Witnessing the smash success of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in the mid-2000’s, it’s no wonder why every other developer out there wanted their slice of the pie. EA, Activision, Eidos, THQ, all jumped into the bandwagon to bask in the glory of open-world free roam games. Sure, a lot of them succeeded in their own right and found their own little market like Mercenaries, True Crime and Saint’s Row. But one title that stood out among the bunch was Eidos’ Just Cause. Developed as the first game of the Swedish studio Avalanche, Just Cause wasn’t a great game by any means. But it did have a lot of unique ideas and mechanics which would be further solidified by its 2010 blockbuster sequel Just Cause 2. Just Cause 2 holds the test of time as one of my favourite gaming past times to this date. I must have spent like 400 hrs in the bloody bugger. So you’d expect me to have played the second sequel, Just Cause 3 by several hundred hours by now. Yet, here I am, literally forcing myself to play the damn game for the sake of clearing the backlog. What happened Just Cause 3? You were supposed to be the chosen one…
Earlier on, I said that Just Cause stood out among what people like to call ‘GTA Clones’. There must have been a reason for that, right? You remember those El Mariachi films from the 90s, especially Desperado? The romantic loner Antonio Banderas taking the fight to the Cartel with some great Mariachi music added to the mix. Simpler times I guess. Just Cause pays homage to these contemporary western films and its style to the point where I wonder why they didn’t have Antonio Banderas taking the lead role? Just Cause‘s protagonist Rico Rodriguez is a man of slicked back hair and fewer words. Dropped into the luscious Mediterranean island of San Esperito, super spy Rico is tasked with overthrowing its cruel dictator Salvador Mendoza. And how does he do that exactly? Why of course, he goes around shooting people and locations to hell and help the rebels achieve their pseudo-communist agendas. Written like a true capitalist.
But this is all just icing on the cake. Just Cause is primarily known for it’s over the top action and daredevil stunts such as insane skydiving, spiderman swinging to moving vehicles, and parasailing. The sequel was the real deal, however. It made Rico a genuine badass and introduced the series staple: the grappling hook that can be deployed almost any time and can be used to do all kinds of crazy death-defying stunts. Moreover, it was a more polished experience that looked the part. There was no feeling of moral consequence or guilt. You ran around the map blowing shit up. The more mayhem you cause, the more missions and activities you unlock. Just Cause 2 was my go-to game for stressbusting from 2010 to 2013.
There was nothing like Just Cause 2 at the time (well Mercenaries 2 came close but it was too much of a mess). GTA was moving towards realistic simulation type of gameplay and Saint’s Row was stuck in an identity crisis. Just Cause 2 took full advantage of the situation and sold a LOT of copies and made tonnes of revenue. Even the parts of the game that wasn’t well polished, like the voice acting and the story, became of the ‘so bad that its good’ type. Just Cause 2 became an instant modern classic. A flagbearer of unparalleled freedom and experimentation. It took Avalanche 5 years to come up with a sequel and if you ask me, the wait wasn’t worth it.
Just Because It’s The Third Game?
By the time Just Cause 3 had come out, a lot has changed. Open world formula has been greatly evolved by 2015 and even the fun factor was being redefined. Everyone knows the curse of the third entry in video games as well as movies. But this was just…ah disappointing. I feel that if I went on ranting as to why Just Cause 3 is meh, it will spoil my entire day. But I have to get this frustration out. Just Cause 3 did bring a lot to the table like the addition of a wingsuit, improved weapon roster and of course, better graphics. Yet, it failed to revolutionise or even improve the gameplay of the Just Cause series. In my humble opinion, for every good thing JC3 did, it did 5 things worse.
First of all, the game performed horribly across PC and consoles. I remember when I first got the game and ran it on my i5 7500, GTX 750 and 8 gigabytes of RAM. Yes the GPU was holding it back, but it’s no excuse as to how terribly the game ran. There were stutters and massive frame drops all the way resulting from a shameful memory leakage issue. I was only able to run the game well after upgrading to a 1070 and 16 gigs of ram. For 2015, this just isn’t excusable. What’s worse is that this issue still persists. The less we talk about the PS4 version, the better.
Then there all the changes were done to Rico himself. He was always this Hispanic badass with cheesy one-liners and a Spanish accent. But oh no…Since JC3 takes place in a fictional Italian landscape, they had to retcon his history and said that he was born in Mexico, but raised in Italy. What we end up with is a Meditespanicean (I made it up, deal with it!) with an awful voice actor and a completely generic facial redesign. There is now absolutely zero charm to his character and other than saying “is that you Maaari-oh’ every now and then, lacks any good one-liners. Such a shame. Can we please have budget Antonio Banderas back, please?
Just Cause 2, But Boring
There is absolutely no way a better way to describe JC3 other than what it says above. As a standalone title, JC3 can be fun, but everything (almost) it did, JC2 did better. The variety in locations, blowing up stuff, controls and everything in between. I mean the story and driving controls in JC 2 were bad, but nothing compared to the ones in JC3. The only thing good about the story was Rico himself and they done screwed it up too. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why you have to grind challenges to unlock the cool stuff. It’s like the devs want you to hate the game. At least the explosions are bigger and better this time around.
All this ranting about the game cannot turn me away from talking the best feature in the entire game, i.e, the wingsuit. Not only does it make traversal of the huge open world easy and seamless, but it also makes for some pretty extreme stunts and creative gameplay moments throughout the game. The controls take a bit of getting used to, however, once you do that, it is an extremely fun piece of equipment to use. Sometimes I would simply travel through the world using it for minutes on end, grappling my way along through the beautiful and serene environments of Medici. If you have the Bavarium DLC, then you can find an upgraded version of the wingsuit which basically turns Rico into a one-man jet engine.
When it’s all done and said, I did sort of enjoy the 40 or so hours I spent in Just Cause 3. But there are issues that make the game incredibly painful to go through. No point in ranting further because someone gifted me the game and it goes pretty damn cheap during Steam sales. But would I recommend it over Just Cause 2? Not in a million years.