Just Cause 3 Review

Played on Windows.
Also Available on PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

I’m a fan of action movies with a lot of explosions and destructions. I think Avalanche Studios is as well. I’m making that assumption based on what Just Cause 3 spends its time doing. The game starts with an amazing action scene having the main character, Rico Rodriguez stand on top of a small plane and shoot down SAM sites as explosions and action rains around him. Most games would be showing off their entire game and then flashback to a simpler start, but this is Just Cause 3, it revels in its dedication to action. So is that enough to sustain the entire game?

Just Cause 3 is an open world sandbox game, and its focus is more on giving the player locations to eliminate rather than a strict narrative. It’s reminiscent of the Mercenaries Franchise, especially the second one, in that the player is supposed to take massive armaments and level anything they choose to. It looks and feels amazing as the player digs into the sandbox

But there is a big cloud over the entire game and it is the performance and I will reach that point, trust me. I think before you make any type of purchase of the game you’ll want to hear about that, but first let’s discuss the game itself, as to why you might want to still attempt to play Just Cause 3.

To start with, the game looks amazing at times, and I’ll even confess that due to problems, I was not able to crank up the graphical settings, and was forced to leave the game at 1280×720 resolution and low settings on almost everything and still I enjoy the game’s look. There are beautiful vistas in the distance, an amazing group of islands set up to allow the player to have beautiful greenery in all directions and be explored.

Just Cause 3 has an emphasis on verticality as well, allowing the player to fling themselves skywards with their parachute or wingsuit, it’s so amazing to see reasons to. The world is large but peppered with a ton of stuff to do and see, whether it be random villages that need liberation, through explosions or just roads and tunnels that need to be driven, the player can always find some pristine area of the game for close to 50 hours.

The destruction and carnage that the player will bring is a really impressive backdrop, and the look and graphics are great, no matter if you’re close or far from the targets.

The story of Just Cause 3 is quite weak. It’s not as instantly forgettable as the original Just Cause game, but there’s not a major purpose to it. Rico Rodriguez returns home to help his war-torn home country in the midst of a crisis. Rico has some story here, but really he’s just an action star looking for more to blow up, which works as there are so many options here.

You will quickly find out the main villain’s name is Sebastiano Di Ravello, though admittedly I had to look that up as it’s not a major part of the story. His name is dropped, and even the location Medici is mentioned but neither is really that important. The name and location are just pieces to the large reason why you are allowed to destroy anything you wish.

Peace has been returned to our fine little town.

Just Cause 3 attempts to tell the story, but the point of the story missions are to give you interesting tasks and tell you who or what exists and usually why they need to be destroyed. There are great moments in the story missions, but you can mostly skip the cutscenes as they could be summarized by saying “Yo, Some people are attacking some other people, go destroy them.”

The missions are varied and interesting, there’s one early on when you take over your first island when the enemy starts attacking different parts of the island and the player has to assist each fight. The mission ends with a rodeo ride on the back of a missile as Rico destroys it, but that’s the action that takes place in the game, the setup to those scenes isn’t as critical.

Ride ‘em cowboy. It’s a cutscene but it still feels amazing.

There is one part of the story that is interesting, though. Early on the voice of Medici speaks for the Di Ravello government. It’s a minor character who just has radio broadcasts after you take over major locations. However, this character is voiced by David Tennent of Doctor Who fame. It’s a strange choice out of nowhere, but the game also goes on to give the speaker some backstory, making him sound like he was actually captured and forced to make the broadcasts, potentially at gunpoint, making for a strange but interesting cameo.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times about the destruction playground or the carnage caused in the game, and that’s really what is at the core of Just Cause 3. Other games often hold back explosives, or destructibility, making it a major reward, however in Just Cause 3’s gameplay, explosive weapons are relatively easy to come by. Whether it is tanks, helicopters with rockets, or just grenade launchers, the player can always find a way to make stuff blow up. Not that it’s very hard to on its own. Pistol and machine gun fire blow things up almost as easily as explosives.

Destruction is the name of the game here, and while enemies will attack the player and he’ll have to defend himself, the majority of the game will be spent trying to blow up targets and move on rather than dealing with an onslaught of enemies.

Most of the targets in the game need to be blown up and the game just keeps offering the player options. Ignoring the player’s weapons, which include machine guns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, thrown grenades and planned charges, the game allows the player to use improvised explosives, such as cars, and explosive barrels. That sounds typical, but Just Cause 3 uses a unique twist. The player is allowed to tether two objects together, aiming at one, holding a button and aiming at a second. It’s a simple and fast process, and then with a single button click, the tether’s will retract.

You can also destroy bridges and more if you really want to, though this mission is one of the only scripted reasons to.

This can do interesting things like rip scaffolding apart, or make a stone statue smash its hand into its face, but it can also be used to drag explosive barrels towards their ultimate goal. It’s a way the player is told to beat the second mission and it’s an interesting strategy to use often after that point.

In fact, the tether is easily my favorite feature of the Just Cause series. The two-point tether was in Just Cause 2, but in Just Cause 3, the retraction of that tether is a game changer and can be used in tons of funny ways. If you want to be juvenile (and who doesn’t) you can tether body parts of attacking enemies together, any body part to any body part.

But even when the enemy is attacking and you’re low or out of ammo, the tether is an effective tool, as tethering an enemy to a wall or car, and retracting quickly eliminates an opponent faster than shooting. Tethering cars to the road they are driving on while chasing you is also equally effective, and tethering a helicopter to almost anything and watching it crash is as enjoyable the hundredth time as it is the first. It’s just an enjoyable feature and one of the big reasons I keep wanting to come back to this game.

The tether can also be used to pull Rico to any nearby point, even vehicles, but while Rico is moving along (or driving in a vehicle) a press of the A button allows him to open up his parachute and become airborne (changing excess horizontal speed to immediate vertical lift ) and it’s an amazing vantage point for Rico to use.

Much of my time in Just Cause 3 was spent parachuting as I observe targets, locations and plan my approach and attack. However the tether and the way the parachute works gives players a huge benefit as they’re able to pull themselves back into the air instead of being forced to land.

There was an interesting point where I was gliding over a base and ended up blowing up about ten objectives, using a collection of rockets, grenades, and even machine gun blasts without touching the ground, over about two minutes. It’s the amazing controls and the wonderful systems that really give the player the feeling of absolute freedom here.

Of course, the parachute limits the player’s speed, as it’s intended purpose is to slow descent, so it might sound like the player is limited to driving vehicles slowly between different locations. The second mission again offers Rico a new way to travel, the wingsuit.

I can not oversell the joy I get from this simple mechanic. If Rico is in the air he’s able to deploy his wingsuit with a single button press (Y), from there Rico can glide to the ground. It sounds like a simple mechanic at first and perhaps sounds not very useful, especially when the player will be damaged when colliding into the ground with the wingsuit. It’s most efficient at long distances from the top of a cliff or mountain.

After some practice, the player can start to master the wingsuit. Oftentimes, I would use my tether to be pulled into a location, switch to the parachute that launches me up into the air a small distance, and then switch to the wingsuit which allows faster movement. From there I was able to pull back on the wingsuit while tethering to the ground and find ways to fling himself across the map at great velocities. It may not be necessarily faster than a helicopter, but it has more maneuverability, easier deployment faster acceleration, and is a heck of a lot more fun.

Once a player gets the hang of the wingsuit, I dare say, there’s not a reason to use many other methods of travel. As I said, it’s absolutely brilliant and I enjoy using it every time I had the opportunity, which is quite often in the game.

The Glorious wingsuit.

Now, much of the game is to use all those systems and tactics, as well as others to take over locations. You’ll come to a town, destroy all of the Di Ravello infrastructure, and the citizens will apparently sing your name as a victor. It’s pure imperialistic fantasy masquerading as local revolutionary or freedom fighting. The game itself almost says as much as Rico’s backstory has him as the CIA and while America can’t get involved, it’s clear why the CIA continues to support Rico.

In addition, the destruction caused to liberate locations doesn’t get repaired ever, so if Rico wants to capture a base, he can continue to throw explosives, vehicles, helicopters, and more at the target, and then on his death return to deliver more damage. Since the player respawns outside of the base or town each time it can become a battle of attrition if the player isn’t skilled, but it’s wonderful to see the game respecting each step of the path to liberation without requiring all of them in one life.

There was a hard base that became humorous when I attacked it early on. The base, named Cima Lima, has a “FOW defenses” and what that really means is when the player enters the base, airstrikes will continually target the player and try to blow him up. Of course, airstrikes are a bit slow, so the player is able to dodge them effectively with a little work. On the other hand, the base is not able to move, so the player can just move next to a target that he wants to destroy, and before he can attack it, the targeting of the air strike begins, the player moves out of the airstrike’s radius (about 20-30 feet) and the airstrike will blow up the target the player was attacking.

It’s a weird experience to watch the enemy blow up their own base but it’s part of the amazing meshing of all the different Just Cause 3 systems and is yet another story of how the game can synergize into an absolute blast, pun intended.

The graphics look amazing, it’s a shame that the frame rate can also tank for the same reason.

I absolutely adore Just Cause 3, when it works, it can be one of the most enjoyable games, it has simple gameplay systems that synergize so well. The problem is “when it works”.

You see Just Cause 3 is really fun, but it’s also really buggy. It’s been 3 years since launch, and its sequel has been released. The fact is, I think we’ve seen the entire support cycle for this game and it still has issues. Even players with great video cards have issues. There are reports of memory leaks, the game requires over 8 gigs of ram for most players even though that’s both the minimum and recommended, and more.

Even PlayStation 4 and Xbox One do not have perfect performance as reported by Digital Foundry.

I can play the game on the lowest video settings, but they’re far below the setting I’ve had to use for any other game, 1280×720 is frightfully low, low-quality textures with every setting as close to disabled is bad, but even doing that, I still have some issues, along with stuttering. The hardware in my PC was bought specifically because it was similar or above the PlayStation 4, but the game still has issues. There is a lot of stuttering and pausing, and I’ve used a number of techniques people have suggested with minimal improvements.

The stuttering and pauses heavily diminish the experience for me, but it’s hardly the only issue here as well. In my original playthrough in July of 2016, I had a couple of crashes and put in 70 hours. About twelve hours into the game, my game crashed and I lost my entire save game. That’s a big problem especially when we’re talking about fifty to sixty hours of gameplay in the entire game.

This time around, I spent fifteen hours, before stopping and still found at least one crash, though luckily it didn’t wipe my save file.

If you can keep the game stable and have the hardware to play it, it’s a rather enjoyable game all the way through, but the amount of time I spent tweaking graphics settings and trying to optimize Just Cause 3 is a problem. Games should mostly work out of the box, and when trying to dial in the graphics settings, it should be reasonable. I’ve never had to scale any other game down to 1280×720 except Just Cause 3, I’m normally able to play everything at 1080p. I won’t claim to be able to max many game’s settings but only a handful have had me set them to low graphical settings, and most of those are more recent, and often because my computer was doing other stuff while running.

Just Cause 3 has none of these excuses, the simple fact is at the end of the day, the game runs poorly. Many players can run the game well, and I’m sure in five to ten years hopefully every system will run it, but the fact that many people still have problems with the game, is an issue to me and it interferes with my enjoyment and others.

Ultimately, I’m torn on this game as I said. If the game runs perfectly for you, this is an excellent game, it’d get 5 out of 5 stars, and is extremely fun and enjoyable. But the game doesn’t always work perfectly and often doesn’t work well. I try not to judge games on performance, accepting lower graphical settings as long as they work, but even here on the lowest settings possible, Just Cause 3, doesn’t work well. It takes one of the most ambitious and enjoyable experiences and weakens it. I’m unable to ignore that problem.

I am forced to give Just Cause 3 a


That score might be a bit random, but the fact is that as amazing as Just Cause 3 can be, and it is truly exceptional most of the time, I am unable to give the game a great score due to the performance of the game. On PS4 and Xbox One, the score would be higher but still perhaps not a perfect score. It’s hard to play a game with weak performance, and the fact is, I’m not willing to ignore that. Sorry Avalanche Studios, but this review gave you enough time to resolve as many of these bugs as you could, you still have issues.

Final Thoughts: IF you can run it, Just Cause 3 is an amazing experience, packed with big explosions, exciting gameplay, and enjoyment. But the IF is an actual question as this has performance issues.

Stats: 95+ hours played, 70 hours played and 59/66 achievement earned on my primary account. 15 hours and 13/66 achievements earned on my secondary account