Game franchises are a double edged sword. It’s great for players who enjoyed a certain game’s style and playability yet it creates a certain pressure on game developers to succeed on its older iterations and add something new and refreshing to the franchise lest it becomes stale and uninspiring, then they fail to live up to hype and expectations. I was reminded of this when I finally got the chance to reacquaint myself with Rico Rodriguez in Just Cause 3. Here, we see some welcoming updates to its formula with a new, more awesome way of maneuvering across a huge map with the wingsuit and next-gen hardware that has boosted its graphical and technical fidelity. The firefights and action you’ll experience in this game are beyond Rambo and this hectic, rambunctious chaos is still as entertaining as they previously were. However, old problems and new plague this game and is let down by clunky mission design, technical glitches and unsatisfying game mechanics inferior to its older sibling that sometimes detract from the fun you can have playing this game.
The game begins as the last one did, you play as Rico Rodriguez, now former member of the dictator-toppling Agency, tasked with destabilising another despot in a savagely oppressed country ruled under the thumb of the antagonist, General DiRavello. (also you’re in a helicopter and you have to jump out and dodge the explosions, like last time). However the nation in need of freedom is Rico’s home country of Medici, that he had to flee when DiRavello took power, the first hint that this game is trying to suggest a more involved story compared to previous games. There’s a slew of supporting characters also to add a bit of colour to the story such as Agency head honcho, Tom Sheldon and childhood friend and comic relief, Mario Frigo faction leader of the rebellion. As Rico, there are many tools at our disposal to help with this and cause all sorts of general chaos and destruction over 400 square miles of terrain such as an array of weaponry, vehicles and gadgets such as the wingsuit, grappling hook or parachute. Despite the improved cutscenes and storytelling in this game, it’s the gameplay of creating havoc across the map that takes precedence and makes this game as enjoyable as it is.
The inclusion of the wingsuit is an added bonus to the great versatility this game has when it comes to exploring a large region in a flash. I haven’t had this much fun zooming across a game’s landscape since the game adaption of Spiderman 2 was released over a decade ago, and works amazingly with the grappling hook so you never had to land if you wanted (as long as you don’t end up in the water and spend five minutes swimming back onto dry land. The Mediterranean touch that influences the geography of the region is also quite picturesque as you fly across it. Large objects in the game that entices the player to explore them such as vast mountain ranges are ever more easier to access thanks to this. Wanton acts of destruction are this game’s bread butter and this is when the game is at its best when you’re not flying over a graphically impressive landscape with a variety of biomes. Destruction of large objects like bridges or statues employ some impressive and realistic physics. Vehicles are quite delicate and prone to exploding very easily. The majority of the game, you’re trying to take over settlements controlled by DiRavello’s men and there is to potential to create some spectacular set pieces that seem to take place organically like an improvised 80’s action film. The player is only limited only by their imagination to use what’s at their disposal in a given moment.
Sadly, a massive, immersive world with a plethora of destructive gameplay mechanics seems stunted when funneled through missions, challenges and the settlement liberation parts that are integral to continuing the game’s story. It’s fun to shoot up a storm sure but I felt confined when I was told something had to be done a certain way (sometimes which they can be anti-climatically ignored). There’s also an unacceptable amount of escort missions in this game where the player has to protect important characters or items, that are explained as being somehow important in the game’s cutscenes but the plot and storytelling of this game does not do a good job of making me feel this. Instead, I usually found myself hanging off a helicopter or vehicle and waiting for the next batch of enemies. One of the better missions involve taking part in a widespread battle for control over large regions of the game, wingsuiting across Medici and flying through the carnage, a meter tells you whether you have turned the tide of the battle. It’s great to feel a sense of involvement as you help the rebels overwhelm their opponents and the scale of the action feels elevated compared to the usual gameplay of Just Cause 3. Unfortunately the game, like its predecessors, suffers from a lack of variety and presentation when it comes to missions. The story in this game is threadbare beyond the “save Medici from bad guy with moustache,” which becomes tiring after a 30 hour playthrough and ends with a fizzle rather than an explosively charged conclusion that a game with such a chaotic soul could accomplish.
Challenges that test players’ skills in this game gives you a skill currency which offers you the chance to improve you abilities such as grenades that explode on impact or able to use four grappling hook tethers at once but the same repetitive problem occurs where you will feel the same style of challenge has been repeated over and over again without any impetus to carry on unlocking all of Rico’s upgrades which is a shame because it would improve the gameplay if some of these unlocks were default from the beginning.
However, the amount of technical problems is concerning and limits the games enjoyability immensely, the frame-rate stutters when the fighting gets too much and this was especially noticeable on the PlayStation 4. The technical hiccups became evident early when the installation took so long, I had to leave the PS4 on overnight so that it would install. Just Cause 3 has more than its fair share of bugs despite the fact that this is a huge game. This game also has some long loadtimes on PS4 which I found deterring when I had to repeat a challenge or died and had to go back to a checkpoint. What’s worse was signing into Square Enix Online would painfully take too long or not work at all, failing for whatever reason. While not required for the core gameplay, the game is very insistent on it even if it doesn’t offer anything at all except online leaderboards.
The game is fine when it runs smoothly, the destruction and gameplay are top-notch and executed perfectly in a way only this franchise could muster. Medici is an aesthetically beautiful sandbox with lots of fun to be had however this is marred by the technical problems and the repetitive nature of its entire presentation.