because this is the most fun I’ve ever had gaming. Avalanche Studios not only listened to their fans and passionate PC modding community but also improved on their crazy formula in so many enjoyable ways.

Since its release, I have seen an improvement in the online component and do expect the issues to be resolved. Aside from that, the developers have outdone themselves with Just Cause 3 and made a game that actually lived up to my expectations. If you want stupendously massive explosions and a self-orchestrated deluge of magnificent destruction then Just Cause 3 is the perfect game for you.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • David Harris

    Hey Chazz, what’s your experience been with the load times? I picked up the game when it came out but have been struggling to truly dive in as I found the load times between deaths killing the experience. I know there’s been a patch since it’s release but haven’t heard anyone confirm if this had any affect and haven’t had a chance to dig back in.

    I don’t disagree with your review and the fun-factor associated, just am a bit surprised at the high score given the technical challenges the game seems to possess…at least out of the box. In today’s day and age one sadly comes to expect day 1 patches, etc. just had higher hopes/expectations that maybe this one would have been a bit more fully baked.

    • ChazzH69

      I was an hour away from posting the review with a slightly lower score, and then a patch was released that seemed to fix every load issue I had.

      The only problem I had since was when I streamed my platinum attempt, I lost connection to the Square Enix servers but it didn’t slow down. It does take a while to load in general but is understandable considering the amount going on.

      I would suggest grappling away from the enemy when your health begins to suffer. Hijack helicopters and tanks whenever you can, even just to remove the pilot/driver. Lastly, try to get all the mods as it drastically improves your chances of success.

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  • Joshua Simpkins

    Hahaha! Holy shit! A 10?! You are like the ONLY person on the internet I’ve seen with the balls to score this game alongside a masterpiece like The Last of Us.

    An 8/10 seems way more reasonable. Especially with all the bugs, poor framerate performance, etc. that still remain in this game even as of today. (See Digital Foundry’s current patch analysis of game performance on PS4 / Xbox One)

    Damn, a 10 though? That’s some funny shit. 😉