Just Cause 3: Kinda a Review, Kinda a Question
What’s interesting to me, however, is how the game is fun. You see, there’s absolutely no challenge to it. Your character is essentially invincible and immortal. There’s no death penalty, you have essentially unlimited ammo and explosives, and despite sort of taking place in the real world, your character can basically fly.
And yet… it still manages to be fun. Why?
Just CauseIf you missed this game, or its predecessors, it’s an open world 3rd-person shooter. Your character is essentially a dictator-remover for hire. Your job is to recapture the Mediterranean island nation of “Medici,” and you do this by blowing stuff up. A lot of stuff. About half the buildings and structures in the game are destructible, which is good fun. Lots of explosions and epic collapses. The trailer sums it up pretty well:
Most of what you see there is in-game footage. There’s great pleasure to be had just driving or flying around and blowing up stuff. The expansion packs add new weapons, and in one case, a jet pack.
It is, basically, like playing a videogame version of pretty much any 80s action movie or 90’s Bond movie.
ExceptThere is no challenge to it. At all. There are no stakes. Your character, Rico, is essentially invincible. It takes half an army shooting at him before he complains it’s getting “too hot,” and if you don’t take cover for a few seconds, he dies…
…only to get resurrected outside of town, ammo fully stocked, and whatever progress you had made liberating the town saved exactly as you left it. Even the story missions, which are a little less forgiving, start you from a checkpoint only a minute or so earlier if you die or fail. Auto-aim means you nearly always hit your target. Even the most robust enemies only take a few bullets (or a medium-sized fall if you grapple them to the ceiling, which is awesome).
It’s actually rather fascinating game design. You, as a player, want for nothing. There’s always ammo within reach (no need to slow the action). You have unlimited remote-controlled explosives (because they’re fun). Unless you’re going extremely fast, you can’t seriously injure yourself using the parachute or wingsuit. In every way the developers could make sure you’re having non-stop mindless fun, they do it.
It’s sugar. Pure, powdered, cut into little lines, poised below a rolled up George… sugar. There is nothing to it intellectually. No suspense, no worry, no concern. Fun distilled down to it’s most basic “gonna blow me up some stuff real good.”
If this makes it sound simple or lazily designed, it most certainly is not. Like most things that come across as simple “fun” there’s real cleverness here. “Streamlined” is a better way to put it. You see, in the hands of a lesser developer, such total lack of challenge would be boring, and JC3 is never that. There’s always something to do in this huge open world. Always another land or sea race, or a town to liberate, or any of the other side quests that populate the world.
JC3 is the kind of game that will never make it onto a Ten Best list, or ever be mentioned as someone’s favorite game, but that’s OK. It is, I think, why the Transformers movies are so popular: A few hours of mindlessness to distract from reality. Sometimes, that’s just what the doctor ordered.
I bought Just Cause 3 on Steam during their winter sale. Right now it’s back up to it’s full price of $85 with all three DLCs. Not sure it’s worth that much, but then, I guess it depends how much you need a hit. If you see it on sale, though, it’s definitely worth checking out.