Developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Square-Enix. Released December 1, 2015. Available on PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One and PC. Review copy provided by publisher.
As I'm walking along a seemingly empty street in the island nation of Medici, all of a sudden WHAM! I get run over by a reckless driver who speeds off, thinking they just got away with a nice little hit and run. Furious, I take to the skies with my wingsuit and tail the car through a tunnel until I catch up and anchor it to the street with my trusty grappling hook. The car fruitlessly tries to break away from the tether as I slowly reel it in. After taking the guy out of his car, anchoring him to the ground so he doesn't try to run away, I lecture him about the importance of traffic safety, then tether him to his car, strap some rockets to the back of it, and smile as it soars off into the distance before exploding in a magnificent ball of fire. In my own personal world of Just Cause 3, such is the price of committing a hit and run on Rico Rodriguez.
This is the kind of unscripted fun to be had in Just Cause 3, and it's in moments like these where the game gives glimpses of its incredible potential. Unfortunately, a dull campaign with forgettable characters, poor writing, repetitive missions, a curiously designed character progression system and a host of technical issues weigh down what should've been a gigantic leap in quality for the Just Cause series.
It's a shame because nearly every new addition in Just Cause 3 is fantastic. The aforementioned wingsuit completely revamps how players move throughout the world. Players can now zipline with their grappling hook towards a target, launch into the air by switching to the parachute, seamlessly transition into the wingsuit to glide through the air at high speeds and then switch back to the parachute to once again get a burst of vertical momentum. It not only looks awesome, but it feels great, and it's especially exciting when you apply it to combat. Imagine zip lining towards a helicopter, planting C4 on its underbelly, leaping off to parachute down while firing rockets at the AA guns, switching to the wingsuit to glide away, while detonating the C4 to watch the beautiful explosion on the way down. This is the kind of stuff that would typically happen in a cutscene in any other game, but in Just Cause 3 it's commonplace in the actual gameplay.
Players also now have unlimited ammo when it comes to C4, ensuring that they're never out of options when it comes to demolition; regenerating health to encourage players to use the wingsuit as a means of quickly exiting losing battles; and the new rebel drop system allows immediate access to any unlocked weapon or vehicle, at the cost of a single beacon. These are all well thought out and well designed changes that dramatically enhance the gameplay of Just Cause 3 in comparison to its predecessors.
But as fun as it is to just mess around in the world, it's not enough to carry the entire game, and unfortunately, Just Cause 3's campaign doesn't pick up the slack. The story, which as you might imagine, involves Rico joining up with a group of rebels in an effort to overthrow a fascist dictator, is woefully uninteresting and wastes any opportunity to develop Rico's character. The game takes place in Rico's homeland and features characters that apparently have history with Rico, but no effort is ever made to actually flesh out or develop those relationships. Characters exist simply to give Rico missions, tell him where to go and give him reason to utter cliche action movie hero one-liners.