Preview: Just Cause 3 is a hard game to stop playing
...even when a bunch of more "important" games are sitting right next to it
I wouldn’t call Just Cause 3 “essential” gaming, but I don’t mean that as an insult. In fact, at an event that included the likes of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Life is Strange, it was JC3 that Square Enix PR had to tear me away from. So while it may not be the kind of game you keep in a backlog, it might be the perfect palette cleanser between all of those big, “important” games. Just Cause 3 is laser-focused on fun.
Just Cause 2 already offered players a giant open world with things to blow up and a traversal system that included a parachute and a grappling hook. It already included a stunt position on vehicles that allowed you to shoot from the tops of cars and planes. It allowed players to tether vehicles to other vehicles and send them careening into one another. What could a sequel possibly do to top those kinds of antics?
The answer is a wingsuit, an even more involved open-world, and physics-based destruction taken to a new level. A key pillar of a successful open-world game is meaningful traversal, and Just Cause 3 really nails it. Our protagonist Rico Rodriguez can grapple and pull-in for momentum, gain height with a parachute, and then drop into a wingsuit position to zip through the environment. From there he can continue to pull in with his grappling hook, keeping himself airborne in the wingsuit, or pop the parachute before plowing into the dirt. I didn’t quite get the hang of this trifecta in the demo time, but that’s part of what I liked about it. Getting around in Just Cause 3 seems rewarding and skillful, but also ridiculous and fun.
Those merits seem to hold true in the destruction as well, which has been built up to near-Red Faction Guerilla levels of freedom. It’s not that you can go around blowing up buildings (you can’t), but things like propaganda, statues, factories, and bridges, can be destroyed. For example, using the grappling hook’s tether capability, you can hook a statue’s hand to it’s head and then pull, causing the hand to break off and smack the rest of the statue into pieces. You could also hook multiple tethers between a tower and the ground to pull it down, or attach an angry soldier to the hood of your car.
The tech behind the destruction is impressive -- you don’t get the sense that it’s cheating with explicit destruction spots the way Battlefield does. The game employs some impressive physics to make things break apart, fall into one another, and collapse in complex and realistic ways. At one point I blew up a bridge and the way it collapsed was awe-inspiring. I felt like I could blow up that bridge a dozen more times and get completely different results.
So what’s the point of tethering a conga line of pedestrians, soldiers, and goats to the back of your car and driving it off of a cliff before bailing and watching the explosion below? Well, it’s fun, mostly. To be fair, though, I was free to explore the open world but didn’t get a sense for how missions pan out. Presumably if you want a little more structure to the game that will be the path, but I was content to experiment and screw around.
I don’t want to give you idea that Just Cause 3 won’t have any depth to it beyond a silly sandbox of destruction. The demo I played hinted at a huge amount of abilities, weapons, and vehicles to unlock, and the world itself was utterly massive -- it was one of those scenarios where the map seems to zoom out from your location forever -- with 400 square miles of terrain. It was clear that the world would be filled with outpost to secure, vehicles to collect, and upgrades to unlock, and presumably a ton of missions to experience. I’m not worried about JC3 lacking in stuff to do.
But to prove my point, that JC3 will be the perfect palette cleanser between other, more serious games, I’ll end with the following anecdote: Before my demo ended, I got a tractor delivered to my location through an airdrop, unlocked nitro boost, and sent it careening at 100 MPH into a sniper tower that was giving me trouble. Oh, and then everything exploded.