Just Cause 3 brings back the incredibly flammable open world of prior installments in the series and adds some fun twists for those willing to do a little exploring.
You once again play Rico, now a near-professional revolutionary, returning to his old stomping grounds in the island nation of Medici to free it from the clutches of an evil dictator. (Kind and benevolent dictators being in short supply.) You use a pile of different weapons; your trusty grappling hook, parachute, and a new wingsuit; and an incredible array of planes, helicopters, automobiles, tanks, and boats to get around.
Unfortunately, technical glitches trash the fun to the point where, for now, we just can’t recommend it.
Just Cause 3 has been patching nearly every day leading up to the launch, so we’ll keep an eye on whether things improve once it hits retail. GamesBeat is withholding our final review score until then — but unless things improve, it’s not going to be good.
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The game goes on sale tomorrow from Avalanche Studios and Square Enix for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. We reviewed the PlayStation 4 edition. Here are our impressions.
What you’ll like (so far)
That incredible, packed open world
Just Cause 3 evokes and outdoes Grand Theft Auto V for open-world fun. The landscape is huge, 400 miles across, and full of challenges, areas to win back, and missions to complete. The incredible choice of things to do is absolutely the best part.
Want to blow things up? Go liberate an area by destroying a selection of major “chaos objects” inside, ranging from simple billboards to enormous installations.
Don’t feel like shooting? Go race planes or cars or wingsuits, engage in the handful of challenges unlocked each time you liberate a new area, or try for those in-game titles of longest wingsuit sail or headshots-from-parachute.
JC3’s open world approach proved so dynamic and enticing that it made me angrier when bugs interfered with the fun. You can absolutely see the promise here; I have to wonder whether another four months in development wouldn’t have resolved the issues and allowed players to just focus on the action.
Getting around by hook and suit
Rico’s grappling hook combines with his parachute in tremendous ways: As in JC2, you fire off a zipline toward an object or hillside and then open the parachute to launch into the air, pulling yourself along by grappling buildings or trees or things on the ground.
The new wingsuit offers high-speed dives you can end by pulling your chute or pulling yourself in with the hook, either of which provide a terrific way to drop in on enemies. Get in trouble? Just grapple yourself out, pulling yourself up to the highest roof in town for a better view and a chance to regroup.
The combination of gadgets makes our gun-toting hero feel incredibly mobile, a revolutionary with superhero-like motion, and makes the giant map feel much more manageable. (Fast travel between liberated areas also speeds things along, as do hijacked planes and cars.)
A fun, forgiving arcade feel
JC3 is easy. That’s not a bad thing: The whole game is focused on sometimes outright-goofy fun, the storyline is more serious than previous installments but still incredibly lightweight, and the fact that it’s almost difficult to get killed (unless you kill yourself) fits in with the overall philosophy.
Rico proves to be one of the most incredibly resilient action heroes on the planet. Enemies empty entire clips into him without killing him, and a few seconds in hiding is enough to restore his health.
That longevity gives you the time to do things like attach grappling lines to five enemies and a nice tank of gasoline, or a moving vehicle, and slam them together. He can withstand fire from helicopters and tanks and planes, giving you time to attach them together for hilarious results. Or to rip a heavy machine gun off a stand and gun them down. Or grapple up to one and hijack it. The possibilities feel endless.
Driving also has an arcade feel, as it’s forgiving as you drift around corners, and fun.
What you won’t like (so far)
Online connection fails
Just Cause 3 is the latest in a long line of games that keeps its online connection always-on, which mostly gives you in-game leaderboard updates for various achievements (strings of headshots, longest wingsuit flights, and so on.) Unfortunately, that means if the online connection fails, the game stops as it attempts to reconnect.
Throughout the review period, Just Cause 3 would disconnect repeatedly, then attempt to connect and fail, then reconnect without issue when manually nudged. Switching to offline mode only worked until the next time the player pulled open the (fairly vital) in-game map, which then caused the game to try to connect again.
Each time it hitched, I endured loading screens and was often dumped back at the previous checkpoint. To call it frustrating would be an understatement.
Loading screens long enough for lunch
While I’m talking about loading screens … Just Cause 3 has some of the worst we’ve seen in modern gaming. It started with a 90-minute delay to download a 2.7GB patch, but that just began my waiting. Every time you switch areas, every time you die, every time you accept a new mission, you’ll be loading. And loading. And loading.
The loading screens were minutes long on the PS4. In some dialogue and mission sequences, I spent more time loading than I did playing. I literally began avoiding some optional missions just because I didn’t want to wait, I just wanted to play.
A.I. and NPC glitches
Part of Just Cause’s charm is how NPCs don’t instantly kill you. The bad guys’ awful aim allows you to take the time to truss them up to the nearest flammable object, which rapidly becomes one of the best things about the game.
But anyone who’s played Grand Theft Auto will be shocked at how easy it is to ditch the stars that represent the heat you’re under from enemies out to get you. Stand on a roof and shoot someone in sight of authorities and you’ll earn a star. Edge back down so you’re below the peak of said roof and you’re now “out of sight,” with soldiers searching for you. However, walking around the building to see if you’re still on the roof is apparently beyond their capabilities, so after a minute, they give up. You’re ready to pop up and kill someone new.
That is, of course, assuming that the soldiers move anywhere at all. I saw enemy NPCs glitching out a shocking number of times and in a huge number of ways. How long has it been since you’ve seen a triple-A title where the NPCs stutter in place, repeatedly run into walls, or otherwise completely fail? All of those issues and more were on display here.
The grappler, parachute, and wingsuit give you so many options for fast movement that the A.I. and NPCs could be smart and fully functional without losing any of the charming, arcade-y feel. It would have improved the experience immensely if, every so often, you had to jet around town to avoid the hunting bad guys.
Aiming and gun controls
Most of the weapons in JC3 fall into the “spray and pray” category, and even if you’re trying to be careful about aiming and have the drop on an enemy, you might not score those head shots. I found the guns’ kick unpredictable and annoyingly difficult to adjust for, further messing up my aim, so sometimes it’s not just the NPCs that can’t seem to hit anyone.
The X that passes for a targeting reticule is frequently inaccurate, causing you to miss enemies altogether or cause them flesh wounds (which slow them down about as much as they do you, which is to say not at all.)
Controls for missiles are equally wonky and not always well-explained, so it’s worth doing some experimenting while you’re firing.
Just Cause 3 doesn’t qualify for fugly, but the graphics don’t look anything like some of the gorgeous games on the market. (Rise of the Tomb Raider, anyone?)
You frequently have to sacrifice some graphical polish in open-world titles to free up the processing necessary to keep those huge areas loading quickly, but people and places in JC3 just felt primitive. Its graphical style hews closely to GTA V, which came out in 2013.
I would have forgiven some crudeness in the things that move (your NPC opponents and their vehicles), but even the buildings and other stationary objects lacked detail. The islands of Medici should have provided tons of opportunities for terrific water rendering, and those long parachute flights provide chances for amazing vistas, but JC3 offers you neither.
Just Cause 3 offers the tantalizing tease of a terrific open-world adventure, with weapons and tools that make blowing up the bad guys hilarious fun. The wide maps and great selection of missions, although fairly repetitive, means you always have something engaging to look forward to.
Unfortunately, technical problems ranging from serious connection issues to NPC failures make the game nearly unplayable at times, and if the bugs don’t drive you insane, the loading times will.
We’ll revisit this title after launch to see if the server and bug issues clear up, but for now, we don’t recommend you buy Just Cause 3. That’s a shame, because it has the potential to be just as much or more fun than other GTA-style open world games.
It definitely feels like a rushed release deadline may have mortally wounded this title.
Just Cause 3 launches December 1 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a PlayStation 4 and a PC code for the purposes of this review.