Earthworm Jim was a worm who gained the ability to walk, talk, and shoot things with a laser gun thanks to a “super suit” that fell from space and landed on his specific plot of land in the backyard. Sometimes when Jim didn’t feel like shooting things, he could tell the suit – which he could command telepathically with his mighty worm spirit – to whip him at enemies, or stretch him over hooks to swing through ravines. Later, Jim would use his newfound powers to launch a cow into space using a seesaw and a refrigerator, which would unfortunately backfire as the cow crashed back to Earth, crushing his girlfriend.
In the 1990s, we accepted this. That worms lack the mental capacity to pilot an advanced piece of space machine, such as a super suit, or the required sexuality to have a girlfriend was not important. Video games were video games; as long as they were fun and we didn’t have to buy pointless peripherals to play them, realism didn’t matter. Those days are long gone. Sure, there are all sorts of wacky (and brilliant) indie games that somewhat fill that worm-shaped hole, but once you throw in a few hundred polygons, it’s goodbye super fun times, hello gritty realism.
That’s exactly why Just Cause 3 is a rarity. While there are plenty of shooty-shooty bang bangs, and military-themed theatrics, they’re not attached to a developer’s twisted (read: horrible) interpretation of a Hollywood blockbuster. Hell, moviemaking in Hollywood is practically old at this point: it has to be taken off a pole every now and then, which JC3 does it admirably.
In some ways it’s not surprising JC3 took no more serious road. After all, this is a game where you spend half your time strapping people’s legs to the backs of cars for fun, and the other half doing daredevils jumping from the back of a fighter jet onto a speeding car diving for the youtube hits.
That it drops any pretense of a serious piece of action entertainment is surprising, though. The intro sequence, backed by a mellow piano-led version of Prodigy’s “Firestarter,” is delightfully absurd. Like the opening mission where Rico (that’s you) jumps on top of a flying prop plane to shoot down helicopters with a rocket launcher while his best friend Mario insults him over the radio.
The whole thing is pleasantly aware of how ridiculous it is, from the way Rico and Mario come up with increasingly absurd schemes to take down the Diravelo Rebel Militia (otherwise known as the “DRM”), to how it mocks the diet of soldiers who – despite being physically fit enough to kill hundreds of militia – are completely immobilized by simple fences, forcing Rico to find a way to open gates before a city can be declared under rebel control.
Admittedly, JC3 isn’t the only game to slack off realism in favor of simple thrills. Bullet storm ignored the military shooter’s formulaic campaign, instead focusing on high scores and crude humor, going so far as to openly mock Duty with the Duty calls to download. Then of course the Saints row series took the mocking of the AAA game to its logical conclusion with a slew of purple dildo bats. But JC3 is one of those rare games that use a little restraint. For all his self-referential attitude, JC3‘s story doesn’t cross the line into pre-adolescent silliness, nor does it go so far in its attempt to be funny that it also becomes a squirming mess (see Bullet storm). Cutscenes are short and snappy, and the story (at least from what I’ve seen for the first few hours) has a decent pace.
But honestly, I doubt most people will even care. Not if they can attach missiles and an oil drum to the back of a pickup and use it as an improvised bomb. Or tie two guards to the side of a building and watch them spin to break free, kicking each other in the process. Or reach for a helicopter, attach some C4 to the bottom of it (you have unlimited C4 this time), and watch as flames rain down from the sky, hit a nearby oil drum and set off a chain reaction of explosions that span an entire street. As Ars freelancer John Robertson discovered earlier this year, the possibilities are endless.
Just Cause 3 prefers being nice to being factual. That there’s a developer out there realizing how important that can be, not to mention a developer the size of Avalanche, is an encouraging sign. Perhaps the triple-A world has realized how boring it has become. Or maybe we just got lucky. Anyway, let’s get back to what’s really important here: where the hell is my Earthworm Jim Restart?
Just Cause 3 will be released on December 1, 2015 for PC, Xbox One and PS4.