On December 1, Just Cause 3 will mark five years since its release. Since it’s arguably Square Enix’s staple in the Rico Rodriguez saga, I decided it'd be an idea to reflect on what's also my favorite video game of all time. So, I jumped back into Medici, and rediscovered old past times of chaos, grapple hooks, and DK pistols.
In much the same way you could describe the unlimited isles of Medici’s lush Mediterranean landscape, there’s so much ground to cover as we take a retrospective dive into Just Cause 3. First and foremost, is the chaos. From explosions galore to grappling helicopters, Just Cause 3 is not in short supply.
The endless lunacy and freedom of destructive potential in Just Cause 3 are what drew me to the game all those years ago. The destruction mechanics are undoubtedly Square Enix’s specialty, and are predominant throughout all four installments of the series.
While the visual fidelity of said destruction is notably more refined in the later, if somewhat inferior Just Cause 4, the third game is perhaps the pinnacle of the franchise's trademark for all-out explosive action. For example, find a petrol station on the map, gather as many vehicles as you can (I typically vary from cars, bikes, and tanks), and collate them together in and around the station. Drop a grenade in for good measure and watch the chain reaction unfold. It’s these types of antics that make the island of Medici the biggest playground for chaos.
A Stunning Open World
I’d imagine I’ve racked up some considerable game time in Just Cause 3. I purchased my PS4 way back in 2016 and must have played Just Cause 3 all day, every day for a good few weeks. I’ve liberated, to the best of my knowledge, every island, settlement, shrine, temple, and military base (apart from the mountain tops of Falco, because I never get close enough before I’m blown out of the sky by a nuclear warhead).
So yes, I've dedicated many, many painstaking hours to Just Cause 3, tirelessly wing suiting across Medici in my quest for completion, and yet, after all of it, I have still not discovered everything.
It’s the next best thing about Just Cause 3 that sets it miles apart from its later predecessor. The open-world design is stunningly picturesque, littered with dozens of Easter eggs (we’ll get to that later), and beyond vast, from the snow-tipped mountains of Montana to the downtown concrete city of Prima and the forests of Maestrale.
On the subject of the map, I'm sure I'm not alone in believing it was a highlight for Just Cause 3, and perhaps a more fascinating map to explore than Just Cause 4's rather lackluster isles of Solis.
So, onto the subject of Easter eggs. If you search long and hard enough, you'll discover a handful of nods to other franchises, such as Final Fantasy 7's Buster Sword embedded in the side of a mountain, a DK pistol that’ll inflate heads, Doctor Who’s Weeping Angels that move when unseen around a sacrificial altar, a smoke monster reference from Lost, the engineless Soap Box Car and a lone man on a beach (Castaway).
It goes without saying, if you've spent any time at all in Medici, you'll know Just Cause 3 is notoriously glitchy, but as much as I could lament the developers for such dodgy physics, screen errors, and whatnot, the crookedness of the game’s open-world design is most certainly a part of its charm. I believe that while Square Enix may not have intended to produce a game with so many flaws, the game's state of brokenness is what makes it so unique.
"Blue Hell," for example, is a phrase coined from Grand Theft Auto which describes the act in which a player can pass under the map. This is, in my opinion, the worst issue in the game, for the fact that blue hell can be inescapable, and the game needs to be restarted as a result.
Above, you’ll see the sky and outlines of world objects, from buildings, train lines, forests, and mountains. Blue hell can be achieved by clipping a jet’s wing into the ground from a moving train, or by flying at high speed, or in rarer occurrences, rolling a vehicle at an awkward angle through a tunnel. If it works, Rico and his chosen vehicle are sucked beneath the world and drop into blue hell. Best of all, as a clip from my gameplay demonstrates below, if you breach blue hell in a jet, you can fly back up and reenter the game again. Of course, I managed to crash into a train on my way back up to the surface and had to bail out, a feat that proves my point on how ludicrous this game can be.
Other occurrences of freaky physics include deers stuck on the roofs of cars, trains derailing by themselves, floating people and vehicles being inexplicably launched into the air if the game overloads.
Now, I could easily sing Just Cause 3's praises until the cows come home (there's actually a cow mod in Just Cause 4 which turns you into a cow).
So here come the criticisms. Alas, there are not many. But the main issue is a lack of multiplayer. In 2017, a multiplayer mod was developed for PC by a fan group, Nanos GBR, after a previous multiplayer mode was abandoned by its lead designer Cameron Foote. Cameron later accepted a job at Avalanche Studios, the same team who’d go on to make Just Cause 4.
But a Just Cause 3 multiplayer mode has never landed for consoles and it’s an absolute shame. As someone with experience within GTA V’s online mode, I cannot think of another game that would immensely benefit from online play. It would have been understandable if Square Enix had missed an opportunity with Just Cause 3, but the pattern repeated itself in 2018 with the release of Just Cause 4 and makes me beg the question, what made them decide against producing one?
Just Cause 3 vs. Just Cause 4
This then brings me onto Just Cause 4. In my heart, Just Cause 4 was never a worthy successor to Just Cause 3. Where Just Cause 4 was a more balanced game, Just Cause 3 was completely unbalanced.
Despite everything Just Cause 4 gave us, from its improved AI, weaponized drones, tornados, an airport full of 747s, and improved visual fidelity (aside from its woefully downgraded cinematics), the sequel still felt lacking, and this is where Just Cause 3 trumps its successor.
As we reach the end, I ask myself the most important question. How has Just Cause 3 held up since it's arrival five years ago?
From the release of the first game in 2006, up until today, Just Cause 3 is for me where the series peaked and struggled to maintain such highs in the later sequel. Just Cause 3 is what happens when video game developers throw away the rule book and their imaginations become their only limitations. It’s unconventional, it’s hilarious, and while it’s certainly not perfect, it’ll always leave a smile on my face.
From December 1 until January 4, 2021, Just Cause 4 will be free on the PlayStation Store, along with Worms Rumble and Rocket Arena. So, now's your chance to wingsuit up into the world of Solis completely free.