2015 has been the year of the great big sandbox. We’ve had The Witcher 3, Phantom Pain, Fallout 4, Mad Max, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and to round a year of fast travelling, endlessly repeating quests and universally weak plot lines, we have Just Cause 3. Just Cause 2 was held up as one of the best open-world experiences of last generation and Just Cause 3 tries to be that glowing example of the dick about game, by basically doing JC2 all over again. While the wingsuit is a great new traversal tool and the island of Medici seems like a wonderful holiday destination after the armoured police have left, Just Cause 3 is full of so many mechanics that just feel old and worn out, leading to a game which feels very much stuck in 2010.
For some unknown reason, Avalanche have been pushing the narrative of Just Cause 3 heavily in its marketing for the game, talking about how this story delves into the background of agent Rico Rodriguez by having him liberate his home from evil despot General Di Ravello and bring peace to not only his country, but himself. As if you hadn’t already guessed, the story is complete rubbish. It lacks the terribad voice acting of Just Cause 2 and instead tries for some semblance of seriousness which falls completely flat. Just Cause 3 is a game where you can tie a cow to the bottom of a fighter jet and then slam it into an oil rig, it does not need a serious story. It doesn’t help that while Rico is just a vector for awful oneliners, the supporting cast lacks the ridiculousness of Baby Panae and Bolo Santosi which made trudging through Just Cause 2’s story at least bearable.
In this one, you have your stereotypical dippy scientist whose accent and mood change between every scene, Rico’s old mate who fails at being the playboy freedom fighter while the dictator Di Ravello is desperately trying to be a mix between Colonel Gaddafi and Pagan Min, but comes off as threatening as an irritated supermarket manager with a penchant for fascism. You’ll forget the story for hours on end, only remembering that there is a main plotline when you realise you have yet to unlock the fast travel system after blowing up your 50th military base.
That’s one saving grace of the main storyline, it’s so forgettable that as soon as you finish the first 3 missions and gain your upgraded grappling hook and wingsuit, you can leave it completely and not come back until you have liberated the whole of Medici. That’s really the reason why you are playing Just Cause anyway, because you want a giant world to muck around in and see lots of things explode while you glide away in style. When Just Cause 3 allows you to go do that, it is probably one of the best sandbox games out there. There is a real pleasure to systematically blowing up every gas tank via a perfect bombing run, before gliding onto a tank to clean up the rest of the mess. Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns hits Just Cause 3 super hard, meaning that a sequence of explosions that would usually result in a UN inquiry does not register more than a yawn from the player after you’ve played Just Cause 3 for more than maybe an hour or two.