Since a new content pack called Sky Fortress is going to be released March 8th, and since I am currently in the middle of the game, I thought this might be a good time to write up my thoughts on it.
Since I popped this game in immediately after investing about 100 hours into Fallout 4 I think it’s only fair to mention I can’t help but compare and contrast them as I play. Sure, in a lot of ways they are very different games but in the sense that they are both open world sandbox titles some comparison is fair.
What struck me in moving from Fallout 4 to Just Cause 3 was that, graphically, it felt as though I had just turned off the 360 and turned on the Xbox One. I recall that when Fallout 4 came out one of the developers wrote a story in defense of the games graphics and its often buggy game play. In essence, and I’ve seen other defenders of the game say this as well, he said the game is just so massive in scope and so unparalleled in the freedom a player has in choosing the way he gets through the game, that graphics and bug hunting necessarily had to take a back seat.
But truly in terms of just map size I am not so convinced there is a lot of merit to that defense. Lots of games these days are massive in scope in terms of where you can explore and don’t suffer as greatly in other areas as Fallout 4 did. Just Cause 3 is quite large and gives you a lot of freedom to wander and yet it’s a beautiful game with, at least in my experience, no game or mission breaking bugs.
Where Fallout 4 is truly huge, and of course much bigger than Just Cause 3, is story. The world is littered with interesting characters and there are just so many possible conversations to have you probably wont ever see them all. But having a huge story doesn’t explain rolling out graphics from console generations of yesteryear. In terms of map size Just Cause is quite comparable and fares much better in terms of graphics and its jarring to switch from Fallout 4 to Just Cause 3; mostly as it just shines a big spotlight on the weaknesses and let downs of the previous game.
Now I should mention that I have read other reviews of Just Cause 3 and I’m aware other reviewers have encountered mission-breaking bugs and a small assortment of other glitches, but I have not encountered them. My time in this huge sandbox has been pretty free of anything like that. It’s possible some of the mission-breakers they reported were patched before I got my hands on the game, so I can only tell you that in my experience the game has been pretty bug free.
Just Cause 3 excels when it gives you an arsenal of weapons, a tether system, an amazing variety of land, sea and air vehicles and sets you free in a game filled with destructible environments and massive explosions. In a way the game reminds me of the Jason Statham film Crank where the action is cartoonishly over-the-top and seemingly never ending. This is a game that just begs for experimentation and Avalanche studios did a terrific job of giving you some tools and some bad guys and letting you loose. Attach one tether to an explosive barrel, the other to a helicopter and pull them together. Place two rocket bombs on the back of a car, get it up to speed and aim it an enemy encampment, leap out and light the rockets. Watching the car get a boost from the rockets, hit the encampment and explode in a stunning cascade of destruction never gets tiring. At some point I decided to place these remote-detonated rocket boosters on the asses of enemy soldiers. The result was a guy being flung into the air and exploding over the top of a building as his terrified screams abruptly die out. There is a seemingly endless number of ways to deal with enemy vehicles and soldiers and the game gives you the freedom to plan your attack and get as creative as you would like. Very often my trusty machinegun was the last thing I wanted to revert to as I found new and fun ways to use the tether and the variety of explosives littering the environment.
Traveling the vast lush landscape of the fictional Medici is a blast. You won’t fast travel very often because when your armed with a wingsuit, a parachute and a tether there’s too much fun to be had. Attaching myself to a car and then deploying my parachute when it was near a cliffs edge so I soared out to sea and towards my next objective, switching over to my wingsuit and rocketing towards earth only to again deploy the chute never got old. Jump off a cliff if you want, ride on the hood of a car, steal a motorcycle, tether your way up to an enemy helicopter and steal it—the travel possibilities are endless. That being said the tether mechanic does remind me a great deal of some of the web-swinging Spiderman games I have played, so it might not be strictly original but it is very well executed with tight controls and while it feels familiar it also feels perfected here.
When you’re just jumping around the map liberating one town or outpost after another from the clutches of a dictator and aiding the rebel forces trying to oust him the game is addictive madcap fun and the freedom you have in blowing up the bad guys really stimulates the imagination in a way most games just don’t.
However, when Just Cause 3 switches to mission mode all of that falls apart. Repetitive and often just not very much fun the missions are vehicles to trickle out tiny bits of story that are thin at best, and unwanted distractions from your endless mayhem spree at worst. Often consisting of escort missions where you are tasked with protecting an NPC with an IQ of 10 these missions are frustrating. The horrid AI of your partner and the unwavering desire to throw off the shackles of the mission and tackle the problem in your own unique way really has a way of just slamming the brakes on all the fun and ingenuity Avalanche studios built for you in the sandbox. There isn’t enough story there to make you even want to pay attention to the missions and the dialogue, when there, is stilted and consists of canned action hero throwaway lines. It’s always a bad sign when the mission modes feel like they are just in the way of the game and that’s certainly the case here.
The upgrade system for your gadgets is robust and, while not strictly necessary for your success, acquiring the upgrades very often gives you even more freedom in the game by offering things like additional tethers (so now you can tether 3 or 4 objects together!) or adding rocket boosters to your explosives or homing devices to your grenades. To get these upgrades you must compete in challenges that unlock as you liberate towns and cities from military control; challenges like wingsuit diving, racing, machine gun ranges and many more are great to do just for fun but they also offer an array of fun-enhancing rewards making them well worth trying.
And so I will continue jumping out of planes with an RPG on my back, opening the parachute and reeking havoc from above until I have liberated all of Medici and the rebels have won. There is no denying the addictive nature of the gameplay but to be fair there isn’t anything new here outside of the unique tether mechanic. In a lot of ways you could be forgiven for thinking you are playing a variation of FarCry, save for the cartoonish and hilarious physics. Tether an innocent passerby to a building, start reeling them rapidly upward and cut the line at the top of the building and you can watch them fly up and over the building only to stumble on their smashed corpse on the next street over. Or haul a car to the top of a church and cut it loose as the sidewalk fills with unsuspecting Medici residents and watch the explosion and the burning corpses sailing through the air. The possibilities are endless. But yet the liberation mechanic has been done over and over and coupled with weak mission modes the game does sometimes feel like a “been there done that” sort of experience. Like the tether system a lot of this game has been done before but it’s just done better than usual here.
The Good: Vast open world landscape consisting of a lush detailed island paradise is fun to navigate and explore. The freedom to invent and plan out each assault in a new and creative way offers great replay value and is endlessly entertaining. A terrific upgrade system for your gadgets is tied to highly entertaining challenges. It’s amusing to see a pop-up while your playing to let you know you flung an enemy higher into the air than you ever did before and to see where you rank among your friends in bad guy flinging.
The Bad: The missions are tiresome and repetitive just getting in the way of the fun. Enemy AI is abysmal much like it was FarCry. Not an original game either in terms of story or gameplay but even though they didn’t invent the “liberate enemy bases and free the country” mechanic, Avalanche studios does it as good or better than anyone else. The game does stutter occasionally, usually when you string one too many explosions together, and it can become distracting and, on occasion, leave you defenseless when you cant see or dodge incoming enemy fire because they game is jerking along; I’m not a programmer so whether this is a programming issue or the game is just asking the Xbox to do a little more than its really capable of I can’t say.
And now, if you want to have even more fun exploring Medici, you can: Avalanche will release the first content expansion of the game on March 8th. The DLC, titles Sky Fortress, will cost $11.99.
SKY FORTRESS contains a brand new set of missions that introduce a new threat – the eDEN Corporation and their huge and terrifying Sky Fortress, with its army of deadly robotic drones. To tackle his deadly new adversary, Rico Rodriguez will use a new upgradeable, rocket-powered, weaponised ‘Bavarium Wingsuit’ fitted with shoulder mounted machine guns and auto targeting missiles – alongside his new ‘Eviction’ personal defence drone and ‘Bavarium Splitter’ assault rifle, all of which can be carried over into the main game.
“The new content will fundamentally alter how our players approach the game – we’re really looking forward to seeing how fans adapt to the new Wingsuit,” said Tobias Andersson, Senior Producer at Avalanche Studios. “The new story missions, challenges and gadgets that can be taken into the main game really mix things up, and we can’t wait for players to revisit Medici and start getting even more creative.”
Despite the games flaws I will likely be grabbing this DLC the second its out. If you need me I will be 1,000 feet in the air enjoying Medicis scenic and meticulously crafted landscape. And then blowing it all up.