REVIEW: Explore and explode in “Just Cause 3”

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  • reviewed on PS4 / Rated M / $59.99 / released December 2015
  • FINAL: You NEED this game. 5 out of 5 stars

The fictional Mediterranean island nation of Medici is the setting for the latest game in the “Just Cause” series, giving you a beautiful expanse of beaches and mountains to explore. While the landscape may be a vacation paradise, your actual job is to blow stuff up. Specifically, your target is a cartoon dictator who has erected military bases in every corner of the land. As super-heroic rebel Rico Rodriguez, you join a resistance cell with the goal of toppling the tyrant and returning Medici to the people.

The main attraction in “Just Cause 3” is the game’s physics system of grapples and tethers that lets you slingshot your way across the map. You can attach a line from, say, a propaganda billboard to the ground, then increase the tension and yank the offending billboard to pieces. It’s easy to see the application of using these tether lines to destroy the edifices of evil, but the game has no problem with frivolous experimentation. Want to attach a goat to a helicopter and ferry the poor beast to the top of a skyscraper? Go right ahead.

The entire game is pleasantly coated with a “sure, go ahead” attitude that values straight-up fun ahead of over-serious minutiae. The military bases, for example, can be absolutely huge and teeming with enemy soldiers, but when you destroy something, it stays destroyed even if you take too many bullets and have to restart. In this way you can chip away at the nastiest of compounds, one exploded fuel tank at a time. There’s never a frustrated feeling of not being able to complete an objective; you’re always making forward progress. Enemies also tend to give you the benefit of the doubt, and won’t fire on you unless you’re openly carrying weaponry or being purposefully aggressive. This lets you set up stealth incursions without getting instantly gunned down.

The other half of Rico’s toolset is his parachute and wingsuit combo. “Just Cause 3” expects you to be in the air, not run around on the ground. By using the tethers with those two means of personal flight, you can float far above the cities and bases, dropping grenades while evading enemy fire. You can land a grapple and then reel yourself towards it, controlling your direction and speed. Once you master the rhythm of tether-parachute-reel, you’ll have claimed a very unique way to move around Medici.

And that’s 80% of the game: flying around Medici and enjoying the gorgeous landscapes. It is impressive to be coasting kilometers above any given town and realize you can switch to a wingsuit and power dive all the way down to land on the seat of a Vespa-lookalike scooter. Lots of open-world games give you that freedom, but not many let you go to such extreme heights.

“Just Cause 3” launched with the flaw of brutal load times, but a recent software update has tackled that issue. The load times – when the game starts, and after a death or completing a challenge – can still be lengthy depending on where you’re standing during the load, but the situation has definitely been improved.

This review is based upon product supplied by the publisher. “Just Cause 3” is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Image courtesy Square Enix.

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