Even if you’ve played previous games in the series, you’ll understand what’s possible in it Just Cause 3 isn’t easy. This is truly one of those cases where the sheer wealth of content comes across as something completely intimidating. My initial thoughts when I took control of Rico and departed the fictional Medici Mediterranean island chain weren’t “how can I make the most of what’s on offer?” but “how am I ever going to see half of what is possible here?”
Just Cause 3 is a game of systems, which are not very interesting in themselves. But when they intersect, the potential impact of your actions is mind-boggling… as long as you understand the outcome of each attempt at cross-pollination. The education, learning the rules, those are the intimidating bits, the bits that you know are essential to fun, despite the long and drawn out process it takes to get there.
The good news is that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) try to learn everything all at once before diving into the actual game. Take it easy by learning individual systems one at a time before combining them together is better for both your sanity and your enjoyment. Take the wingsuit, the shiny new piece of kit that’s graced trailers and ads ever since Just Cause 3‘s announcement. As another option for traversing the environment by air, it is not designed to be immediately accessible. The suit has a very distinct feel that comes across as distinctly lethargic and disappointingly conservative on the first few flights. However, after some practice and several experiments, you begin to understand developer Avalanche Studios’ intentions and marvel at the possibilities they offer.
It turns out that the way to use the wingsuit properly is to use it in conjunction with both your parachute and grappling hook: the former used to provide dramatic extra lift, the latter for a lot of speed. Gliding through a canyon at a gallop as you gradually get closer to the gravel of the solid ground is no fun. But grabbing onto a rock in the distance and wrapping yourself in it to create momentum, followed by opening your parachute to fling yourself into the air, before immediately closing it and spreading your wings… there’s the fun.
Each of those three lines of engagement are separate and complete systems in their own right, all fully formed as far as they are worth and essential gimmicks to get isolated in your head. But it is not until they are made into a single unit that their potential is realized. Indeed, it is this philosophy that underpins the entire game. Avalanche doesn’t so much create a game that leads you between Item A, Mission B and Point of Interest C, but it provides you with a variety of ideas that you can freely interpret as you like.
Flying through the world is not the only thing that requires the intelligent combination of individual systems. Explosions and general mayhem have always been the core pillars of Just cause, and that commitment to destruction lives on here, perhaps now more of a feature than ever thanks to the extra pizzazz the latest hardware offers. The size and power of explosions has increased dramatically, driven by complex chain reactions, where one fire or explosion has the potential to create knock-on effects on anything flammable, electrical, or just plain fragile nearby. Before you know it, that harmless oil drum you ignited has caused an entire military outpost to collapse to the ground as you make your way to higher ground and safety.
These dramatic events flow into each other in a wonderfully charming and sadistic way. Procedures have an unpredictability, which means that by sheer luck you can achieve great success or tragically kill yourself by a bit of bad luck. It all adds to the chaos, and it’s this that Just Cause 3 used to create a niche compared to other open-world games.
Your best friend in destruction is the tethering system, which allows you to connect multiple wires between entities. Those entities could be the oil barrel mentioned earlier, a vehicle, a person, a solid building or maybe less solid building. Almost everything in the game can be used with the chain. Once attached, the chain can be tightened to create tension on whatever it is attached to. People are relatively weak, so they immediately collapse under the pressure and fly into everything they are attached to. If that’s a wall, they hit it and die. If that’s an oil barrel, they hit it, explode, and die. If that’s another human, they’ll hit each other, bleed, and die. So, uh, a lot of death then.