It feels good to welcome back Rico Rodriguez – a regime change specialist extraordinaire with a grapple, an attitude, and a huge arsenal of destructive possibilities which will be unleashed on the PlayStation 4 in December.
Just Cause 3 is a game that we've have been anticipating ever since finishing 2010's Just Cause 2, so it was with a sense of palpable excitement that we made our way to Square Enix HQ to play through a chunk of the next instalment. We were not disappointed.
The first thing that hits you when you fire up Just Cause 3's open world of Medici is that it looks really good – graphically this is a huge leap forward from the last generation. Rodriguez's fictional homeland is a veritable Mediterranean paradise – albeit one with a deeply rotten underbelly. Lurking at the heart of this idyllic collection of islands is a brutal wannabe dictator, General Di Ravello, who has taken over the 400 square miles of sun drenched terrain and rules it with an iron fist.
But not for long.
Taking control of our hero Rico is slick and effective; the controls have been kept similar to previous games, so there's little learning curve for Just Cause veterans. Running and gunning, commandeering vehicles, leaping from heights, and parachuting around is as immediately gratifying as ever, and the new and improved grapple system is just superb. You can now get airborne quickly with the grapple-parachute option, but the added wing suit – which you can switch to at any point – allows for speedier flight, and proves an effective addition, soon becoming second nature.
Zooming into a tight curving glide is a grin-inducing new feature, and switching to the now more stable parachute in order to lay down some suppressing fire or deliver a well-placed rocket launcher shot before switching back to the wingsuit and whizzing off while the enemy remains clueless is very satisfying indeed. The refined movement really takes the game to a new level of fun because you spend less time trying to remember how to move – or slowly grappling up rock faces inch by inch – and more time wreaking maximum destruction.
This time out, Rico is even more of a one-man army than ever. Packing unlimited C4 which can be upgraded to do things like rocket boost before exploding gives you a level of instant destructive capability that's unrivalled in any open world game that we've played.
One of Just Cause 3's unique selling points is the grapple, which now allows you to attach and tether objects together. Enemy heavy gunner causing you problems? Attach him to a passing car and wave as he's dragged off to his death. Feeling evil? Re-enact that classic scene from The Hitcher by tying someone between a truck and something heavy. Need to get the drop on a sniper? Add a couple of C4s to a cow and tether it to the sniper's tower before reeling in your newly created 'beef bomb' and standing back to quip, "Do you want fries with that?"
Pretty much anything can be hooked together, and it's a world of fun just messing about with the possibilities. This grapple and tether option allows for multiple, highly creative solutions to most objectives, and we found ourselves having a great time just exploring the physics-based destruction and wanton carnage that mixing and matching vehicles, animals, enemies, and explosive fuel tanks provides.
The game world itself is a good size, made up of a group of islands, some with imposing mountains, others with subterranean caverns, and the sense of adventuring that comes from simply exploring the wide range of landmarks and landscapes in a free roaming odyssey is quite something. The map is peppered with enemy bases and strongholds, which you destroy and take over in order to provide safe havens and free the area from Di Ravello's grip.
Some of the scenery looks so good that we found ourselves just enjoying the view time and time again. Then there are the explosions, and oh man, if ever explosive force was captured as a work of art, it's in Just Cause 3. The compulsion to create bigger and more insanely destructive detonations just to be able to witness the fierce riot of beautiful flaming fury is something that we relished. You'll soon feel like The Prodigy wrote Fire Starter specifically about your Just Cause 3 antics.
Oh, and then there are the delicious range of weapons. The hand guns feel meaty and satisfying, and it only gets better from there on in; Automatic rifles kick nicely and shred scenery and enemies alike, while missile launchers and sniper rifles bring their own wealth of possibilities and play styles. The upgradable grenades and previously mentioned C4 are total wins when it comes to striking down your enemies, and anything unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast radius of your overkill.
There's a decent selection of vehicles too, such as helicopters, fighter aircraft, boats, and a range of cars – all of which you can customize and weaponise. We were impressed with how you're no longer limited to just 'surfing' in the centre of a vehicle's roof – this time you can run up and down plane wings mid-flight, reposition yourself on top of speeding lorries, and more. Another nice touch is the Rebel Drop system, which allows you to call in an air drop that includes weapons and a vehicle – and this is activated by collecting a beacon rather than having to spend in-game currency. There is a cooldown on the vehicles, though, which encourages you to at least think before crashing your lovely helicopter gunship into an enemy base for laughs. The driving mechanics, meanwhile, are comparable with other open world games such as Grand Theft Auto V, and each vehicle has its own handling, which can also be upgraded.
Are there any negatives to mention? Well, the not-quite-final build that we played did crash a few times, but that's something we were assured that the team is addressing. The lack of multiplayer might turn off some folks, too, although there is asynchronous multiplayer at launch, in which challenges and races have leaderboards that you can try and top. Even in our short playthrough it was fun to see our results knocking others down a few places, and the urge to have another go when you get a message that someone has beaten your score or time will perhaps ignite your inner competitive edge.
Overall, Just Cause 3 seems to be everything that we had hoped that it would be, crackling with creativity and bringing an insane level of destruction – you'll never forget the first time that you take down a huge valley-spanning bridge. This is a game that'll likely satisfy any destructive urges that you may have, and keep you coming back just for the thrill of it.
Will you be picking up Just Cause 3 in December, or are you done with open world games for the time being? Turn into a twisted fire starter in the comments section below.