This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Just Cause 3.
So they made another Just Cause game. Why? Just cause. Good, I'm glad we got that out of the way quickly, but since you ask, it's just cause Just Cause 2 was one of my favorite games of its time and I will say again what I said then cause its easier to having to write new words: Just Cause is the sort of thing AAA gaming should be making all the time because it's the only thing it's still best at. If consoles are going to keep endlessly pushing for better graphics, more pixels, bits, flips, flops and fannies we don't want them to use it to render Ellen Page crying on a toilet, we want to see it rendering more trucks exploding than we've ever seen explode before. We want to see every single bit flying off and embedding itself in the flank of a passing squirrel with poor reflexes.
Happily, Just Cause 3 is very much on the right page as it elevates to the new generation the old, classic formula: wanton destruction, extreme freedom of mobility and a sandbox the size of Galactus' left bollock, populated exclusively by NPCs who drive like complete maniacs. "Hey Yahtzee, the imagery of this video is going by to quickly for me to properly digest." Well, then my advice would be to just pause!
The protagonist of the Just Cause series, Rico Rodriguez, has undergone quite a bit of evolution as he's aged. He started out with a sort of vampire Johnny Cash thing going on in Just Cause 1, leaned more towards swivel-eyed loon in Just Cause 2 and now in Just Cause 3...well, try to come with me on this: he looks like your first girlfriend's dad. You know what I mean? With his Al Borland beard and dressed head-to-foot in blue denim he looks like he derives all his kill-crazy rage from you having fucked his daughter on top of his favourite riding mower. He returns to his home country of Medici to liberate it from the cruel regime of a brutal dictator. So I guess his entire career as a professional dictator agitator has been him psyching himself up for the one he has actual personal investment in, which is theoretically an appropriate reason for stakes for third instalment I suppose, but in practice it's a thin, sugary crust over the crème brûlée of explosion-fuelled hedonism. Some of the characters are quirky and interesting, but I feel getting invested in a Just Cause game for the plot is like getting invested in crystal meth because the loss of teeth makes it easier to fit crisps in your mouth.
Just Cause 3 is at first glance an easy sell: everything that made Just Cause 2 fun and also everything on top of that. So Rico retains his parachute and hookshot that tether the laws of time and space to the back of a burning jeep and drive it off a cliff, and now he's also got a Far Cry 3-style wing suit to get around more quickly and make ground-based vehicles all the more fucking useless as anything other than party favours. Shame, because some of the most fun I have in Just Cause can be found in simply trying to drive somewhere without flipping your car nine times 'cause you ran over a crisp packet.
The ability to tether things to other things has been updated with the ability to make the two tethers pull towards each other, allowing you to enact heartwarming stories of the newly realized love between an enemy soldier and a nearby cow, or an enemy soldier and a brick wall. You can also use it to bring down structures until you realize that you've also got infinite trigger explosives and can instantly bring down anything you can get close enough to smooch. So after you've made an executive toy out of cows dangling from helicopters and get it out of your system, the tether pulls become an inefficient gimmick when you're working your way down a to-do list, and by "do", I mean "obliterate".
It is what I now term "the everysandbox" in that progress is marked by liberating sections of the map by completing the side quests in each one, and the actual plot sort of hangs over that like a storm cloud trying to make up its mind if it wants to fuck up your barbecue. But happily they remembered the important thing: liberating strongholds is inherently fun. It's not just going through the "in" tray at the murder accountancy firm. "Here's a compound with lots of stuff in it. We want there to be no stuff in it and we don't give half a piss-stained Lira how you get us from A to B."
My preferred method was to ignore enemies completely and hookshot around too quickly to kill, plant trigger bombs on as much of the stuff as I could, then retreat to a nearby hill and set them off while putting on some sunglasses and looking the other way. A spanner was frequently thrown in these works because the plant-trigger-bomb button is the same as the chuck-grenade button and the game has a nasty habit of switching back to grenades without telling me. So I'll hookshot onto the side of a big fuel canister and be like, "Wait, this doesn't look like a trigger bomb! But that looks like my left leg drifting off into the sunset! Guess it's time to break out the just gauze!"
Let's keep running down the shit-that-exists-to-make-me-pissed-list. I don't like how Rico moves like an elderly woman on an escalator whenever he's on top of a vehicle. Understandable when he's on a plane, not so much when he's on the deck of a boat. I parachute onto a troublesome gun boat with a defiant cry and gun in hand, then start dawdling around it like I'm wondering if I left the gas on.
I wish Just Cause would do more with underwater stuff - you drop into the water and there's this lovely undersea landscape to explore but fuck-all to do in it. Why do these all-terrain sandboxes always remember to have nine types of helicopter but zero fucking submarines?
Right, what else? It would be nice if I could turn off all the leaderboard bollocks which I'm pretty sure is one of the reasons why the loading times are so bad in this country where the internet has to get strained through a mosquito net. I don't want a message informing me that xxxbastard69 has beaten my record for sitting on a cowpat belching the alphabet, taking up valuable screen space that could have been filled with more explosions - or if the idea was to motivate me, the phrase, "Everyone likes you and wants to kiss your face."
On the PS4 version I had some chuggy framerates and the occasional crash when things got too explody. "Gotta love that extra stability you get from console gaming", he said, bitterly firing the words from his mouth like sour squirts of an old man's jizz.
Oh yeah, and what's with having to unlock ironsight aiming as an optional upgrade? When you're playing a shooter with a controller, that's like having to unlock the ability to turn left.
But I suppose my final big issue is that the game gets pretty lacklustre by the end. Just look at the map: start off at the bottom on a collection of islands covered in fine detail and clustered towns and bases, then I guess the designer had an urgent dental appointment and the last island is a great big massive blob with like nine things on it. And the final boss fight is plainer than beans on toast: for no adequate reason the evil dictator fights you one-on-one in a fucking volcano. Could one produce a more perfect example of "insert climax here"? Also, he fights you in a helicopter. "Oh, guess I'm fucked. I'll just beg for my pathetic life once I've finished picking the remains of the last eighteen million helicopters out of my teeth." And then there you are, standing nonplussed in the middle of your liberated country with a profound sense of anticlimax. What do we do now? I guess we could call up some just whores.
- People's champion: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I went to the hardware shop to get a new hammer but when I got there they had Just Saws
- Then I went to the pet shop and they had just macaws