In Just Cause 3 you assume the role of a flying arsonist with a parachute and a grappling hook. Zipping around a Mediterranean paradise, it’s your job to blow up military bases and liberate locals from a supposedly evil dictator, who frankly seems to have done nothing other than bring great stability and wealth to the region.
You’re a sort of terrorist version of Antonio Banderas, a hyperactive Spiderman let loose in a giant open-world sandbox to unleash untold destruction on a community of innocent people. Protagonist Rico is armed with a number of ridiculous weapons, tools and abilities that help him achieve this.
Primarily, you’ve got your magical grappling hook, which you can use to pull yourself towards things, or to tether objects to one another – a car to a helicopter, an exploding barrel to a fuel tank, a man to a goat – before watching the physics-powered chaos unfold around you.
You’ve also got your magical parachute, which can be opened at any time to send you flying into the air. And then there’s your wingsuit, which is new to the series and turns you into a skydiving bullet.
Using grappling, chutes and suits, you sail around Just Cause 3’s world like a constantly exploding angel of death, raining down fire and mayhem and injury, and causing an unending series of impressively massive fireballs everywhere you go.
Conveniently for a game that has so many of them, Just Cause 3’s explosions really are remarkably pretty. Petrol stations and building-sized fuel tanks erupt in big whooshy orange splodges and billowing plumes of acrid black smoke.
When it leaves you to your own devices, this game is an alluring, daft and unpredictable playground. You can hijack fighter jets mid-flight, you can strap yourself to the bottom of a helicopter and chuck grenades at tanks below, you can drive a sportscar through a field of sunflowers and skydive through tight and winding coastal caves. But when the game attempts to be anything other than a sandbox of explosions and mayhem and ruin, it runs into real trouble.
The world, as large as it is, feels chronically empty and lacking in meaningful detail. The story missions, which often have you escorting buddies and protecting targets, are utterly at odds with the open-ended, imagination-driven fun you could otherwise be having. The military bases and towns you’re liberating by tearing down statues and blowing up anything that looks faintly explosive very quickly begin to look the same, offering no unique challenge.
Characters, plot, acting, it’s all irredeemable crudballs. Vehicle handling is clunky and cars aren’t fun to drive. Performance on Xbox One is unforgiveably bad, too, with frequent framerate drops, stuttering and ruinously long loading times.
It’s rare to find a game this outwardly enjoyable that’s so utterly undone by its flaws. There is a raucously fun and inventive game to be found in here, but it’s one that offers severely limited appeal.
Just Cause 3, for all its rocket-launching, grenade-chucking, jet plane hijacking madness, is a lesson in self-destruction.