Having been a huge fan of Just Cause 2 back in the day – hell, it remains one of my favorite sandbox games to date – you can imagine how excited I was to be going hands-on with Just Cause 3 at Eurogamer Expo a couple of weekends ago.
After being given a brief synopsis on what I was going to be getting myself into, I was sat down for a 20 minute demo in which I would be free to roam a specified segment of the island of Medici. Despite this restriction, it is worth noting that I didn’t come across any boundaries or invisible barriers that would prevent me from reaching a certain area at all. That may come as no surprise given that the map is supposedly “the biggest ever in gaming history”.
I quickly found my way around the controls and began to use the tools at my disposal at my own leisure. I was chucked into the demo with no real direction, and that’s a more important problem that I will get onto later, but I assumed that because of this, the idea was that I should just blow everything up.
Mucking about in Just Cause 3 is certainly a ton of fun. Whether you’re firing grenades from your RPG launcher in the direction of vehicles, satellite dishes and gas stations, or firing grenades from your RPG launcher in the direction of vehicles, satellite dishes and gas stations whilst flying a parachute (or attached to the bottom of a helicopter, or standing on top of a car with no-one behind the wheel, or.. you get the idea), the number of options at your disposal with the one common goal of making things catch fire, is a joy to behold.
I may have accidentally killed myself a few times by opening fire at too close a range, but it mattered little when I could simply respawn, find something else to do via a wingsuit/parachute/tether combo, and find more ways to wreak havoc. The developers were keen to stress how these three elements should be used in tandem. The grappling hook can be used to tether objects together or to get you directly from A to B. Whilst travelling with the grappling hook, a parachute can be deployed which can then be swapped for a wingsuit at will, giving the pursuit of flight a real dynamism. At first it takes a little getting used to, but it creates an interesting feel and a satisfying one when you get it right.
The problem is, with air transportation this good, who needs cars? I found myself driving a couple of the four-wheeled automobiles if only to see how they handled, rather than because I wanted to. Sure enough, the handling – despite being something that has apparently been overhauled – felt lacklustre and akin to that of Just Cause 2, meaning that there will never be any real need to travel by road. This is a similar problem found in a game like Batman Arkham Knight in which it’s so much fun to soar through the air that there’s no incentive to drive anywhere, but at least in that game the Batmobile was exquisitely detailed. Land vehicles in Just Cause 3 just don’t have much going for them.
Unfortunately, despite all of the fun you can have blowing stuff up via land, sea, and air (and the explosions do look absolutely incredible on Xbox One, by the way), my biggest gripe with the game is how there appears to be very little structure. Arguably, that’s the point in a game like this. Just Cause 2’s story was very uninspired and almost seemed like it took that in its stride. Nevertheless, it felt like a story was there for the sake of having one and it took away from the main emphasis of the game. I can see Just Cause 3 sharing a similar issue.
At no point in my twenty minute demo was I clearly told what I should be doing. There were occasional moments when I would fly past a certain structure that might have a waypoint above it, suggesting that I should blow it up, but instead I continued on my merry way, blowing other stuff up that weren’t designated as being stuff that should be blown up in order to tick a box or get a few points. Don’t get me wrong, Just Cause 3 is a very fun game to play, I’m just worried about for how long. I left my twenty minute demo with little desire to play more. I felt that once I had seen all there is to see and destroyed all there is to destroy, I no longer had the taste for destruction.
Of course, in the full game we will be given a huge open world to explore, but I’m not sure that the formula of ‘go there, destroy that’, is enough to warrant what will be a standard retail game price tag. I fear that, without some form of structure, or any coherent reason to do so, making things go boom will, in time, inflict the one emotion in players that it strives not to – boredom. Fingers crossed that when Just Cause 3 launches on December 1st it will give us more toys to play with and more ways of doing so, but more importantly it will provide a reason for doing so. However, given the series’ track record, don’t hold your breath.
Just Cause 3 will be an undeniably fun video game, I’m just not sure how long for.